Monday June 12, 2017
There are those cars that try ever so slightly too hard to achieve a sense of presence. There are some cars that have a natural sense of absence, ones where you forget their launch, demise and general existence. Then there is the Aston Martin DBS, a prime example of a car that effortlessly dominates. Some readers might prefer the William Towns design in its later ‘Oscar India’ incarnation but I have long had a fondness for the DBS in its original 1967 – 1972 guise, and not just because of its starring roles in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or The Persuaders! There is something elegantly formidable about this particular Aston Martin and its coachwork is so timeless in appearance, that it is near impossible to believe that the DBS will be 50 years old this year.
The DBS was created by William Towns after the cancellation of the DBSC Touring project, more of which later this year. By 1966 Aston Martin sales were badly suffering in a tough economic climate and by early 1967 DB6 prices were cut by £1,000 (a sum which would then have bought you a new Ford Zephyr 6) to combat a heavy increase in Purchase Tax. The DBS would supplant and eventually replace the older model and would appeal to the very comfortably off motorist who now demanded yet more creature comforts.
When the DBS made its debut at the 1967 Paris Motor Show, its profile seemed to be in the tradition of previous DB cars but its sheer size – it is six inches wider than the DB6 - gave visitors an impression of effortless power. Some traditionalists regarded the four headlamps as further evidence of Britain going to the dogs, along with the introduction of Radio One and the Sgt. Pepper LP, and muttered that everyone involved in the project merited a damned good thrashing. However, other motorists saw the latest Aston Martin as the ideal blend of tradition and modernity; here was a motor car that would plough through lesser traffic, leaving pretenders to its grand touring crown in its wake.
One point that was widely noted amongst the chaps (they mainly were ‘chaps’ in 1967) of the automotive press that the DBS was powered by a six-cylinder engine. Motor Sport noted in its report from the London Motor Show that “it had been half expected that the new car would be fitted with the 5-litre V8 which was seen a few times in racing. This was not the case, for the power unit is the familiar 4-litre, which is available in both DB6 (S.U. carburettors) and Vantage (Weber carburettors) tune.”
As most readers will know, the engine bay was designed to accommodate the Tadek Marek V8 plant which had been in development since 1963. It was showcased at the 1967 London Racing Car Show but it would not be ready for the DBS until 27th September 1969. However, the six-cylinder version was not exactly a sluggard with its 140-mph top speed, even if the Brett Sinclair car of television fame was overdubbed with a V8 engine note for extra machismo.
The DBS was replaced by the AM V8 in 1972 and the Towns design would remain in production until 1989. Almost everyone will have their own idea of the perfect Aston Martin of the late 1960s and 1970s and mine is the original six-cylinder version. Perhaps it is those wire wheels or perhaps it is the radiator grille. Or, just maybe it is because it is the car that appeared in one of the few Bond films that were true to the Fleming novels…