Aston Martin DB5 celebrates 60th anniversary

Aston Martin DB5

It’s 60 years since the Aston Martin DB5 was unveiled – a model that went on to become an icon of British culture, design and innovation – firmly establishing Aston Martin as one of the world’s most desirable luxury brands.

Now, all these years later, the DB5 is still one of the most recognisable cars ever. Reflecting on the enduring appeal of the DB5 as it marks its 60th anniversary, Aston Martin’s Executive Chairman, Lawrence Stroll – himself a DB5 owner – said: “The David Brown era gave us so many great Aston Martin sports cars but none more recognisable, revered, and desired as the DB5, which laid the foundations of our identity as a British luxury brand synonymous with style, performance, and exclusivity.

“It is only right that, as it turns 60, we take a moment to look back and reflect on this car’s incredible role in our storied 110-year heritage.

“We’re incredibly proud that the DB lineage continues today with the critically acclaimed DB12, which like those came before it, is a celebration of all we love about British hand built sportscars, with a new injection of the latest technology and highest levels of performance.”

Aston Martin DB5

Making its official public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1963. The saloon and the later convertible were in production at the brand’s Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, factory and HQ for a little over two years but, in that time, set about forging a reputation and fame that, today, make them among the most desirable cars of all time.

In all, a mere 887 DB5 saloons, 123 convertibles and 12 bespoke coach-built shooting brakes were made originally.

The DB5 displayed in Germany featured a new 4.0-litre (3,995cc) much reworked version of the 3.7-litre, twin cam, straight six that powered the DB4, with the new engine developing what was, then, a distinctly potent 282 bhp in standard form.

That welcome extra power was part of a raft of detailed technical and equipment changes, such as the debut of electric windows and the optional availability of air conditioning, which had been painstakingly engineered to meet increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer expectations.

Aston Martin DB5

Performance, an Aston Martin trademark even 60 years ago, was commensurate with the car’s svelte styling – the product of Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera – and a top speed exceeding 150 mph prompted the Aston Martin brochure of the day to claim: “The DB5 is the fastest regular 4-seat GT car in the world.”

That hugely impressive statistic, even today, helped British car magazine The Autocar to conclude in their first road test of the new model: “this is a car which cries out to be driven, to be driven well, and to be driven far.”

This grandest of grand tourers laid the groundwork for the cars that followed, with today’s DB12 – the world’s first Super Tourer – once again asserting Aston Martin’s position as a leader in performance, dynamics, engineering and technology.

Of course, there’s no doubt that the decision by film-makers EON Productions to put the world’s most well-known secret agent behind the wheel of the new DB5 in a series of James Bond movies over the course of more than half a century has cemented its place in the automotive hall of fame. But 007 is far from the only ‘celebrity’ to have been seen behind the wheel of this now iconic Aston Martin.

The Swinging Sixties were about to take off as crowds jostled for a glimpse of the new DB5 in Frankfurt and, within only a few years, many of the most famous actors, pop stars and celebrities of the day would be counting themselves fortunate to be among the exclusive ranks of Aston Martin ownership.

Celebrated DB5 patrons in the 1960s include The Beatles’ Sir Paul McCartney and George Harrison and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. Comic genius Peter Sellers also acquired the model, while a plethora of notable names in the years since – from Robert Plant and Jay Kay to Elle McPherson and Ralph Lauren – have ensured that saloon and convertible versions of the car alike have rarely left the limelight.

The DB5’s celebrity appeal proved to be a springboard for success and helped take Aston Martin from niche British sports car maker to global automotive superstar.

Historic Aston Martin DB5 Convertible for sale

1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible

A 1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible, ordered and owned by the man who gave his initials to the legendary DB-series of cars – one-time Aston Martin chairman Sir David Brown – is being offered for sale.

Aston Martin Specialists, Nicholas Mee & Co, are asking a cool £1,150,000 for the stunning classic.

The importance of the Aston Martin DB5 Convertible in automotive history cannot be overstated. Just 123 examples were built and it’s one of the most highly sought-after cars for collectors across the globe.

The DB5 model first appeared as James Bond’s car of choice in coupe form in 1964 film Goldfinger, but such is its enduring status as a symbol of British prestige it remains an icon to this day, most recently appearing in No Time to Die.

1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible

But even among icons, there are those more desirable than others.

Of the 123 DB5 Convertibles built, only one was ordered and owned by Aston Martin Lagonda chairman Sir David Brown, giving the car offered for sale by Nicholas Mee & Co a unique provenance.

Delivered to Sir David in January 1964, the car was built to the highest spec, with a then-new five-speed ZF gearbox, a Power Lock rear axle, chromed wire wheels and a Motorola radio.

The factory build sheet, supplied with the car, confirms it was specified in a vibrant Caribbean Pearl, with a Dark Blue interior.

