In production: April 1953—October 1955
Chassis numbers: LML/501—LML/1065
The DB2 had been well received and sold throughout the world, but the market in this price range for a car with two seats (and limited luggage space) was restricted. A 1952 DB2 chassis (LML/50/221) was modified in a number of ways. The roofline was changed to give more headroom towards the back and the small rear window was replaced by a larger window in an opening panel, forming the first sporting hatchback. At the suggestion of Mulliners of Birmingham who were now contracted to make the bodies, the door hinge post, shut and sill section was made as a single, light alloy, casting. The chassis frame was modified by removing the cross-bracing above the rear axle to enable two occasional rear seats to be accommodated and to allow for a flat floor for storage space, accessed via the opening rear window. At the same time the capacity of the fuel tank was reduced from 19 to 17 gall. (77.2 litre), allowing it to be set within the chassis framing in the space which had been occupied by the tubing that formed the cross bracing, and the spare wheel was housed in a hinged carrier below the fuel tank.
The considerably improved the luggage space, could be substantially increased further by folding down the back of the rear seat. The comment, attributed to the Bentley D.C., that the car was then the fastest shooting brake in the world was almost justified at a time when ‘three door’ cars were a rarity. Another useful modification introduced during the life of this model was the introduction of eccentric pivot pins on the front suspension top link which allowed the castor angle to be adjusted.
For many years, the Register has declared that this model was-‘In Production October 1953—October 1955’. However, recent research by the late Roger Stowers, AML Ltd Historian and Archivist, has shown that a bare ‘2/4’ chassis was scheduled to appear at the Turin Show in May 1953, and that this was one of the first 6 made (LML/502 – 507) which remained as chassis only, being supplied to the Italian coachbuilders, Bertone. (For more on the Bertone cars, see Brian Joscelyne’s article in Aston 5). Final assembly of these chassis started in April and the last of which, was completed in June. It would appear that 24, or more complete cars, including the first one powered by a 3 litre engine, were built, starting in June, before the DB2/4, as a complete car, was first ‘shown’ at the October, London Motor Show in 1953.
Both saloon and drophead versions were on offer. While the car tested by the motoring press had a DB2 style rear quarter window and bonnet, further improvements in the design of the body could be seen at the Show, which included a different shape for the rear quarter lights, headlamps set higher in the bonnet, improved bumpers (which could now absorb a bump without damaging the body), with over-riders, and a one-piece windscreen. The details of the chassis and the dimensions remained the same as for the DB2, except for the minor modifications mentioned above and that the length was increased to 14' 1½" (430cm) and the dry weight to 2600 lb. (1179kg).
One car, LML/515, was built for Sir David Brown with a hardtop by Mulliners which was similar to those used on several DB2/4 Mk II and as such, could be regarded as the prototype of the coupé model to come.
The 2,580 c.c. (178 cu. in.) Vantage engine (VB6E/) was fitted as standard equipment until the three-litre engine (VB6J/) was introduced, in September 1953 for the saloon (LML/533) and in April 1954 for the drophead (LML/714) (The Registers prior to 2000 had different information, ‘the three-litre engine (VB6J/) was introduced, in April 1954 for the drophead and in August 1954 for the saloon’. However, detailed research by Roger Stowers, showed that the information published in 2000 was, in fact, the correct record.) However, there is evidence to suggest that the VB5E engine continued to be fitted to cars well into 1954, for example, LML/741, ordered on the 21st July 1954 but actually handed over on the 15th March 1955.
At least 102 were Drophead Coupés (56 to the home market, 46 for export) and 12 were sold as chassis only, including 8 to be fitted with Bertone bodies (see AM Vol. 16, No. 62, 1976, p.177 and A.M.O.C. East, Winter, 1986, p.8). One (LML/802) has coachwork by Vignale and (LML/761) by Allemano.
While these cars have been regarded as ‘Feltham’ cars, they were only assembled there in the early days. The chassis, engines and other components were made near Huddersfield, in the David Brown Industries factories at Meltham Mill and the tractor engine factory at Farsley while the bodies were assembled by Mulliners of Birmingham from panels made by such people as Airflow Streamline in Northampton! All these components finally arriving at Feltham for finishing. (See Frank Feeley, AM Number 88 and 89). However, by 1955 the cars were assembled entirely at Farsley. The fully trimed bodies arrived from Mulliners and would be fitted to the chassis, finished on a ‘production line’ track alongside the David Brown tractors and road tested on the Yorkshire roads around the factory. Interestingly, while the last chassis number was LML/1065, the late Roger Stowers discovered that the actual last car to roll off the production line was LML/1032.
