One of the seven original Vantage-powered DB5 Convertibles produced.
Debuting in the autumn of 1963, Aston Martin’s new DB5 was a highly refined update of the late-model DB4 concept heralding over 170 detail modifications. Of course, the car was already one of the most elegant and powerful GT cars of its era. Then, given the big-screen appearance of a specially-equipped DB5 serving as British super-spy James Bond’s ‘company car’ in the blockbuster film Goldfinger, the car attained international star status that continues unabated today. In a case of one of the finest product placements in the history of merchandising, Aston Martin found themselves representing what quickly became known as ‘the most famous car in the world.’
The DB5 maintained the DB4’s 98-inch wheelbase, the Harold Beech-designed pressed-steel platform chassis, the powerful DOHC inline six-cylinder engine designed by Tadek Marek and the choice of either sleek four-seat coupe or convertible magnesium-alloy bodies employing Carrozzeria Touring’s patented Superleggera (super light) construction principles. A four-millimeter bore increase raised engine displacement from 3,670 cc to 3,995 cc, and in standard form with triple SU carburetors, the engine delivered a stout 282 bhp, good for zero-to-60 acceleration of 8.0 seconds with a top speed of 141 mph.
Initially, the DB5 engine was mated to a four-speed David Brown manual gearbox with overdrive or a three-speed BorgWarner automatic unit. After mid-1964, an all-synchromesh ZF five-speed manual gearbox replaced the four-speed as a standard DB5 feature, in which the fifth gear was effectively an overdrive. Befitting its market position rivaling Ferrari and Maserati, the DB5’s abundant standard features included reclining seats, full leather interior, wool-pile carpeting, electric window lifts, twin fuel tanks, chrome wire wheels and an oil cooler. DB5s adopted the faired-in, covered headlamps of the iconic, competition-oriented DB4GT. All told, only 1,021 DB5s would be built, including just 123 convertibles, plus a few special-order ‘shooting brakes’ produced by outside coachbuilders.
The high-performance, Vantage-specification DB5 did not make its first appearance until September 1964. The prototype, DP 217, bore the chassis number DB5/1451/R and came fitted with triple Weber twin-choke, sidedraft carburetors along with the five-speed gearbox. The Aston Martin sales brochure for the DB5 Vantage quoted power output at 325 bhp at 5,750 rpm, some 40 bhp more than the standard engine, an exhilarating increase. According to the aforementioned factory information, Vantage upgrades further included flow-tuned intake manifolds proving a “ram” effect, the cylinder head featured extra-large ports, valve timing was modified, and ignition timing was advanced for extra power and a flatter torque curve. A vacuum reservoir was also added to the power-assisted brake system. As expected, the DB5’s reflexes were sharpened considerably in Vantage tune, particularly with zero-to-60 times dropping to just 6.5 seconds.
Appropriately, any original Vantage-specification DB5 is a rare and highly desirable GT car with immensely satisfying driving dynamics.