1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible

It was cherished by Sir David for three years before being acquired by former Aston Martin DB4 GT owner and garage proprietor, John Wilkinson.

During Wilkinson’s ownership, maintenance was carried out at Aston Martin in Newport Pagnell, where records confirm a replacement engine block was installed and a newly stamped manufacturer’s identity plate applied in 1969.

This is the first time in 28 years anyone has had the opportunity to purchase this landmark of automotive history. It was last sold by Nicholas Mee & Co in 1994, the year after the passing of Sir David Brown. Since then it has starred at various Concours events across Europe.

In 2014, it benefited from a major restoration faithful to its original specifications, which included a rebuild of the 4-litre engine, as well as rebuilds of the suspension, gearbox, brakes and rear axle. A bare metal re-paint and complete re-trim of the interior in Connolly hide, along with a new hood covering, completed work and means it drives as beautifully today as it did when in the hands of Sir David.

It was Sir David Brown’s vision that began the DB series of sports cars and grand tourers, beginning with the DB1 right through to the Aston Martin DB11 on sale today. But it was the DB5 that catapulted the DB series to international fame.

Today the DB5 is one of the most sought-after collector’s cars in the world, with just over 1,000 examples made in total of any variant, which included the Convertible and the performance-enhanced Vantage versions.

Sir David acquired Aston Martin in 1947 for £20,500 after seeing an advert in The Times newspaper offering the sale of a “High Class Motor Business.”

He saved the ailing brand, which had ceased to produce cars to focus on making aircraft parts during World War II, and is key to the reason Aston Martin makes some of the world’s finest cars today, including a model that still bears his initials.

James Bond’s DB5 – the book that’s licensed to thrill

Daniel Craig and the Aston Martin DB5 in Skyfall

It’s fairly safe to say that this article requires no spoiler alert because all self-respecting Bond fans will have seen No Time to Die by now.

James Bond’s DB5 is the first official in-depth history of 007’s iconic Aston Martin and it was published to coincide with the late 2021 release of the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die, which features the car prominently.

It’s the first time EON Productions, the makers of the James Bond films, have authorised a book about the DB5, which made its debut in 1964’s Goldfinger and went on to appear in another eight 007 films.

Sean Connery and his Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger

The book has been carefully researched in close collaboration with EON and Aston Martin and draws on both their archives. It includes storyboards, diagrams, design materials, and many rare and beautiful photographs that cover every detail of the car, from the over-riders to the exhaust.

There are also forewords by 007 star Daniel Craig, James Bond producer Michael G. Wilson, and Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman.

The book, which is packed with 320 photographs across 280 pages, covers the entire story, starting with the Bond producers’ initial letters to Aston Martin before detailing the modifications made to the car for the filming of Goldfinger, including EON’s original drawings and rare pictures of the cast and crew on location in Switzerland.

It goes on to explore the fascinating history of the DB5s that went out on tour and covers every subsequent appearance of the model in the Bond movies, including the inside story of how it was seemingly destroyed in Skyfall before returning in triumph for No Time To Die.

Aston Martin DB5, No Time to Die

In short, this sumptuous coffee table book leaves no stone unturned. Who would have thought the executives at Aston Martin would have needed to be persuaded to loan out a car for the filming? Apparently they even thought it would cost them “more than it was worth” because they suspected that the car would be returned with scratches and dents.

The book is also packed with fascinating facts. For instance, the same DB5 (also bearing the identical BMT 216A number plate as 007’s car in Goldfinger) also appeared in a January 1964 episode of The Saint on ITV (starring the third James Bond, Roger Moore).

James Bond’s DB5 also chronicles in meticulous detail the lengths Production Designer Ken Adam went to in order to create the gadgets, including ejector seat, revolving number plates and machine guns built into the indicator lights, that would propel the car to superstar status.

Who knew the DB5’s retractable wheels blades that could shred tyres were inspired by the famous chariot race in the 1959 Ben-Hur Hollywood epic?

The car returned in the next film, Thunderball, while replica 007 DB5s set off on a world tour to promote the Bond movies. The spy would drive other vehicles, but the DB5 was always the definitive Bond car.

Pierce Brosnan and the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldeneye

After a 30-year absence, the DB5 returned to the screen in 1995’s Goldeneye and has gone on to feature in another five Bond movies, culminating in its appearance in No Time to Die.

It’s amazing to think that the most famous far in the world was only in production for less than two years (1963-5), just 887 were built and barely a handful were converted into Bond movie cars (for filming and publicity).

Which brings us back to the beginning because the book also details the DB5’s starring role in No Time to Die with exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs.

And if that wasn’t enough for Aston Martin fans, later in the film, Daniel Craig retrieves “his” old V8 from a lock-up – the car last seen in The Living Daylights (1987) with Timothy Dalton in the title role.

Dip in or read it from cover to cover, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with James Bond’s DB5, which is published by Hero Collector Books (RRP £40).

James Bond's DB5 book