THE 21-LITRE ASTON-MARTIN DB II DROPHEAD COUPE
A Car of Superlative Performance and Controllability Tried Under Winter Conditions
EVER since we took a short run in one of last year’s “he Mans ‘• Aston-Martins we have been eager to road-test the production version of this technically absorbing and much-discussed car.
An opportunity arose as the old year merged with the new, when we had the memorable experience of using the prototype drophead coupe for ” covering ” the Exeter Trial and for some subsequent. fast motoring, the car covering in all nearly 1,000 miles in MOTOR Scoter’s keeping.
In writing of a motor car so superlative it is distinctly difficult to know where to begin. You see, the DI3 II merits praise under SO many sub-headings.
It is an exceedingly fast car, capable of reaching 110-115 M.p.h. under favourable conditions. It is high-geared, so that the engine is never very hard pressed, and quite exceptional maximum speeds are realised in the indirect gears. yet the acceleration right up to these speeds is something quite out of the ordinary. The engine is exceptionally smooth, willing and durable. The roadholding, steering and handling qualities generally are also quite out of the ordinary, the comfort factor high, yet this DTI II will amble along at. 10 m.p.h. in top gear and has such a foolproof gear-change and such light controls that any ” bobby-soxer ” would get the hang of it in a very few miles. Experienced drivers can hardly help averaging at least .50 nt.p.h. on long journeys as a matter of .course. In short, a superlative machine.
The engineers responsible for this car have been wise in selecting a W. O.
Ilentley-inspired engine, for this provides performance that is quite remarkable, and aptly usable under prevailing conditions of traffic in this country. Similarly, the choice of a closed body is sensible, because open two-seaters have but a limited sale to the world’s markets and aerodynamically the closed model offers greater performance than the less weatherproof style—albeit in the dropheac coupe Aston-Martin make the best of both worlds. The Off II inspires confidence from first acquaintance—in our ease in the dark over icy roads—-but some miles go by Is-fore its full significance is appreciated-for at first it is difficult to believe that this softly sprung, seemingly very wide motor car will handle safely at high speeds, while so effortlessly does it accelerate that. otw is ileeeived into
thinking that the acceleration is only mediocre. 1Vheri derestricted roads are reached first impressions need to be hastily revised, for the handling qualities are really superb and the more remarkable because the car is so well sprung, while very few automobiles will reach the seventies, eighties. and nineties so rapidly and unobtrusively. Perhaps speed is the aspect of the 1)11 11 that should be dealt with first. Certainly ” the century ” has a strong fascination and, writing this shortly after driving the eNston-Martin at 100 m.p.h. over slippery roads, we are more than ever willing to admit this. In top gear, then, the highest speed recorded was equal to a genuine Iffit m.p.h. In third gear the maximum is 93 m.p.h.. in second gear 68 m.p.h., and in first gear
4,0 m.p.h.–tigures requiring no qualification!
In considering the car’s accelerative abilities speed again comes into the picture, for up to 50 m.p.h., good as it is, the acceleration is equalled by a number of smaller-engined cars. It is from 50 m.p.h. to 100 m.p.h. that the surge forward of the car is quite remarkable. -and equally as useful. We took quite a lot of aoceleration figures, which appear in the table on page 71 and serve to emphasise this outstanding faculty the 1)11 II has for regaining a high Cruising speed following a check—incidentally, these figures were obtained without prior practice and on wet roads. Particularly impressive is the fact that the time taken to go from 10 to 30 m.p.h. in second gear is identical with that needed to increase speed from 20 to 40 m.p.h.. or from 30 to 50 m.p.h. on the same ratio. In third gear 40 to 60 m.p.h. inucupied only 5.2 see., and (JO to 80 m.p.h. a mere 7.9 see., but 20 to 40 m.p.h. took 2 sec. longer than in second gear. Clearly, a change-up at. about 50 m.p.h. in second and Subsequent acceleration in third gear to an 80-m.p.11_ cruising speed will dispose of traffic obstruct ions in a very pat poseful manner. On the other hand, those shy of indirect, ratios will rani that, for all its sports/raising performance. the Olt II will run down to 500 r.p.m., or approx. 10 m.p.h. in its ;1.77 to 1 top gear and pick up cleanly, the power icominsc iii at approximately I ,500 r.p.m., or just over 36 m.p.h. Thereafter. 50 m.p.h. is reached in 8 see. On this ratio, so that Grandad can go motoring to quite some purpose with a modicum of gearelumging. You feel, however. that the imposing
maxima on the indireets are intended to be used, and the only time the engine felt in the least unhappy was approaching 70 m.p.h. in second ; 60 is probably a kinder speed in this ratio. lneidentally, the 4.75 to I third gear is very well chosen and can be usefully employed for long periods, particularly as, like the other gears, it is completely inaudible. Very pleasant engine speeds at which to change-up in normal driving were 2,500 r.p.m. in first, 3,000 r.p.m. in second and 3.500 r.p.m. in third gear, or at approximately 20, 37 and 64 m.p.h. respectively.
