In production: May 1950-April 1953
Chassis numbers: LMA/49/1—LML/50/406 and LML/50/X1—/X5
Following the decision to enter Works cars for the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 1949, three new cars were built which became the transitional design between the Two Litre Sports and the DB2.
In The Motor for October 18th 1950, the late Laurence Pomeroy, the motoring guru of the time, wrote "It would appear that every so often the gods pass over some works or another and, with an inclination of the head, inspire the production of a car having outstanding virtues. The original side-valve Aston Martin was surely such a one, and the six-cylinder Aston Martin D.B. Mark II stands worthily in the pedigree of real motor-cars stretching back through the 4 1/2-litre Bentley to the 30/98 Vauxhall".
The chassis and running gear for the new DB MKII, as they were sometimes recorded by the Factory, were essentially the same as on the Two Litre Sports, except that the wheelbase was shortened. However, there remained a small amount of torsional weakness in the earlier frame so a new young designer, one Ted Cutting, who was to play a very significant part in the racing success of 1959, was set to overcome the problem, which he did by introducing a cruciform frame in the space above the fuel tank and also beneath the passenger area as well as an additional tubular rail over, and parallel to, the existing side rail. While this produced a deep sill, it did the job.
The three cars had a purposeful two-seater body designed by Frank Feeley and one was powered by a new 2.6-litre, six-cylinder twin overhead camshaft engine designed, in about 1943, for the Lagonda company's product that would follow the 1939-1945 world conflict. The design team was led by W.O. Bentley and included Willie Watson, who would be key a person at Aston Martin in the years to come. Watson had been involved with the Lagonda V12 produced in the years before the conflict mentioned above and in the years to come, would design the next V12: He had also been with Invicta.
Since the bodywork and wheelbase closely resembled the subsequent DB2, rather than the Two Litre Sports and initially one (later another) was fitted with the 2.6 engine which was to become the standard unit on the DB2, all three may be regarded as DB2 prototypes. There is some evidence that they were so regarded by the factory: for example, the chassis numbers are in the DB2 series. Another prototype, LML/49/4, was completed in 1949 and used as a development car: it was raced twice as a works-supported entry.
At about this time Gordon Sutherland and St. John Horsfall, followed by Claude Hill, left the Company, the first to devote his time to Abbotts of Farnham, the coachbuilders, in which he had a controlling interest, the last took up a post at Ferguson Research where he joined the team developing four-wheel-drive systems. Sadly, Jock Horsfall was killed in racing accident.
Further development led to the cars with the body that was to be used on production cars, LML/50/5, was used for development work on the 2.6-litre engine, and final minor changes to the body design because early photos of this can show it without the characteristic bonnet heater scoop. LML/50/6 the New York Show car, had all the features of the first “normal” production car.
Details of the DB2 were released to the Press on April 12, 1950 and it was shown at the New York Motor Show on April 15-23. The construction of the chassis frame was essentially the same as in the prototytpes mentioned above, with a number of rectangular tubes welded together to form the main members in an open frame, but the wheelbase was shorter than the 2 Litre Sports by 9 inches (23cm).
In the early days of production, the low compression 2.6 litre, LB6B six cylinder engine was the 'standard' unit. But as the quality of the pump fuel improved, it was possible to up-rate these engines to the new Vantage specification (LB6V/). Later the "Vantage" engine (VB6B/) with larger induction manifolds was available as option. The VB6E/ version fitted to some DB2s (usually export models), but more commonly in the DB2/4, was essentially the same except for the controls. The earlier LB6E/ engine, was fitted to relatively few cars, and also had larger induction manifolds and 1¾" carburettors, but with an intermediate compression ratio of 7.5:1.
A prototype three-litre engine (DP/101) was fitted to a few cars, but, contrary to some accounts, there never was a 2.3 litre (see AM, Vol. 22, No. 94, 1986). Three litre, VB6J, engines have now been fitted in some cars.
Transmission, after a Borg and Beck 9" single dry plate clutch, was through a David Brown four-speed gearbox and a Salisbury hypoid bevel back axle. Both floor and steering column gear changes were available.
