In 1947 David Brown, a sports car enthusiast, rescued Aston Martin and Lagonda from collapse by taking over both concerns. The Aston Martin sports cars and grand tourers which followed bore his DB initials.
In 1955 the DB2/4 Mark II was introduced. 199 were built; only 34 of them the new notchback hardtop, and 16 were dropheads. The Mk II had little tailfins on more angular rear wings, Hillman Minx tail lights, more chrome trim and the option of a large-valve 165bhp engine. Three Mark II Spyders were built by Touring in Italy, who later helped to produce the Superleggera body of the DB4. Allemano built a coupe body on a Mk II chassis, and Wacky Arnolt of Chicago ordered eight chassis to be bodied by Bertone, the last time an Aston Martin chassis was sold for special bodies.
In 1957 the DB Mark III replaced the DB2/4 Mark II. This car had a new grille design resembling the DB3S. The four seater hatchback body from the previous cars continued, as did the drophead coupe (84 sold), and five fixed head coupes were built as well. It had a new dashboard design, and options of disc brakes, overdrive or automatic transmission (only five buyers chose the latter). The tail fins were altered to fit Humber Hawk rear lights. The 162bhp DBA engine had twin SU carburettors, but more power was available from the 180bhp DBD with triple SUs or the 195bhp DBB with twin three-choke Webers. 551 Mark IIIs were built in all.
At the 1958 London Motor Show a truly great Aston Martin was launched, the DB4, with a new 3.7 litre engine designed by Tadek Marek. It had exciting new Italian styling with superleggera (tube-frame) body design by Touring of Milan, and an egg-crate grille, over a Harold Beach designed chassis. The DB4 was the first car built at the new Newport Pagnell factory, under the control of John Wyer as general manager. Frank Feeley had left the company, as he was unwilling to move to Buckinghamshire. The new engine produced 240bhp when fitted with twin SU carburettors. Suspension was independent at the front, with a live rear axle on coil springs with Watt linkage and rack and pinion steering. The DB4 went through a number of Series, from II to V. The Series IV, from 1961 onwards, had distinctive bars in the grille, and it was also offered in 266bhp DB4 Vantage form with three SU carburettors. 136 saloons and 32 convertibles were sold with the Vantage engine. From September 1962 the Series V had a longer, taller body, giving more interior space, but smaller wheels reduced the overall height. The new front end treatment on the Series V continued over to the DB5. The DB4 Series V was also available in Vantage form. 70 convertibles were sold in all, and a few factory hardtops were also built. A total of 1,110 DB4s of all types were made.
From 1959 the lightweight high performance 302bhp DB4 GT was added, with enclosed headights and a shorter wheelbase. Very few cars had rear seats fitted in the reduced space. The 3.7 litre or 3.8 litre engine had two spark plugs per cylinder, two distributors and three twin-choke Weber carburettors. Its top speed was 153mph. 75 DB4 GTs were built, plus one Bertone Jet, and 20 of the the DB4 GT Zagato. That DB4 GT Zagato was first seen at the 1960 London Motor Show, its sleek low body with short overhangs styled by Ercole Spada at Zagato. Its 314bhp engine gave a top speed of 154 mph. Production of 25 cars was planned, but only 20 were sold, making this car one of the rarest Aston Martins. The DB4 GT Zagato came third on it first race at Goodwood in 1961, driven by Stirling Moss. Two Zagatos, registered 1 VEV and 2 VEV entered Le Mans in 1961, but both cars retired, though they had minor successes later in the year. Zagatos participated again at Le Mans in 1962 and 1963.
In 1991, four unused chassis numbers were applied to DB4 chassis which were bodied by Zagato as Works Approved Replicas called the Sanction II cars. Zagato had two more bodyshells, so in 1992 permission was granted to make two more Sanction III Zagato Coupes, completed in 2000. A number of other Zagato replicas have been privately built.
Extract from Auto Review 057 Aston Martin - available from Oxford Diecast at £5.95 plus postage