Cars

The iconic Aston Martin DB5 celebrates 60th birthday in style


ASTON Martin is currently celebrating the 60th birthday of the DB5, one of the most iconic cars of all time.

Launched in 1963, the Aston Martin DB5 ­– ‘DB’ being the initials of the then Aston Martin owner, David Brown ­– may have looked quite similar to its predecessor, the DB4. However, one crucial difference quickly helped cement its status as the English car-maker’s most famous model and indeed one of the most famous cars in the entire world: the DB5 was chosen by EON Productions as James Bond’s preferred method of transport for the 1964 film smash Goldfinger - albeit heavily modified by Q-Branch to include optional extras unavailable to the average Aston buyer, such as machine guns and an ejection seat.

Aston Martin DB5 in Bond-spec
Aston Martin DB5 in Bond-spec Aston Martin DB5 in Bond-spec

However, even without such secret agent-friendly bells and whistles, the hand-built DB5 was a huge success as a sports car right from the off, with motoring magazine The Autocar declaring that “this is a car which cries out to be driven, to be driven well, and to be driven far,” in its first road test of the new model.

Styled by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera and manufactured for just two years at Aston’s Newport Pagnell factory in Buckinghamshire, the DB5 made its official public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1963.

The car featured several design changes along with technical and equipment upgrades over the DB4, most notably a redesigned engine which offered even more power. The DB5 launched with a new 4.0-litre, twin cam, straight-six lump under its bonnet, making 282 bhp in standard form – extremely potent by 1963 standards.

Aston Martin DB5
Aston Martin DB5 Aston Martin DB5

Indeed, with a top speed exceeding 150 mph, Aston Martin could justifiably claim that “the DB5 is the fastest regular 4-seat GT car in the world” in its brochures.

Inside, the car marked the debut of electric windows on an Aston, with air conditioning available as an optional extra to ensure a cool cabin during continental excursions in the summertime.

Aston Martin DB5
Aston Martin DB5 Aston Martin DB5

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Such comfort and performance helped ensure James Bond wasn’t the DB5’s only famous owner: in the 1960s, icons such as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Mick Jagger and Peter Sellers all had one, while notable names to have been spotted behind the wheel of a DB5 in the following years include Led Zeppelin leader Robert Plant, Jamiroquai man Jay Kay, supermodel Elle McPherson and fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

Today, the Aston Martin DB5 remains one of the most instantly recognisable cars ever made, not to mention one of the most desirable and valuable, factors enhanced by its extremely limited production numbers: only 887 DB5 saloons, 123 convertibles and 12 bespoke coach-built shooting brakes were made during its original run.

To mark the DB5’s major milestone this year, Aston Martin brought its very own DB5 along to the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month, where the 60-year-old classic was photographed alongside its most recent modern descendent, the DB12 ‘super tourer’.

Reflecting on the enduring appeal of the DB5 on its 60th anniversary, Aston Martin executive chairman, Lawrence Stroll – who himself is a DB5 owner – said: “The David Brown era gave us so many great Aston Martin sports cars, but none more recognisable, revered and desired as the DB5, which laid the foundations of our identity as a British luxury brand synonymous with style, performance and exclusivity.

“It is only right that, as it turns 60, we take a moment to look back and reflect on this car’s incredible role in our storied 110-year heritage.

“We’re incredibly proud that the DB lineage continues today with the critically acclaimed DB12, which like those came before it, is a celebration of all we love about British hand-built sportscars, with a new injection of the latest technology and highest levels of performance.”

Still, I know which one I'd rather have.