The DB2/4 was road tested by Autocar (October 2, 1953; LML/50/221, the experimental prototype, and September 3, 1954; LML/669) and the Motor (August 25, 1954; LML/669). With the prototype, the Autocar recorded acceleration 0-60 m.p.h. in 12.6 sec., 0-100 m.p.h. in 40.4 sec.; a standing quarter mile in 18.9 sec and a maximum speed of 120 m.p.h. (mean 111 m.p.h.). Dear old ‘Uncle Tom’ McCahill published his tested in Mechanix Illustrated in March 1955. Unlike his test of the DB2 in which he questioned the handling of the example he was testing, now he was effusive with his compliments. The handling and engine performance was now all he would expect from such a car. The rear window hatch impressed him especially as did the load carrying space which would “carry two unconscious basket ball players” and the open hatch “is wide enough and high enough for a polar bear to walk through without removing his hat”. He recorded an number of 0-60 times around the 10 second mark.
Introduced to the public at the London Motor Show in 1953, the DB2/4 offered a true first in the motoring world - since then much imitated. It's Aston Martin that we have to thank for bringing the world the 'sporting hatchback' although, unfortunately they failed to patent this innovation. This innovation came about as the DB2/4 was a four seater (really a 2+2) unlike the pure two seat DB2, and rear access was required for the occupants luggage. With the rear seats folded down, the DB2/4 had a colossal luggage capacity. The rear screen was significantly larger than on the DB2 which aids easy identification
The roofline of the DB2/4 was raised so as to provide extra headroom for rear seat passengers. Also the front windscreen became a single piece full width curved affair. 50 years after it was first seen, the hatchback returned to the Aston Martin range on the AMV8 Vantage concept and into production with the Gaydon built V8 Vantage.
As well as the useful hatchback, the DB2/4 can be distinguished from the earlier car by more substantial bumpers with over-riders. That said, its quite common to see DB2/4’s modified for the track without bumpers fitted. Also the headlamps were repositioned slightly higher than on early DB2’s as demanded by new safety regulations.
Initially the DB2/4 had, as standard, the 2.6 litre engine (2580 cc, VB6E/) in Vantage tune producing 125 bhp previously an option on the outgoing DB2. Then from mid 1954, an enlarged 2.9 litre (2922 cc, VB6/J) engine was introduced giving a much improved 140 bhp. Once fitted with the larger capacity engine, the 2.9 litre DB2/4 was capable of a genuine 120mph top speed.
While the DB2/4 is regarded as a Feltham car, they were actually built in many different places. The rolling chassis, engines and other parts were made in the David Brown Industries factories at Meltham Mill near Huddersfield and the nearby tractor engine factory at Farsley, both in the county of Yorkshire. David Brown was a Yorkshireman himself of course. The coachwork was assembled by Mulliners of Birmingham from panels made by such people as Airflow Streamline in Northampton. Then the cars eventually arrived at Feltham for final finishing. However, by 1955 the cars were assembled almost entirely at Farsley in West Yorkshire. Fully trimmed bodies from coach builders, Mulliners were fitted to the rolling chassis and finished on a production line alongside the David Brown tractors.
In addition to the practical and sporting saloon, the DB2/4 was offered as this sophisticated convertible, the Drophead Coupe. Unlike the saloon version, the open car was strictly a two seater and offered a substantial boot for long distance adventures. Initially, the DB2/4's were first sold with the 2.6 litre VB6E/ engine in Vantage tune as first seen as an option on the DB2, which offered peak power of 125 bhp. From April 1954 until the end of DB2/4 production in October 1955, the 2.9 litre VB6J/ engine with 140 bhp as fitted as standard.
It is believed that 102 DB2/4 Drophead Coupes were built over two years with more than half in right hand drive for the British market. The left hand drive examples are highly desirable partly due to their rarity and the fact that most countries in the world drive on the right.
The DB2/4 Drophead was replaced by the updated DB2/4 Mark II in 1955, the first open Aston Martin with coachwork by Tickfords in Newport Pagnell.