Unveiled: 25th September 1967
In production: October 1967 - May 1972
Chassis numbers: MP227/1 (prototype), DBS/5001/R - DBS/5829/RC (39 numbers not used - chassis renumbered and built up as DBS V8)
The replacement for the DB6 needed to achieve two basic goals. Firstly it had to be more spacious inside, especially for the rear seat passengers. The tight accommodation in the back of a DB6 was felt to be putting off some prospective purchasers. It needed more power, partly to overcome the extra weight of a larger, more sophisticated car but also to push performance to a new level with a top speed of 170mph. Thus in 1963, Tadek Marek started the development of a new in house V8 engine. Even though other British manufacturers were happy to “buy in” American units or designs, it was believed that this would “cheapen” the marque.
By 1964, Harold Beach had come up with a new project, MP220, which was a two-door four seat coupe. This was passed onto Carrozzeria Touring of Milan along with another project, MP226, a modern two-door two seat sports coupe based on the DB6 chassis. Touring pushed ahead with the two seater, called DBS (and retrospectively DBSC), and showed two cars at the 1966 Paris and Milan motor shows. it was not well received and plans for limited production were not followed through. This decision may also have been made more likely with the knowledge that Touring were in financial difficulties and it would therefore have been risky to have continued this partnership in the development of a vitally important future production model.
Thankfully there were other alternative in-house plans afoot. One project, the stretched DB6 (DP1348: plate 15 in Gershon’s book) would have accommodated four people but would not have taken the extra width of a new and planned V8 engine. Only another plan, MP227 was designed to accommodate the V8 engine and also sit four people in relative comfort so MP227 was carried forwards with an initial brief to use as much of the existing DB6 chassis as possible.
The rigid steel platform chassis of the DB6 was widened by 4½" and the wheelbase was lengthened by 1" to allow the engine to be lowered behind the front cross-member (see article by William Towns in AM Vol. 11, no. 36, 1969, pp. 157-160).
Another key figure in the development of the DBS was William Towns, initially recruited in 1966 from Rover as a seat designer, already with the Hillman Hunter and the Rover-BRM under his belt, he presented David Brown with a new design for a four-door saloon (MP230) that could also be shortened to a two-door fastback GT. And it was this design, when mounted on the much revised DB6 chassis that was displayed to the press gathering of owners at Blenheim Palace on 25th September 1967. And as the Touring designed “DBS” had gained much publicity at the 1966 Shows, the new name was retained leaving 'DB7' on the shelf for future use.
The body of the DBS was 15cm (6") wider than the DB6, and 3cm (1¼") lower accommodating four people with greater comfort than any other post-war model. Less obvious and less widely known was that the DBS was nearly 4cm. (1½") shorter than the DB6.
Although the William Towns designed fastback body was entirely new, the six-cylinder 3,995cc engine, was straight out of the DB6. When production commenced a short while after the Blenheim launch, two versions were available; the standard engine with 8.9:1 compression ratio, triple SU carburettors and quoted peak power of 282bhp (suffix /S) and the Vantage version with three 45 DCOE Weber carburettors, special camshafts, 9.4:1 compression ratio and quoted peak power of 325bhp (/SVC). Unusually the Vantage engine was offered at no extra cost as, to some buyers, the DBS had a rather obvious problem. It was just not as fast as the old school DB6 being both heavier and with a larger frontal area. True, it was better equipped, more spacious, comfortable and accommodating but it was introduced without the V8. Despite misgivings by Tadek Marek, the V8 had been tested in public at the 1967 Le Mans 24 Hours race whilst fitted into a pair of Lola T70 sports prototypes. Both engines failed in the pressure of competition which necessitated a rethink and some extensive strengthening to the block. The new DBS had no option but to go to market with the familiar straight six; it would be two more years before the DBS V8 was ready for launch.
The front suspension of the DBS was more or less the same as the DB4/5/6 with two unequal wishbones, coiled springs with co-axial shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. For the first time, a de Dion back axle was used on a production Aston Martin, although AML had experience from the Lagonda Rapide as well as the DB3 and DB3S.
