When they were new: Aston Martin DB2 DHC
An original road test taken from the Motor Sport archives, February 1951 by Bill Boddy
Ever since we took a short run in one of last year’s Le Mans Aston Martins we have been eager to road-test the production version of this technically absorbing car. An opportunity arose when we had the memorable experience of using the prototype drophead coupe to cover the Exeter Trial and for some subsequent fast motoring. In writing of a car so superlative it is difficult to know where to begin. You see, the DB2 merits praise under so many headings. It is exceedingly fast, capable of 115mph. The engine is never very hard-pressed, yet is exceptionally smooth, willing and durable, the road-holding, steering and handling out of the ordinary, the comfort factor high, yet this DB2 will amble along at 10mph in top gear. It has such a foolproof gearchange and such light controls that any ‘bobby-soxer’ would get the hang of it in a few miles, and experienced drivers can hardly help averaging at least 50mph over longer journeys. A superlative machine.
The engineers responsible have been wise in selecting a WO Bentley-inspired 21/2-litre engine, for this provides remarkable performance. Similarly, the choice of a closed body is sensible, because open two-seaters have but limited appeal to the world’s markets and aerodynamically the closed model offers greater performance, albeit the drophead coupe Aston Martin makes the best of both worlds.
The DB2 inspires confidence at first acquaintance, but some miles go by before its full significance is appreciated, for at first it is difficult to believe that this softly-sprung car will handle safely at speed. When 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 that should be dealt with first. The ‘century’ has a strong fascination, and writing this shortly after driving the AM at 100mph over slippery roads, we are more than ever willing to admit this. In top gear the highest speed recorded was a genuine 109mph, though it is from 50 to 100mph that the surge forward is quite remarkable — and useful, emphasising the outstanding facility for regaining a high cruising speed following a check. On the other hand, the DB2 will run down to 500rpm and pick up cleanly, the power coming in at 1500rpm or just over 30mph, so that grandpa can go motoring to quite some purpose with a only modicum of gearchanging.
The steering column gearchange is one of the best of the stalk-pattern gearchanges we have tried; equally certainly we prefer the beautiful little central remote-control gear lever that is available as an alternative. Quite as impressive is the DB2’s handling. The thin-rimmed three-spoke wheel is decently geared, and though 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. The supple suspension is well damped and, by some magic we do not profess to understand, the Aston Martin engineers have endowed the car with well-nigh perfect cornering and roadholding characteristics. That such splendid road-holding has been achieved with coil springs so soft that the nose dips under braking must be rated one of Feltham’s greatest achievements. Corners can be taken at ‘racing speeds’ even on snow-bound surfaces, and this DB2 must rank as one of the safest cars it has been our good fortune to try. In consequence driving it is an epicurean pleasure.
If the modern Aston Martin is imposing in action it is a very covetable possession even when stationary, for it has that unmistakable air of good breeding that characterises the high-quality British car. The beautifully contoured aerodynamic body is built, upholstered and finished at Feltham, its doors shut firmly and the bucket seats are deep and comfortable.
The DB2 is advertised as a twoto three-seater and you can either carry the ‘odd man out’ on the front seats or on the unupholstered luggage shelf behind the seats. Headroom is limited in the latter position, though this ’emergency seat’ is not impossible. However, providing they know each other reasonably well there is no objection to placing two slim passengers beside you, even when the optional central gearchange is fitted. Once the reverse-alligator bonnet is opened the engine and suspension are laid bare in a quite immodest manner. The good aerodynamics of the body are confirmed by the absence of noise, air leaving the radiator via grilles on each side of the scuttle, on which the vulgar might be tempted to strike matches. There are small but deep door pockets, a visor to shield the driver’s eyes from dazzle and another for his lady to powder her nose in, side and folding central armrests and twin fuel fillers beneath lockable flaps in the tail. The only serious criticism we have is that a certain amount of rain entered the body, but it must be emphasised that this was a prototype; we are confident that elimination of leaks will be of the highest priority at Feltham, where many practical motorists are numbered among the development staff.
Perhaps the best way of summing up the DB2 is to say that it offers the performance, stability and joy of motoring associated with the sports/ racing car, while remaining a completely docile, comfortable, practical and economical high-grade touring car. These qualities have been so skilfully blended in the DB2 Aston Martin that to the layman it becomes a veritable ‘magic carpet’, ideally suited to shrinking the motor roads of Europe. The enthusiast expresses the matter more briefly, terming the DB2 “a real motor car”. With both sentiments I heartily concur.
Aston Martin DB2 factfile
Production (DB2, 2/4, MkIII):1951-59 Power: 105-190b hp 0-60mph:11.2sec Max speed:109mph
Car that truly began the David Brown era at Aston. Robust motor in elegant body on capable chassis took AM through to DB4 era. DB 2/4 of 1953 and succeeding 1957 DB MkIll were more refined still. Original 105bhp grew to 125 in Vantage form, then 160 in 2.9 variant, with another 30bhp on top in some models. Perfect spec: DB2/4 with Vantage power.