Forerunner to Aston Martin’s most famous design, the DB4 stunned at the 1958 Paris Motor Show. A marriage of sturdy British engineering and jaw-dropping Italian styling, the all-new model catapulted the sports car manufacturer onto the world stage. Super-fast, super-light, and incredibly stylish, it became an instant success.
The plans for what would become the DB4 were already in motion by 1954, with the first prototype completed in 1956. The original designs, completed by Frank Feeley, consisted of a tubular chassis with a front wishbone and rear de Dion suspension. After several rounds of testing, it became clear that the in-house–designed body was too flexible – a tubular frame was required, and at the time, for visionary company owner David Brown, there was only one firm worth consulting.
Carrozzeria Touring of Milan had engineered and perfected the Superleggera (super light) system of coachbuilding, which utilised small-diameter steel tubes as a skeleton of the ultimate body shape. These tubes were then covered in aluminium body panels, strengthening the framework and providing stiffness while allowing for design flexibility. It fell to Harold Beech to redesign a completely new platform chassis in just six weeks. The hallmarks of his elegant design continued to be found on Aston Martin models for the next four decades. The de Dion rear suspension of the prototype was ultimately swapped for a live axle set-up, producing a much quieter ride.
The combination of Beech’s platform chassis and Touring’s elegantly designed body had all the markings of a successful grand tourer; however, it was the addition of Tadek Marek’s all-new 3.7-litre inline six-cylinder engine that catapulted the DB4 to icon status. Fitted with twin SU HD8 carburettors, the engine produced an astounding power output of 240 brake horsepower at 5,500 rpm. Capable of a maximum speed of 140 mph, and performing a dash to 60 mph in under 9 seconds, the DB4 was immediately one of the fastest cars on the market. Hailed by The Autocar as “the fastest production four-seater yet tested”, the DB4 was consistently praised for its elegance, speed, and hand-built quality.