The steering column gear-lever is substantial, rigid and huts a good large grip, which pulls out for Selecting reverse, which is through top gear position. The lever is close to the wheel, and the higher ratios are uppermost. There is admirable synchromesh, on all save bottom gear, which this lever actuates in a pleasantly silky manner. There was a tendency to catch-up at times, this, and a rather large movement between second and third, tending to delay this change. This was certainly one of the best of the stalk-pattern gear-changes we have tried ; equally certainly, we prefer the beautiful little central remote-control gear-lever which is available as an alternative. The clutch functioned very nicely and was light to depress. Quite as impressive as its performance is the DI3 It’s safe handling, which enables experienced drivers to get the very best from it and to use its speed and acceleration to the full extent. We would stunanarise these qualities as follows :-
Steering : Controlled by a thin-cubit, large diameter three-spoke wheel uttoluttered by minor controls. the wormand-roller steering gear is decently geared at 21 turns front one to Cother of a very generous lock, and has strong castor action. As the driver tends to ” steer against the castor,” t he sense of ” flabbiness ” associated with modern steering is minimised, at. the expense of’ a slightly heavy action. No return motion is transinitted front I he front wheels, but a small degree of facia vibration is conveyed via the column. Although the width of the bonnet diminishes faith in one’s ability to get through restricted places, the accuracy of the steering restores much of it.
Mad/milling and cornering : The very Stipple suspension is well-damped (by Armstrong shock-absorbers) mid, by some magie We do not profess to mulerstand.
the Aston-Martin engineers have endowed the car with well-nigh perfect cornering and roadholding characteristics: There is just that Slight Under-steer that denotes pedigree and only a very faint desire to roll; the. tyres never sound over-stressed. Corners can be taken at “racing speeds” even on snow-bound surfaces and this DB II Must rank as one of the safest Cars it has been our good fortune to try. In consequence, driving it is an epicurean pleasure, which the snow and ice met with nearly all the time we had the car merely served to emphasise..
Suspension: In view of the foregoing some discomfort On bad reads would be excusable, but such is not the case. The wheels are well-damped ..and follow road irregularities impeccably, yet impart only the smallest movement to the car’s occupants; the bonnet and front end remain rigid. The car is, indeed, very comfortable and entirely pitch-free. That such splendid roadholding has twen achieved with coil springs so soft that the nose dips under braking Must be rated one of Feltham’s greatest achievements.
Brakes: These arc in keeping with the other qualities which, combined, make the DB H so safe and pleasant to handle. The Girling hydraulic system is used, with 12-in. dia. drums, and very powerful, if perhaps a shade fierce, braking is available for the expenditure of very little pressure on the pedal. As important, the car pulled .up in a straight line: when braking heavily on wet slush. Such braking was accompanied by a slight squeak, but fading seemed nonexistent, with the proviso that so slippery were the roads that frequent heavy application of the brakes was out of the question.
If the brakes are as fade-free under summer conditions Feltham would Seem to know the secret of cool brakes in spite of all-enveloping coachwork, and . .We. have already commented on the excellent steering-lock, another feature not usually. associated with enclosure of the front wheels. Although the engine gives 105 b.h.p. on a compression ratio of 6.5 to I it behaves like a perfeetly normal touring power unit It ” pinks” abominably on ” Pool ” petrol and gavean occasional loud .cough for part of the test, as if its S.U. carburetters had caught cold, but otherwise had no vices. It proved a particularly easy starter and the radiator water never exceeded a temperature of 55 degrees C., while oil pressure, which Varies with engine speed, is normally around 50 lb./sq. in. This six-cylinder unit is mechanically quiet, what exhaust
roar there is seems well to rear of the car and pleasingly subdued, vibration, flat spots and fumes are absent, and it. tarns like a turbine, even at speeds around 5,500 r.p.m. such as are involved at maximum m.p.h. in the [ewer gears. The revs, go up with a rush, racing fashion, for gear-changing, and there was no loss of tune. Oil consumption was roughly 800 m.p.,g.
