Aston Martin DB6: while waiting for the DBS

Published on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Updated on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
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Michel Saint Josse was conned: in ‘Camping’, the 2006 French comedy, Gerard Lanvin, who played this plastic surgeon, thought he was buying « James Bond’s car » in an auction sale. At first glance however one can see that he is not riding in a DB5, like Ian Flemming’s hero, but rather in a « vulgar » DB6. Its distinguishing features? Rear lights in one long piece instead of 3 small round lights; split, 2 piece, front and rear bumpers; and especially, the rear cut tail “Kammback”, with a small rear built in lip-spoiler. As much as the DB6 might seem to be just a restyled DB5, it is not, even if it shares the same base..

By 1965 the DB5 had taken the small brand, acquired by David Brown in 1947, into the big leagues. The DB2 and its derivatives, the DB2/4 and then the DB Mark III, allowed Aston Martin (AM) back into the league of sports and prestigious auto manufacturers. With the DB4, AM hit the ball out of the park (especially with its DB4 GT derivatives signed by Zagato). The DB5, with 1,021 units produced (including Vantage, Volante and Shooting Brake models), solidified the mark’s position as a major success. In order to build on this level of success, David Brown decided to upgrade his bestseller in 1965, while targeting the Grand Tourism segment with the DB6.

The hyphen to the DBS

Amongst Brown’s development plans at the time were the sketches of the DBS project, that would be meant to introduce to the brand a much more modern style. However with limited financial means, it was too onerous yet to create a totally new car, especially since the old style was still selling very well. The future DBS was going to modernise the brand; the DB6 was to play the continuation. The DB6’s design, whose linage came directly from the DB4, was still very much in vogue in the 60s, causing doubt for any reason to make major changes.

Gérard Lanvin’s DB6 in ‘Camping’(a French popular movie) was supposed to be James Bond’s car

That’s why the DB5 and the DB6, at first glance, look almost identical. It takes an expert eye to distinguish the two. Primo: the DB6’s wheelbase is slightly longer (by 95 mm) to make more onboard legroom (reinforcing the idea of the Grand Tourism, dear to David Brown); secondo: the roof is also raised for comfort, forcing the replacement of the windscreen. And as mentioned above, the rear light clusters are changed completely (borrowing from the parts bin of the Triumph TR4S and TR5) and the bumpers are split in two.

Inline 6 revisited by Tadek Marek

Under the hood, we remain in the same train of thought: the inline 6-cylindre, revisited by Tadek Marek, maintains its place, with 285 horses for 4 litres of displacement, while the Vantage version gets pushed to 325 hp. So the DB6 is just a slightly lengthened version of the DB5? To the naked eye, probably only a specialist would have noticed the disappearance of the ‘Superleggera’ signature particular to Touring. Indeed, the DB6 took on a conventional steel structure, abandoning the aluminium panel architecture over steel tubing. 

Surprising as it may seem, the DB6 didn’t take on more weight compared to its predecessor, but it did earn a major advantage: it was much cheaper to produce. More accessible, the DB6 was an unprecedented success. Resembling the DB5, but a little bit like its poor cousin, the DB6 is often confused with the « James Bond car”, as Michel Saint Josse imagined in ‘Camping’, proving that he didn’t have the expert’s eye.

Last evolution in 1967

In 1967, the Aston Martin DBS 6 cylindre arrived on the market. More modern, especially in terms of styling, it frightened AM’s traditional clientele which remained still attached to the DB4 / DB5 / DB6 lineup. The latter did evolve in the 1969 model year with the introduction of the MkII version, a sort-of hybrid between the DB6 and the DBS. Adopting the running gear and the interior seating of the DBS (the wheel arches were widened) the whole effort was to reduce costs. The AE Brico injection system was also made available as an option although only 46 copies were produced as this system was still suffering from teething problems. The Mark II was only produced until January 1971, in the Vantage and the Volante versions, before giving way completely to the DBS.

The DB6, although partially ‘derived’ from the DB5, was a great success for the scale of a small luxury manufacturer: 1,325 DB6 (including the Shooting Brake), 140 Volante, 248 Mark II and 38 Mark II Volante, for a grand total of 1,751 units produced. Not bad for the small brand now installed in Newport Pagnell. Of course it’s not quite James Bond’s car but it looks like it. And only half the price. Some DB6 have power steering (optional), air conditioning (ditto) or a 3-speed Borg-Warner automatic. 

The DB6 also offered a Volante version, like the DB5

Less rare, less expensive, similar styling, barely less powerful, more spacious: the DB6 can be an excellent choice for a collector who doesn’t necessarily have the means to step up to the next level. First you’ve got to find one for sale, then you’ve got to convince your banker that this is the model to buy.

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