Whilst roller splines were used on the shafts for the first time on a British production car, it was located by trailing arms and Watts linkage and suspended by coiled springs and damped by double acting Armstrong “Selectaride” shock absorbers, all of which were developed from the rear suspension of a long line of Aston Martins. All cars were fitted with a limited slip differential.
The ZF five-speed gearbox and Borg Warner three speed automatic transmission were offered at the same price, hypoid bevel final drive with a 3.73:1 ratio being used with the former and 3.54:1 with the latter. From early 1969, a 3.77:1 ratio was also used. The DBS V8 manual “dogleg” gearbox was used in later cars.
These ratios were the same as in the DB6 Mark 2. The first brochure, however, specifies a bottom gear ratio of 2.73:1, the ratio used in the DB6. The car road tested by Autocar and Motor, DBS/5102/R, had this ratio when tested by the former, but 2.97:1 according to the report published in the latter. In top, 1,000rpm gave 25.9mph, from which the DBS was able to pull away in, such was the flexibility achieved with this engine.
It was with cars tested with the auto box and non vantage engine that were most affected by the performance deficit over the DB6. AE Brico electronic fuel injection was an optional extra.
The specification includes a 9½" Borg and Beck single plate diaphragm clutch; 11.5" front and 10.8" rear Girling disc brakes with a total friction area of 438sq.in., tandem master cylinders allowing separate systems, including vacuum servos, for front and rear brakes; The DBS is most easily distinguished from the later DBS V8 as it was fitted with 15 x 6” wire wheels shod with wide low profile tyres and having power steering actually fitted as standard (despite the brochure showing it as an option). Air conditioning was however a cost option.
There is an insidious tendency to call the DBS the “DBS6”, although this is quite unnecessary to distinguish it from the DBS V8 or indeed the Gaydon DBS V12. It should also be noted that the DBS V8s did not replace the DBS; they were produced concurrently. Even after launch of the V8 powered car, the six cylinder DBS remained popular as it was still offered at a competitive price to the V8. Also during 1970, the US market was not able to buy the DBS V8 as the engine not been certified for that market.
Many of the detailed refinements on the DB6 were continued into the DBS, for example the hydraulic fluid level and handbrake warning light, red warning lights in the trailing edges of the doors, day/night intensity relays in the brake and turn indicator circuits, heated rear window, glass and electrically operated windows. The use of four 5½" quartz iodine headlights was perhaps more controversial.
There were detailed changes made from the 1967 prototypes which were first shown with DB6 style split bumpers. The bumpers then became full width for production and switches were also relocated from the transmission tunnel for production. Fuel flaps, initially listed as magnetic, later became lockable.
Very early production cars may feature a column ignition, pre-production door cards and arm rests, a transmission tunnel ashtray and sliding pockets.
Later in production, the original exterior door handles were replaced with Lotus Elan type units. The interior door handles were also changed
As with all Aston Martins, continuing development led to the incorporation of modifications during the four and a half years of production. Many changes were brought in starting from chassis 5557 (January 1970), corresponding with the launch of the DBS V8 in late 1969. In previous Registers, there has been a suggestion that cars from chassis 5557 are considered as Series 2 although this was never used by the factory, this is the point when the most apparent changes are introduced.
There were multiple changes at this time with many too subtle to be obvious, but key differences include:
- louvre position moved and incorporated into the panel between the rear window and the boot lid. Originally air was exhausted from the passenger compartment through louvres in the side panels in the c pillar but early customers complained of the smell of exhaust fumes
- gear console design
- front spoiler deepened to reduce aerodynamic lift
- stainless steel sill covers deepened
- wood-faced instrument panel changed to a black finish.
The wooden rimmed steering wheel was replaced with a leather bound wheel much later in the production run - the first car fitted was 5678 and from 5751 every car had the new leather wheel.