September 13, 2023 – Gaydon, United Kingdom: The world’s most legendary car, the Aston Martin DB5, turns 60 this month.
September marks exactly 60 years since Aston Martin unveiled its then-newcomer. The model became an icon of British culture, design and innovation and firmly established Aston Martin as one of the most sought-after British luxury brands.
Six decades later, the DB5 is still one of the most legendary and recognizable cars in the world. Last weekend, it took center stage at Aston Martin’s appearance at the Goodwood Revival Festival in Sussex, along with the newest member of the venerable DB family, the world’s first supertourer, the DB12.
Aston Martin Executive Chairman Lawrence Stroll, who owns a DB5 himself, said on the occasion of the DB5’s 60th birthday, “The David Brown era has given us so many great Aston Martin sports cars, but none as well known, respected and sought after as the DB5, which laid the foundation for our identity as a British luxury brand synonymous with style, performance and exclusivity.
“It’s only right that, on its 60th birthday, we take a moment to look back and reflect on the incredible role this car has played in our 110-year history. We’re very proud that the DB line continues today with the critically acclaimed DB12, which, like its predecessors, embodies everything we love about hand-built British sports cars, with a new dose of cutting-edge technology and the highest levels of performance.”Executive Chairman Aston Martin, Lawrence Stroll
Icon of the 1960s
The year was 1963, and Aston Martin was riding a wave of popularity, with the DB4 selling consistently well since its introduction in 1958 as a completely new car for the brand. But with strong competition from luxury sports car manufacturers at home and abroad, something new was needed to keep the brand on top.
The newcomer, which made its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1963, featured numerous changes to its predecessor in terms of design, technology and equipment – most notably extensive engine development with even more power – which justified the use of a name that was completely new to the automotive world of the time and was now synonymous with ultimate style and desirability: DB5.
The sedan and later the convertible with the distinctive name were produced for just over two years at the brand’s factory and headquarters in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, but in that time they gained a reputation and notoriety that today make them among the most sought-after cars of all time.
The decision by the filmmakers at EON Productions to put the world’s most famous secret agent behind the wheel of the new DB5 for more than half a century in a series of James Bond films has undoubtedly cemented its place in the automotive hall of fame. But 007 is far from the only “celebrity” to get behind the wheel of this now iconic Aston Martin.
The Swinging Sixties were on the verge of their breakthrough when crowds thronged Frankfurt to catch a glimpse of the new DB5, and within a few years many of the most famous actors, pop stars and celebrities of the time could count themselves lucky to be among the exclusive owners of an Aston Martin.
Famous DB5 owners of the 1960s include Sir Paul McCartney and George Harrison of the Beatles and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. Star comedian Peter Sellers also acquired the model, and in the years that followed numerous celebrities – from Robert Plant and Jay Kay to Elle McPherson and Ralph Lauren – ensured that both the sedan and convertible versions of the car rarely disappeared from the spotlight.
In fact, the popularity of the DB5 proved to be a springboard for success, helping Aston Martin evolve from a niche British sports car manufacturer to a global automotive superstar.
This is perhaps even more remarkable when you consider the number of cars produced. Initially, only 887 DB5 sedans, 123 convertibles and 12 bespoke Shooting Brakes were built. Even by the standards of the time, these numbers were vanishingly small, especially when you consider that over 1.8 million cars were produced in the UK in 1963.
Performance and fame
The DB5 exhibited in Germany featured a new, heavily revised version of the 3.7-liter inline six with twin camshafts that had already powered the 4.0-liter DB4 (3,995 cc). In the production version, the new engine produced an impressive 282 hp at the time.
This welcome increase in performance was part of a whole series of technical detail and equipment changes, such as the introduction of power windows and optional air conditioning.
Performance, already the hallmark of Aston Martin 60 years ago, matched the sleek design of the car built by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, and a top speed of over 240 mph prompted the Aston Martin brochure at the time to state, “The DB5 is the fastest production 4-seat GT car in the world.”
These figures, still impressive today, prompted the British car magazine The Autocar to conclude after the first test of the new model: “This is a car that wants to be driven, driven well, driven far.”
This grandest of grand tourers laid the foundation for all subsequent cars. Today’s DB12 – the world’s first Super Tourer – once again underlines Aston Martin’s leadership in performance, dynamics, engineering and technology.
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