A pleasing accompaniment of the high gear ratios is the easy time the engine has at high cruising speeds. 80 m.p.h., which is a very commonplace gait to the DB II, representing 3,700 r.p.m. for instance, .whilst at 100 m.p.h. the engine is ‘turning at tinder 4,700 r.p.m.
It is probably this high gearing, together with the aerodynamic bodywork and the light weight of the car, that produces such commendable economy, the consumption of ” Pool ” petrol coming out at better than 20 m.p.g., although the car was driven hard throughout over ” heavy ” road surfaces. and for ranch of the time, before aceelerat on tests called for lots of full throttle work, 24 m.p.g. was Obtained. The tank holds 19 gallons, so the range is %any satisfactory; the last three gallons are fed by a separate fuel pump having a facia switch that acts as a fuel reserve and, additionally, a warning lamp reminds. the driver that it is in use. This is .additional to a fuel contents gauge which, on pressing a button, gives the level of oil in the sump.. If tile modern AstonrMartin is imposing. in action it is a very covetable possession even when st.Stionary, for it has that unmistakable air of good breeding which characterises tlw high quality British car. I?eautiffilly contoured, businesslike aerodynamic body is made at Feltha’m and is upholstered and finished there. Its doors shut firmly, its bucket seats are deep and ‘comfortable, possessing squab and cushion adjustments, the latter very easily worked by pressing down a knob and sliding the seat. up liolstery is leather over Dunlopillo. Visibility is good, the screen’s centre strut not interfering, although some drivers seem to object to the ” goitre ” on the bonnet which is a fresh air entry
for the Smith’s bitter. Normal wind-up side windows are used, augmented by ventilating panels whieh open and close easily under a toggle lever linkage. The saloon also has Perspex rear lights and a big Perspex rear ‘Window, whereas the drophead coupe contents itself with a rather shallow rear window, which restricts vision in the central mirror. The 1/13 11 is advertised as a two/threeseater and you van either carry the ” odd man out ” on the front seats, adjusted as a bench, or on the unup
holstered luggage shelf behind the seats. -access to which is by folding forward one or other squab. Head-room is limited in the latter position, Otherwise this “emergency sent” is not impossible. although the head folds down into it when the coupe is opened and in neither coupé nor saloon-is there any other stowage for luggage. However, providing they
know one another reasonably well there is no objection to placing two slim passengers beside you, even when the central as distinct from steering-column, gearlever is fitted. The facia is fascinatingly full of dials and switches, but as the car we tried was a prototype and differs slightly in this respect from production Models, these need only brief description. A circular
panel, readily detachable for servicing. Carries the ignition and lamps switch. starter button, wiper Switch, reserve fuel switch, button for converting fuel gauge into an oil-level gauge, lead-lamp plug point, and a switch which enrichens
one of the S.U. carburetters for starting. Similar turn-switches along the base of the facia look after an under-bonnet light and the panel lighting, which is sensibly subdued, and three windows light up white, green and red when, respectively, the mixture enricher or the reserve fuel pump are ” on ” or the dynamo isn’t charging. Yet another of these switches energises the heater–one small grumble is that there it no visual clue to what. this big family of little black ‘switches
does. There is a Smith’s 6,0(X)-r.p.m. rev.-counter runt a Smith’s 140-m.p.h. speedometer with trip and total mileage recorders and clock—and these upset us because their needles move in opposite directions, and because that. of the rev.
counter floats badly. The fuel gauge. anuneter, oil gauge and radiator thermometer are combined in one dial—while entirely adequate, as was Itocommon-or garden lamps switch, we have a personal fad that. on a £1,600 car something more individualistic mieit, have been used in both instances. Remember the lamps switch of the old-school Bentleys ? Certainly it should not be necessary to reach in front of the passenger to operate the lamps switch; while the centrallylocated direction indicators switch could
be placed more conveniently, particularly as. the indicators are not seMeancelling.