The first production right-hand drive 1959 Aston Martin 4.2-Litre DB4GT Sports Saloon Registration no. 230 AYE Chassis no. DB4/GT/0102/R Engine no. 370/0102/GT
'For many Aston Martin enthusiasts the DB4 was the best of the post-war cars. Previous cars were lacking in power while the later DB5 and DB6 put on weight and were more like fast tourers than high-speed thoroughbreds and amongst the DB4s the DB4GT was the most thorough all-round Grand Touring car of the lot...' Mike Twite, 'Motors', 1967.
Launched at the London Motor Show in 1958, the Aston Martin DB4 emphatically demonstrated that a British manufacturer could better the Italians at their own game when it came to constructing the ultimate Gran Turismo. Its specification included a completely new steel platform chassis with disc brakes all round, and a race-developed twin-cam six-cylinder engine, all clothed in a perfectly proportioned aluminium body designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. Overall, the DB4 was state-of-the-art for its time, a masterpiece of robust British engineering combined with exquisite Italian styling.
Engineered under the watchful eye of Harold Beech, the immensely strong platform-type chassis replaced the DB2/4's multi-tubular spaceframe, the latter being considered incompatible with Touring's Superleggera body construction that employed its own lightweight tubular structure to support the hand-formed aluminium-alloy body panels. The trailing-link independent front suspension of the DB2/4 gave way to unequal-length wishbones while at the rear the DB4 sported a live axle located by Watts linkage instead of its predecessor's Panhard rod.
The new car's competition potential had been recognised from the outset and the factory lost no time in developing a lightweight version suitable for racing, the resulting DB4GT debuting at the 1959 London Motor Show. The model had already been proven in competition earlier that year when the prototype driven by Stirling Moss ('DP/199') won its first race at Silverstone. Extensive modifications to the standard car took 5" out of the wheelbase and replaced the rear seats with a luggage platform on all but a small number of cars. Together with lighter, 18-gauge bodywork, these changes reduced the car's weight by around 200lb (91kg).
The GT used a tuned engine which, equipped with a twin-plug cylinder head and triple Weber 45DCOE carburettors, produced a claimed 302bhp at 6,000rpm, a useful increase over the standard car's claimed 240bhp. Maximum speed, of course, depended on overall gearing but 153mph was achieved during testing with a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds recorded. The DB4 was also one of the first cars to go from standstill to 100mph and then brake to a dead stop on under 20 seconds, a tribute, in part, to its up-rated Girling brakes as used on Aston Martin's sports racers of the era.
Viewed from the front, the GT was readily distinguishable by its faired-in headlamps with Perspex covers, a feature later made standard on the DB5 and DB6. The rear screen and quarter windows were Perspex on many examples; bumper over-riders were deleted and the wind-down windows were frame-less within the doors. Twin Monza quick-release competition fuel fillers were added atop the rear wings, leading to a large-capacity fuel tank mounted flat in the boot. GTs were fitted as standard with lightweight Borrani 42-spoke wire wheels with alloy rims and three-ear 'knock-offs'. Trimmed to full Aston Martin road car specification, the interior boasted fine Connolly leather upholstery and deep-pile Wilton carpeting, while the GT benefited from the addition of an oil temperature gauge to the standard complement.
The DB4GT offered a strong challenge to the prevailing Ferrari dominance in GT racing, with examples entered by the works and John Ogier's Essex Racing Stable enjoying numerous victories. Driven by the likes of Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Innes Ireland, the DB4GT earned its stripes every weekend on the racing circuit. In December 1959, at the Bahamas Speed Week, Stirling Moss won driving a standard customer DB4GT 'borrowed' by the works following the demise of Moss's intended DBR2! The DB4GT was indeed a true dual-purpose car, equally at ease on both the racetrack and Grand Tour.
DB4GT chassis number '0102/R' is the first right-hand drive example completed, its 1959 build date making it eligible for pre-1960 historic events and thus all the more desirable. Delivered to Brooklands (Langley Motors) on 19th December 1959, the car was registered '230 AYE' and first owned by Noel Cunningham-Reid of Grosvenor House, London W1. According to the factory build sheet (copy on file) the original colour scheme was Bristol Red with off-white Connolly hide interior. Two subsequent owners are listed (prior to the current vendor): J D W Longden of Fulwood, Sheffield and P A Densham of Catherine-de-Barnes, Solihull.
In 1981 the Aston passed from Peter Densham to David Forrester Sorrell of Kensington, London and from Mr Sorrell to Frank Sytner of Nottingham in 1986. Some six years later, in May 1992, Mr Sytner offered the car for sale at Brooks' Monaco auction (Lot 88) where it was purchased by the current vendor, who was persuaded to buy the car by a good friend who happens to own the first left-hand drive DB4GT!
The car has been exceptionally well looked after at Aston Martin specialist Richard Williams. It has wanted for nothing and is kept in a heated garage when not in use. Upon purchase the Aston was sent straight to RSW and re-commissioned, receiving new timing chains, a carburettor overhaul, new water pump, new radiator, new clutch, new shock absorbers, refurbished wheels, suspension rebuild and brake overhaul.
Regularly serviced thereafter, the car was treated to extensive upgrading in 1997, the rear axle being rebuilt with a new crown wheel and pinion, new hubs and a 3.31:1 final drive ratio (previously 3.54:1) to improve its cruising capability. At the same time the engine was rebuilt with Carrillo con-rods and Cosworth pistons, being enlarged to 4.2 litres capacity and made unleaded compatible in the process. The transmission was also fitted with an up-rated clutch. In the course of the rebuild the odometer was zeroed; it currently displays a total of 8,500 miles.
Regularly serviced and immaculately maintained by RSW annually regardless of cost, the Aston took part in the 2003 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, following which it went back to RSW for post-event works. In 2006, the doors and windows were overhauled, sound deadening and new seals installed, the wheels rebuilt and various trim works undertaken. Regular servicing and maintenance has continued annually at RSW. The car's most recent outing was on the Aston Martin Dover to Strasbourg Tour in May 2013.
As well as bills for the aforementioned works carried out by RSW, the history file contains copies of bills from Aston Engineering relating to Frank Sytner's ownership; most MoTs dating back to 1987 (at 90,000 miles); and a copy of a road test article about this very car published in 'Autocar & Motor' in September 1990. Finished in RSW Green with Parchment leather interior, '0102/R' is presented in generally excellent condition and offered with current MoT/tax and Swansea V5C document.
Aston Martin built a mere 75 DB4GTs plus further 19 Zagato-bodied variants, one Bertone-bodied special and five 'Team' or 'Development Project' GTs. Of these 75 examples, 45 were supplied in right-hand drive form and 30 were left-hand drive. Amongst the most beloved of all Astons, the DB4GT remains unmatched for its unique combination of performance and roadability.
Despite its tremendous rarity and value, the DB4GT remains a popular entrant at major historic racing events such as the Goodwood Revival and the numerous (and highly competitive) Aston Martin Owners' Club Championship race meetings in the UK. The DB4GT was designed for competition and '0102/R' offers a rare opportunity to acquire an original right-hand drive example capable of competing with distinction in a variety of historic motoring events.