Aston Martin DB6

Aston Martin DB6 – A Credit to British Engineering

What comes to your mind when you think about James Bond? For me, it’s the vodka martini – shaken not stirred of course. The next vision that pops in is the Aston Martin – a car fit for Britain’s most elite (yet fictional) agent.  While the infamous DB5 came with a lot of special agent perks such as ejector seat, a bullet shield on the back, and oil spray, the Aston Martin DB6 is quite similar yet more down-to-earth, boasting the same strong leather smell of the elegant interior all too familiar with the DB5.

Many would agree that, alongside the E-Type Jaguar, the DB-series is an icon of British automotive engineering.

front side of DB6

Design cues

The overall design of the DB6 was somewhat less sporty compared to the DB5, and even tamer than the DB4. Instead, Aston Martin focused on giving drivers and passengers more elements to enjoy during the drive.

Given that the DB6 featured a lengthier wheelbase (101.5in compared to DB5’s 98in), it made it easier to accommodate 4 people and provide some well-needed legroom for the passengers seated in the rear. Even so, you wouldn’t call it a full 4-seater, but a more lenient 2+2 type coupe.

The roofline was also raised by 2”, allowing rear passengers more headroom and boosting the existing space for the front passenger and driver.

rear seat of DB6

interior of Aston Martin DB6

Other perks included elements such as power steering, air conditioning, and automatic transmission- all of which could be purchased optionally. 

No more Superleggera

Developed by Felice Bianchi Anderloni, the concept of Superleggera translates as “Superlight”. The idea was to create lightweight car frames by shaping small diameters tubes along the body lines of a car, then covering the tubes with thin alloy panels. The sandwich would provide considerable structural integrity and toughness while maintaining a low overall weight.

While the early DB6 units still shared the Superleggera concept, later models had it dropped entirely and aligned to more modern construction techniques. As such, Aston Martin built the last DB6 models using body-on-platform techniques.

However, it must be noted that the change didn’t come just to keep in touch with the trend, but for performance reasons. The DB6 needed to optimize rigidity to compensate for the extended rear end. The extra length caused the rear-end to become unstable at higher speeds, making the car vulnerable to oversteering if corners were attacked too aggressively. Even with all the changes mentioned above, the company engineers managed to keep the weight down, adding just 17lbs of extra weight.

A lot of effort was put into improving the aerodynamics of the DB6 straight from the design table. The fastback body style caused many issues in this matter; the wing effect generated by the rear end would lift the car, thus a Kamm style rear spoiler was integrated to re-direct the airstream in the opposite direction, planting the rear end and the wheels on the asphalt.

side profile of Aston Martin DB6

Triple carb engine

While strolling around the DB6 you may find your gaze centered towards the elongated bonnet. Pop the hood (be careful, as it’s hinged on the headlight-side, not the windscreen) and behold the beauty of the DB6 engine.

Engine of DB6

The DOHC six-cylinder engine found inside the DB6 can trace its roots all the way to W.O. Bentley. The engine was redesigned by Polish engineer Tadek Marek, known for his heavy contribution to the Aston Martin engines.

It featured the same 4-liter block found on the DB5, complimented by three SU carburetors. This was all in standard configuration. The upper trim called Vantage was offered with 3X Webber 45 DCOE carbs. The side-draft carburetors and the improved camshaft allowed the engine to go from the base 282hp at 5500rpm to 325hp.

Driving the Aston Martin DB6

For many car enthusiasts, the DB6 is the last ‘proper’ Aston Martin, although it wasn’t welcomed as such from the start. Before 1969, The DB series was an all-fun no-compromise model, aimed towards boasting a pretty face and great performance from beneath the hood.

As the DB6 model rolled out the production line, British car fans were slightly confused by the practical design cues integrated into the chassis and all around the body. Furthermore, the Kammback tail did not sit well with conservative customers of the brand. According to the critics, it simply looked out of place, although it served a big purpose in the stability of the car.

Fortunately, with time, both critics and fans managed to see through the change in design and noticed the improvements over the previous model. Many enjoyed the tidiness of the engine bay, with chrome elements left out to shine on lifting the bonnet.

