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  • The last-but-one DB4, one of 20 LHD Series 5 DB4 Vantages
  • Commissioned new in sought-after Black Pearl with Black hide
  • Options specified include oil cooler, Special Series engine, chrome wire wheels, Dunlop RS5 tyres and all-important overdrive
  • First delivered 29 May 1963 via French distributor Garage Mirabeau, Paris
  • Swiss registered and with original engine and gearbox
Original left-hand drive Vantage

1963 Aston Martin DB4 Series 5

“All in all, the DB4 Vantage leaves the driver with an almost unhealthy hankering after The Good Things of Life. It is the sort of car that makes you feel a better man than you are both in terms of its intrinsic quality and roadworthiness. Its faults are few and far between and its virtue numerous” – the Sporting Motorist conducts the first British road test of the DB4 Vantage in June 1962

If any car warranted the epithet ‘timeless’, the all-new Aston Martin DB4 that debuted at the 1958 London Motor Show was it. 

Nominally a four-seater, the DB4’s Touring-designed Superleggera coachwork combined Italian flair and subtle elegance with the British tradition of craftsmanship and understated style. It was a Savile Row suit crafted from the finest Italian cloth.

Production of the DB4 ran through five series, finally ending in June 1963, each one more capable and better engineered. A Special Series, high-performance engine was available from late-1961 onwards and these cars – when combined with the faired-in headlights of the DB4 GT – were sold as Vantages, a reprise of Aston’s traditional name for its most potent production models. Much rarer today, the final Series 5 Vantages were DB5s in all but name.

This car, in seldom-seen and desirable left-hand drive, with almost essential overdrive, is one. 

The Aston Martin DB4 Vantage

By the early 1960s, three years on from its launch, the DB4 had become a firm favourite of high-living socialites, businessmen and scions of the great European industrial dynasties. Its 3.7-litre, all-alloy straight-six produced a published 240bhp – enough to propel the generous 2+2 to around 140mph.

Fine-handling came courtesy of race-bred suspension, and the large Dunlop disc brakes endowed owners of the British GT with, in Car and Driver’s words, the security of stopping “faster than anyone else.” Various small changes to trim, radiator grilles and rear lights marked the first four series of DB4s. Mechanically, the engineers at Feltham and Newport Pagnell constantly improved the car with better oil cooling, a twin-plate clutch and other smaller revisions.

A Special Series (SS) engine was introduced in September 1961 as an option on the Series 4. Now producing a claimed 266bhp, Tadek Marek’s latest design had the bigger valves of the DB4 GT and a raised compression ratio (from 8.25:1 to 9.1:1). All SS engines were equipped with three SU HD8 carburettors. In addition, buyers could specify the same, faired-in headlamp treatment of the competition-focused DB4 GT. These cars – although with any bespoke car variations exist – were officially referred to as ‘Vantages’.

A year later, in September 1962, Aston Martin introduced the final version of the DB4. Retrospectively referred to as the ‘Series 5’, the latest car was longer by some 4in and had a slightly raised roofline – almost imperceptible changes that made the car more comfortable and practical, yet retained its original sporting wheelbase. The wheels were now 15in as standard and the instrument panel of the GT was fitted to most cars. As before, buyers could choose the high-performance SS engine with, or without, faired-in headlamps.

Aston Martin built 1,135 DB4s. The Aston Martin Heritage Trust confirms that 145 Series 5s were produced, 90 in Vantage tune. Of these, only 20 were left-hand drive and just four were Black Pearl. Just two in this colour were ordered with a matching black interior. 

This Motor Car

According to a copy of the factory build sheet that accompanies the car, DB4/1214/L was despatched on 29 May 1963 and delivered to first Parisian owner Alexis Rateau who lived in the 7thArrondissement, the home to the French upper classes since the 17th Century. Rateau’s father, Auguste, was an engineer who specialised in turbines and was awarded the title Commander of the Legion of Honour. The sale was handled by French national distributor Société Mirabeau on 5 June 1963. DB5 production commenced in July that year; ‘1214/L’ is one of the final DB4s. 

It was a left-hand-drive Aston Martin DB4 with triple SU HD 8 carburettors and engine number 370/1177/SS. Its Body Type was listed as ‘Vantage saloon’ and the quaintly titled Particulars of Non-Standard Equipment note: ‘Vantage spec, overdrive, chrome wheels, intermediate silencers’. 

The speedometer read in kph and ‘1214/L’ had the regular David Brown four-speed gearbox with a 3.77:1 final drive, the usual ratio for overdrive cars allowing better in-gear acceleration with the option of more relaxed cruising when required. Tyres were Dunlop RS5s. As delivered, the car was finished in Black Pearl (ICI MO35-2628) with matching Black Vaumol 8500 hide from Connolly – a stunning combination commissioned by only two DB4 Vantage clients. 

Little is known of the early history of this car, though, prior to our client purchasing it in 2000, the engine had been rebuilt in France the previous year. On purchase, it bore the French plate ‘886 BPP 78’ but was re-registered in Switzerland when exported in 2002. As President of Cartier, he always fitted Cartier clocks to his classic cars – chassis 1214/L bears one today. The car was retrimmed in Switzerland in 2002 and used until 2010, since when it has been in carefully maintained storage and would benefit from a thorough going-over at a specialist. The odometer shows 30,196km.

A full restoration to as-delivered Black Pearl remains an option and would, no doubt, result in a show-stopping car for the best concours and Club meetings. 

Fast, stylish and practical, the final DB4s heralded the start of the Golden Age of six-cylinder Newport Pagnell Aston Martins. This rare left-hand drive Vantage merits serious consideration.

With thanks to Tim Cottingham at the Aston Martin Heritage Trust

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