It didn’t take us long to find one of our favourite cars of Revival 2018. The real shock, is that the car in question isn’t really a historic car at all. It’s brand spanking new. Well, sort of…
Approximately 2pm Friday afternoon in the Earls Court Motor Show was the moment the butterflies hit and that familiar ache in the chest arrived. Indigestion perhaps? A bit of first day nerves? Nope and nope again.
It’s the heart-skipping, stomach-churning, knee-jittering realisation that you’re laying your eyes on a piece of machinery only very, very few lucky individuals will ever get the slightest whiff of owning. You know, one of those cars you’d happily break every law imaginable to get your hands on for even 15 minutes.
Sparkling under the oppressively warm lights of the Earls Court Motor show (or perhaps it’s another symptom of our lustful feelings) is an Aston Martin DB4 G.T. continuation car in snow shadow grey. And it is marvellous.
Aston Martin Works President Paul Spires, the man who led the project at Newport Pagnell, kindly offers to walk us around the car. A job he’s surely done countless times, yet he still has a boyish enthusiasm about the whole thing.
“Only 75 of the originals were built, most of them being used for racing. We should have built 100 of them for homologation purposes, so we thought we would tidy up our back catalogue and build the other 25. We also wanted to bring back to life one of the truly iconic cars from that period. The continuation is basically where production left off”.
Launched in 1959, the original DB4 G.T. was celebrated as one of the rarest and most revered of all Aston Martins and a true supercar of its day. Shorter, lighter, sleeker and with a more powerful version of the Tadek Marek-designed 3.7-litre straight-six engine, not only was the DB4 G.T. Britain’s fastest passenger sports car, it was a born winner, scoring a debut race victory at Silverstone in the hands of Goodwood great, Sir Stirling Moss.
“That's one of the interesting things about this car. When we took it to market, particularly in America, people said 'what is this DB4 G.T. all about?’. When we explained to customers, that this car won with Sir Stirling Moss driving it. It raced in Le Mans in '59 in the year that we won with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori, they get very excited. It's a truly iconic car, but almost one of the forgotten era. So, we wanted to put the focus back on it”.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But this was one hell of a job, a big move for Aston Martin Works, and perhaps, a bit of a risk? Especially as the Newport Pagnell facility last built new cars in 2007 with the Vanquish S. Oh, and the DB4 G.T. is hand-built too.
“We have a fantastic blend of artisan skills at Newport Pagnell Aston Martin Works, where we restore cars. To take those skills, and use them in a slightly different way to build a completely new car was a fantastic thing. A positive thing.
We pre-date Aston Martin there, and even the internal combustion engine. We built horse-drawn carriages in the 1800s, so to not have vehicle production after 10 years, just felt wrong”.
It’s a heritage that Paul, Aston Martin Works, and all the Newport Pagnell team are fiercely proud of, and during these uncertain political times with Brexit looming large, the project is undoubtedly a positive bit of news and a confidence booster for UK engineering and manufacturing.
“It's a really positive story and a really positive message. This car has the highest content of componentry made in the UK, I believe of any car made at the moment. The only bit not made in the UK are the wheels, which are made by Borrani in Italy, as was the case with the original car. It's a real privilege to be part of it.”
Paul does concede though that there were just a few nerves fluttering about the place when the nod of approval was given.
“We were very nervous when we launched this car, because we didn't want to damage the values on the original 75 cars, but actually, quite the reverse has happened. It's enhanced the values because it has focused people back on these cars.”
Value. It took us a few hundred words, but we got there in the end. If you want to own the keys to one of the DB4 G.T. continuations you’ll have to find about £1.7m down the back of the sofa, plus taxes with a few nifty options added on. Expensive it is, but the level of detail – a word you’ll get used to in this article – is a mind-bender. It seems no stone, bolt, or screw was left unturned in the production of this masterpiece. Added to that the quality of the finish, you wouldn’t begrudge a single penny of the £1.7m cost.
The DB4 G.T. looks so good in fact, we’re sure Aston Martin would have no problem selling the things, even as static display pieces. Sitting behind the wheel of one, taking it to the track, and pushing it to its 155mph limits is surely just the icing on the cake. Either way, we seriously want a big fat bite.
“The quality ethos we put into this car are absolutely the same as we put into our brand new DB11. We wanted to meet those standards. An example of that is using new methods. The chassis is E-coated and powder-coated, so we got away from the corrosion issues we had in the 60s. It takes 3500 man hours to build this car and it would have been 6 or 700 hours back in the 1960s, so we take an enormous amount of care and effort.”
Paul even told us that he ran CT scans on the engines of the DB4 G.T. to rule out any engine-casing hiccups, just one of hundreds of quality control steps taken to ensure not one detail was missed. He’s not messing about when he talks about care and effort.
Up close, even the smallest of touches are enough to get our heart thumping again. We told you – it’s the details which really do land the hammer-blows with this car. Our favourite is the tiny lights fitted to the doors to illuminate the number roundels as it would have done during the night racing at Le Mans in ’59, enabling the time-keepers to clearly spot identification marks and car numbers as they flashed down The Mulsanne Straight.
“People have really bought into that racing ethos and the heritage,” says Paul, as we watch the public crowd around the stationary DB4 G.T. with more than a few gawping mouths.
“If you didn't have these kinds of events to come to, I wonder if the heritage market would be in such a healthy position. All credit to the Duke of Richmond, because it does encourage the next generation to get involved in heritage. They might get involved with an MGB or an Austin-Healey Sprite, but then they'll work their way up into buying an Aston Martin DB4 G.T.”
Don’t get my hopes up Paul! Not now… please.
“There's a huge amount of good will to the Aston Martin brand. It is quintessentially British. We have the James Bond connection as well which is a wonderful thing to have. There's very few of these cars in the UK, so to showcase it to the public is wonderful.”
While eaves-dropping the conversations around the Aston Martin stand, it’s remarkable how many people don’t understand or want to believe that this is effectively a new car. That’s a testament to the work done, and proves that Paul’s original vision has come to fruition.
“It was really important to me to build a car which drove in an authentic way. This car is pure. We wanted it to ride, handle, exactly as it did in '59 which is why it rides on 16-inch wheels with the original Dunlop racing tyres. It's fantastic to drive and balance on the throttle, it's very delicate. You can poise it on the edge of the grip and use the throttle to just rotate it through the bend. It is totally epic to drive”.
We’ll have to take Paul’s word for that, but right now, sitting next to the car, we are totally sold. Head-over-heels. The idea of investing in an icon of British motorsport, while having that piece of mind that this track weapon has been built with a very modern approach to engineering, and importantly, driver safety. The car is as safe as a modern touring car, with roll-cages, driver passenger foam extinguishers, bag tanks and everything in between.
“It's incredibly quick on a track, but I wanted it to have that very high level of survivability. We've gone to the nth degree to ensure if they do have an accident, they have a modern accident in and old car.”
It all adds up to being a bit of a no-brainer purchase in every department. If you can afford it that is. We leave Paul just as we found him, happily sharing his time with journalists, customers and the public, patiently and passionately talking them through his pet-project, and one he can rightly feel proud as punch about.
“We wanted to build an iconic, very, very, high quality, totally authentic vehicle.” Well, congratulations Paul Spires and everyone at Newport Pagnell Aston Martin Works. Mission accomplished on the looks department, and you can find out how it drives here.