FIVE of the coolest Aston Martins ever

June 08, 2018

Following the unveil of the new DB11 AMR flagship – our impressions of which you can read this Friday – the office, dedicating time away from work, has been discussing the coolest Aston Martins there has ever been. And since James is a glutton for punishment, he’s outlined five of his favourite contenders here.  

Quick heads up, the DB5 is NOT on this list, as years of over-promotion has muted the impact of cinema’s greatest-ever sports car. The comments section awaits your CAPS LOCK fury and angst at the bottom of the page…

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1) DB4 Zagato (1960–1963)

It’s widely considered the most beautiful Aston Martin road car ever made, so where else could we start?

Designed by legendary Italian coachbuilders Carrozzeria Touring of Milan – up there on the ‘phwoar!’ scale of ‘60s-built Maseratis, Alfa Romeos and Lamborghinis – and equipped with a potent-for-the-time 240bhp straight-six, the DB4 was also the first production car capable of hitting 0-100mph in under 30 seconds (21s, to be precise). Consequently, upon its unveil at the 1958 London Motor Show, and in a theme we’ll revisit later in this list, the DB4 re-established Aston Martin as a credible player in the sports car world, Aston building more DB4s than its two previous production models combined as interest sky-rocketed.

Now, take that, fast forward two years, and shorten the chassis, rip out 85kg, and upgrade that 3670cc block to 302bhp, and you have the DB4 GT, on top of which the ‘voluptuous’ curves designed by Ercole Spada of Italian coachbuilder Zagato were added in late 1960 for pulse-shattering ‘wow’ factor. It was the beginning of a near six-decade relationship between the two companies, and is easily their most stunning collaboration to-date.

Incredibly, only 19 were built due to low demand (the world is a strange place…) meaning the beautiful DB4 Zagato is rarer today than a Ferrari 250 GTO.

2) V8 RHAM/1 (1969/ 1977–1980)

Okay, cards on the table, Aston Martin was not officially attached to this project, although the company did offer technical support, and were later ‘inspired’ by its low-drag bodywork when penning the production Vantage. Indeed, the 1969 DBS V8 underpinnings were modified beyond recognition by the time the ‘V8 RHAM/1’ made its racing debut at the 1977 6 Hours of Silverstone. But…well, I mean, look at it. This was always going to make the list!

Equipped with Aston’s 5.3-litre V8, power would leap from a ‘humble’ 520bhp in 1977 to a lunatic 800bhp just one year later courtesy of newly acquired twin-turbochargers, before fuel-conservation issues brought said output back to a comparatively sane 650bhp for 1979. Not that this phenomenal cosmic power equalled success, of course. Despite sporting a lowered roof, a more steeply raked windscreen, a huge front airdam, and even a massive rear wing in later years for weapons-grade levels of bad-assery, come 1980, atrocious reliability meant 3rd in the GTP class on the car’s Le Mans debut in 1977 was the highlight of a three-year, six-race career.

Ironically, the car’s greatest achievement was setting the World Land Speed Record – for towing a caravan – in 1980. And given the look of the beast, we can forgive even that.

3) DB9 / DB9 GT (2004–2016)

Admit it. With an 11-year life cycle already under its chiselled belt-line and with its successor just a year from debuting, by 2015, the shine was very much off the once-doted DB9.

But, just for a second, think back to THAT unveil at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. Aston Martin’s rival to the Maserati Coupé and the brand-new Bentley Continental GT was, and still is, STUNNING to behold, and remains one of the most important Aston Martins ever made. Indeed, the British marque’s first legitimately brand new car in generations – plus the new VH architecture that came with it – signified a light at the end of a particularly drab, and near-financially ruinous, tunnel for the British luxury carmaker. Almost overnight, buying an Aston Martin was truly compelling.

And while we could easily draw a line here and move on, we can’t quite ignore ‘the most potent DB9’ ever-produced, the GT. Absolutely, the black front splitter smacked of painting over the cracks, this was just one of several ‘last ever’ DB9 special editions, and while elegant in 2004, the cabin design by 2015 had all the structural flare of a rickety Jenga tower compared with its younger, Daimler AMG-financed siblings. Nevertheless, the 540bhp V12 GT was the swansong (ish) of a motoring dynasty, was “the best a DB9 could be,” and came stuffed to the cross-stitched leather with rose-tinted nostalgia. In our mind, the DB9 GT deserves its spot.

4) DBR1 (1956–1959)

The only Aston Martin to-date to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright, doing so with a 1-2 finish in 1959 – 25 laps clear of its nearest rival – with a certain Carroll Shelby behind the wheel en-route to that year’s World Championship for Sports Cars. THAT is a Hall of Fame introduction, and more than enough for motorsport geeks (sorry, ‘connoisseurs’) such as myself to warrant its inclusion here. On top of that…

      • Its previous competitors include the likes of Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Sir Jack Brabham, and for another, audio of the twin-cam ‘six’ – the base of Aston’s on-track success during the late 50s and early 60s – is enough to wilt even the heartiest of bison to their knees.
      • Aston’s designers were not constrained by homologation rules for 1956, hence the über low profile and staggeringly gorgeous bodywork that places the DBR1 on the Mount Rushmore of post-war motorsport.
      • For the more technically minded among you, the innovative multi-tubular space frame chassis and a baffling sub-800kg kerb weight meant the DBR1 was as manoeuvrable as it looked, victory in the daunting 1000 km Nürburgring – twice – proving as such.

It’s impact is so significant, the DBR1 was a direct influence for both the CC100 Speedster Concept (2013) and the DBR9 that twice won its class at Le Mans is a direct homage to the lineage. It’s also the most expensive British car ever sold at auction, the DBR1/1 picking up $22,555,000 (US) at auction last year. Ironically, you can’t buy that kind of cachet…

5) DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo (2014)

Swerve? Absolutely, but this was difficult to ignore. Okay, fine, the DP-100 Vision was a one-off concept designed purely for the digital world of Gran Turismo, and only one rolling example actually exists. Also, the unveil came at a time when most major manufacturers were developing their own GT designs, the frequency of which left its audience dangerously close to burn out.

Still, consider this. Freed from logistical convention, this project let Aston’s design director Marek Reichman and his in-house crew completely off the chain, and you can count on one hand the times they delivered a dud [cough] Lagonda Taraf [cough].

There’s also greater substance to this design study than the Tron-like aerokit might suggest. At the time, for instance, Reichman himself teased that the super-slim headlights and light blade rear lamps “could also feed through into future sports cars”, and when you consider the barely hinged, McLaren P1-bating Valkyrie that followed shortly afterwards, it makes you wonder what else the DP-100 might begat.

Hopefully the mid-engined twin-turbo V12 that produces 800bhp of “blistering performance.” Let me dream Aston. Please.