Aston Martin Convertibles & Volantes

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Laurence Meredith

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The 1960s. heralded a new era for Aston Martin as David Brown waved goodbye to the comparatively stolid cars of the 1950s, and ushered in a fresh generation of Touring-bodied, sporting sybarites which were fast, elegant, upper-crust and, above all, despite wearing an Italian suit, quintessentially English.

From the DB4 to the mighty V8 of the 1970s, these potent machines remain highly coveted and collectable, but none more so than the drophead coupe versions, or Volantes, as they were known from the DB6 onwards. Just 70 examples of the DB4 drophead coupe were built between 1961 and 1965, and unlike many exotic contemporaries they were full four-seaters.

Fitted with the standard 3670cc DOHC straightsix 240bhp engine, the DB4 was good for 145mph plus performance. Overdrive was a desirable extracost option, and automatic gearboxes and the more powerful Vantage engine also became available before production ended. The original, and some say the best, the DB4 is at a premium today but still represents outstanding value.

A similar styling package but with attractive faired-in headlamps, the DB5 convertible was launched in 1964 with a ‘bored out’ 3995cc engine developing a healthy 282bhp, or a whacking 314bhp in Vantage form. Automatic transmission was also an option before the end of production in 1965, but the five-speed manual is preferable for getting the best from the marvellous, tail-happy chassis.

The much heavier but beautiful DB6 Volante arrived in 1967 with the same four-litre engine, but a more luxurious package which included air-conditioning as an extra-cost option. HRH the Prince of Wales owns one of these fine cars, which speaks volumes about the kind of car this DB is. Production lasted until 1971, and Newport Pagnell didn’t get around to a Volante version of the big V8 (nee DBS) for a further seven years.

Elephantine body proportions and a 5340cc engine capable of hauling the beast up to 170mph are impressive, as are the electrically-operated hood and opulent interior. Fuel consumption is wicked, power delivery is memorable to say the least and restoration costs can be exorbitant. So what? This is British craftsmanship and engineering at their best and the best never has been cheap. Model choice comes down to personal preference but, for our money, the lean and lithe elegance of the DB4 and DB5 is difficult to beat. But expect to pay handsomely for a really good ‘un.

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