The bodywork of the two-seater saloon-foreshadowed by the three works prototypes-was a substantial departure not only from previous Aston Martin practice, but also from contemporary design generally. It had a notable simplicity of line. The whole of the front bodywork hinged forward, the windscreen was divided and the rear window was rather small (and have been subsequently enlarged on some cars). Generous space was provided for the driver and a passenger, although the lateral support provided by the seats, in effect a split bench, did not match the cornering power. The earliest cars (probably up to LML/50/51) had three separate grilles at the front of the bonnet (developed from the DB1) and large rectangular vents behind the front wheel arches. A rubbing strip was also fitted along the top of the door sill on most of these, and was offered as an ‘extra’ on later cars. A drophead coupé was announced late in 1950 and 98 were made, the largest batch (of 15) appearing near the end of the production run. At least 5 rolling chassis, /69, /97, /173, 257 and /323 were sold to be fitted with special bodies by other coachbuilders, including 3 more dropheads by Graber (see AM, Vol 3 No. 1, 1952, p 15).
Road tests were carried out with Team Cars by the Motor (Sept. 27, 1950; LML/50/7), Autocar (Nov. 17, 1950; LML/50/9) and Autosport (March 2, 1951; LML/50/9). Motor Sport (Feb. 1951) tested the first drophead coupé (LML/50/10) and LML/50/66 was tested by Road and Track (Dec. 1951). In addition the car was described in the Motor (April 12, 1950 and Sept. 30, 1953), Autocar (April 21, 1950), Mechanix Illustrated (LML/50/21), (April 1951 and the text was published in AM Vol IV, No 6), Automobile Engineer (July, 1951) and Motor Trend with a test by Phil Hill on his own car (LML/50/66) (February 1952). The Motor recorded the times for acceleration from 0-60 and 0-100 m.p.h. at 11.2 and 34.5 sec., a standing ¼-mile in 18.5 sec. and a maximum speed of 117.3 m.p.h. Note: In the following text, a number of chassis numbers are in bold type which shows them to be ‘works cars’ entered in motorsport. Their histories are elsewhere in this volume, but the numbers are left in to show their relationship to the other cars.
No one is quite sure why the 5 ‘X’ cars were thus numbered. The records at AML Ltd suggest that they were produced, randomly within the normal production run, among chassis /240 to /278. Once thought to be the last of the DB2 series to be made, the AML historian, the late Roger Stowers, discovered that they were all finished in November 1952, some months before production ceased! A letter from John Wyer dated 28th February 1962 that gives the delivery dates for these cars as follows:
- X1 (17th November 1952)
- X2 (21st November 1952)
- X3 (27th March 1953)
- X4 (31st December 1952)
- X5 (17th April 1953)
Apparently, these cars were extra to the original Production Sanction, though why the extra cars appear within the production run rather than at the end is unknown.
The production ready DB2 was first shown during April 1950 at the New York Motor Show, a fitting event as in order to get scarce steel, British motor manufacturers needed to export as many cars as possible. Demand for the modern looking car was incredibly strong yet the factory were not able to build cars fast enough. The success of the team cars during the 1950 Le Mans 24 hour race (examples hastily snatched from the production line) made the DB2 an even more attractive car to the affluent post-war sporting motorist.
The earliest cars (the first 49) feature a three part grille similar to that of the DB1, a large rectangular side vent behind each front wheel and bright trim along the side beneath the door. These triple grille cars are occasionally known as ‘washboards’ on account of the distinctive side vents. An excellent photographic resource on the ‘Washboard’ cars can be found on the Astonuts website.
From the 50th car, the side vent was deleted and three part grille was replaced by a simpler arraignment of horizontal bars, a design which lasted in production through to the DB2/4 Mark 2 in 1957. The rear ‘boot’ lid is really for entry to the spare wheel. Since the DB2 is strictly a two seater, there’s plenty of space for luggage behind the seats.
From January 1951, an optional 125bhp Vantage VB6E/ engine with bigger carburettors and a 8.2 to 1 compression ratio made the DB2 even quicker. At this time, the ‘Vantage’ option represented a more powerful engine but no other performance or styling modifications. Access to the engine is easy with the massive front hinged single piece bonnet.
The desirable and attractive Drophead Coupe version of the DB2 was announced a few months after the saloon in 1950. The first example, which was the tenth production DB2, (chassis number LML/50/10) was built as chairman, David Brown's personal car.