The engine starts without much hassle, and the DB6 rolls away for a second giving the driver the illusion he’s set for a slow weekend leisurely drive. As you start checking the boundaries of the throttle pedal, even at 3000rpm you get some taste of what 3 liters of straight-six British engineering are capable of. Even after more than 50 years of existence, the DB6 wants to rev higher and push towards the redline. 

Starting aggressively from a standstill, you can feel the weight shifting towards the rear axle, and while the DB6 is far from dragging its behinds on the tarmac or slipping, it does dig in quite a bit. 

Oh, and the sound.  Unlike the ear-piercing V12s of today, the straight-six brings on calm and controlled notes on the lower RPM range. However, once you delve into the world of 3000+ rotations per minute, the exhaust orchestra starts playing a different song. Deep, rough tones are complimented by high notes in a composition that extracts the best out of British car engineering.

The servo-assisted Girling brakes clamp the front and rear discs well, slowing the car down before turns. There is a slight pedal dead-zone before the calipers engage the pads against the discs but it’s something to be expected. It takes only a bit of getting used to, then you’re ready to go. Tap the pedal and let the weight distribution rest on the inside front wheel, allow the nose to slightly bruise the apex, and then stretch your right foot on the throttle like you haven’t stretched for a while. 

That’s the way you take the unit around the corners; this British fella is a bit heavy and won’t be pleased if you throw it around corners. Instead, make sure to finesse your way around every bend while letting it run on the straights.

If you find yourself in traffic, the coolant keeps a steady 90C, and when five o’clock turns every major intersection into bumper-to-bumper traffic, the mechanical blades and the additional electric fan makes sure the engine doesn’t overheat.

The suspension makes the ride feel floaty and comfortable. It doesn’t bring emperor levels of comfort as a Rolls Royce would, but the suspension works well to keep most road imperfections away from the cabin and, consequently, reaching the driver’s arms through the steering wheel. If you don’t tickle the engine too much, you get to enjoy a smooth ride into the world of espionage and crime.

The others – DB6 Shooting Brake and Volante

The Aston Martin DB6 was already a piece that drifted away from the all-fun no comfort philosophy that Aston Martin had until the DB5. The new model would provide a more comfortable interior for the driver, passengers, and most importantly provide more space. Somehow though this was not enough for coachbuilders in the UK, with a few further steps taken.

Six examples of the car were transformed by coachbuilder Harold Radford from coupes to shooting brake designs back in the early 60s. Why would anyone need such a thing? Apparently, one of the customers that requested such a design was Middleton George Train. With deep pockets and connections, Mr. Train wished for a car that would provide a jaw-dropping design while also be spacious enough to match his two hobbies: golf and duck hunting. After all, golf bags and duck hunting rifles take quite a bit of space, and thus the elongated boot would serve its purpose with confidence. And if that wasn’t enough, Harold Radford added a roof rack just for good measure.

In 1966, Aston Martin introduced a convertible body style for the DB6. Named Volante (Italian for flying), the car followed the tradition of convertibles built on the previous DB5 and DB4 platforms. A total of 140 DB6 Volante units were built, 29 of which featured the high-performance Vantage trim. As of today, the Vantage Volante is one of the most sought-after models by collectors.

1966 Aston Martin DB6- DB62470R

side profile of Aston Martin DB6

The DB6 was produced between 1965 and 1971 with only 1788 units manufactured during this period. 

This unit was offered at the July 31st, 2020 Silverstone Auctions.  First registered on the 11th January 1966, this particular vehicle with its factory-fitted engine shows 81,000 miles on its odometer and was offered for sale with a continuation green logbook, cloth cover, original handbook, and workshop manual. More details of this vehicle can be found at Silverstone Auctions.

Beauty, Comfort, and Heritage

Aston Martin DB6 manages to tastefully blend functionality with a raw sense of power without spoiling either one. The result? A mix just like a vodka martini, shaken not stirred. Even if it took a while for the public to realize its potential, the DB6 became an icon that takes you on an amazing ride.

It is a true statement of British history that will only strengthen its position over time.

(Source of photos: Silverstone Auctions)