The DBS has always been an intriguing and desirable curio in Aston Martin’s history. With the numerically-ascending DB line reaching something of a crescendo with the DB6, the original idea was to replace the model with something larger and more luxurious with more of a modern aesthetic. Initial plans were to fit a V8, although with the engine not ready in time, the DBS model of 1967 was powered by the outgoing DB6’s straight-six. And just to add an extra twist and turn to an already serpentine tale, the DBS didn’t replace the DB6 anyway, the two were sold concurrently for three years, the latter going out of production in 1970.
Being a late-1969 car, the DBS we have here essentially acts as a true marker between the old model being shelved and the new one finding its feet. And most importantly of all, this one is in Vantage spec; while the regular DBS was no slouch with its 280bhp, the Vantage upgrade strapped on a set of juicy triple Webers and wound things up to a brawny 325bhp. It also has the ZF 5-speed manual transmission rather than the more common Chrysler-sourced 3-speed auto, so this is very much a driver’s car. Of the 829 DBSs built, just 300 were optioned in full-fat Vantage spec; furthermore, of the total DBS production, 317 were right-hand-drive with manual transmission – so at the centre of this obscure Venn diagram, we find a very rare car indeed.
It’s the last Aston Martin model developed under the watchful eye of David Brown, in the best possible spec. How can you resist?
Built in October 1969, this DBS was actually supplied to its first owner in March 1970, by HR Owen of London. Spending some years in its native UK, the Aston made its way abroad – no doubt for the sort of international high-rolling adventures that these grand tourers were conceived for – and was found by the current owner in the Netherlands in 2015, in the prestigious Gallery Aaldering. Paying €142,500 to take it home, the car was repatriated in 2015, whereupon he correctly registered it with the DVLA and then spent a further £20,000 fully overhauling it. Consequently it’s all complete and solid, running and driving beautifully, and presented to market as a thoroughly usable example of a very rare spec DBS.
The file of paperwork makes for intriguing reading, not least for the fact that copies of the original 1970 documentation are here so we can forensically examine the spec and factory options. There’s also a certified copy of factory records from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust confirming the chassis/engine numbers, the original build date of October 10th 1969, and supplying date by HR Owen of March 3rd 1970. The sales invoice provides a surprising amount of detail (for example, that the car was supplied with a Smiths speedo, Avon radial tyres and English Lighting headlamps), and lists the original spec as being painted Celeste Metallic (a sort of light silvery blue), with dark blue Connolly hide trim, dark blue carpets and grey headlining. The optional extras specified were the Vantage engine upgrade, Radiomobile radio, Fiamm horns and Marchal lamps. The servicing is minutely itemised through the early 1970s, and we can see that it received some body repairs to the rear when it was just a year old.
All of the documentation from the car’s sale in the Netherlands is present, along with paperwork from HM Revenue & Customs. A sheaf of old MOTs is included, and what makes for really interesting reading is the invoice from the Aston Martin specialist Rikki Cann Ltd of Shoeburyness: running to a full nine pages, it’s clear that a huge and comprehensive overhaul was carried out in 2015, addressing everything from the brakes and suspension to the steering and ignition systems, totalling a robust £19,898.60.
The interior of the DBS is a splendid place to be, and it does appear to be remarkably original. This car was specced by its first owner with dark blue leather seats, dark blue carpets and grey headlining, and that’s just how it is today. The seats have a wonderful patina to them, wearing their years well and showing no rips, tears or holes; they’re also still nicely supportive, and the fronts tilt forward correctly to allow access to the luxurious rear bench.
The dash is excellent, with no cracks or marks beyond the gentle wear of ages, and all of the correct switchgear and gauges are in place. The period radio can be assumed to be the original factory-option unit, and the elegant wood-rim steering wheel is in lovely condition. The headlining is in good order throughout with no sagging. The carpets are complete, and could just do with a bit of a clean to get them to their best. Inside the boot it’s all tidy and dry, with a matching spare wire wheel in its correct cover.
The design of the DBS is timeless in its stylishness, clothing the old spirit of the DB6 in a fresh-faced form. The first thing we should point out with the exterior is that the paintwork could be better; it’s been repainted in an attractive shade of silver, which looks excellent from a short distance and photographs very well, although it’s possible that the wrong primer was used beneath as there’s a fair amount of micro-blistering, most notably on the bonnet and roof but also extending to the wings and doors. However, if a simple paint-job is all that it takes to get this beautifully complete DBS up to show-winning standard, that’s surely a small price to pay.
Otherwise, it’s all very positive news with the exterior. The panel fit is superb, with even gaps all round and the doors and boot closing with a pleasing solidity. All of the correct chrome trim and badging is in place, and in very good condition. The light lenses and window glass are all good, and the car wears a delightful set of wire wheels shod with good-quality Avon radials with plenty of tread.
Truly a wonderful car to behold, and one that started numerous conversations with passing admirers during our photoshoot.
Quite simply, it purrs like a kitten. The 4.0-litre straight-six is in its brawniest factory-option setup, the Vantage specification bringing triple Weber carburettors, and it’s all in very fine fettle. The car fires easily on the first turn of the key, and settles into that wonderfully characteristic idle, smooth and yet gently pulsing to remind you that muscle-car hijinks are just a throttle blip away. There’s no smoke, no signs of leaks, no warning lights, it’s all very civilised.
The manual transmission is a robust unit that shifts with confidence, especially once it’s warmed up. There are no creaks, knocks or rattles coming from the chassis, and the car drives very well with no issues to report regarding the steering, brakes or suspension. A pleasurable cruiser that feels like it could readily leap down to Monte Carlo at a moment’s notice.
Oh, and as you can see from our rakish photoshoot location, the handbrake works very well!
The magnificence of the DBS is that it sits in the perfect position in Aston Martin’s history to be a perennial conversation starter; any DB4, DB5 or DB6 is bound to elicit lazy James Bond references in general everyday pub chat, and the same is also true of the Oscar India V8s… but the DBS? This is very much its own thing, at once classically styled and yet far more modern in appearance than its venerable age would suggest. And this particular one is a real honey – it ticks all the boxes when it comes to desirability; it’s a Vantage, it’s right-hand-drive, it’s a manual. Furthermore, it’s recently had a huge amount of money spent on making it mechanically tip-top, and today it drives like an absolute dream. Who needs the 007 aura? The DBS Vantage is the connoisseur’s Aston.
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1969 Aston Martin DBS Vantage
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