“We could ramble on forever about the DB4, but our impressions would only be more of the same – it’s a remarkable car. Those who select one, get one of the finest” – Road & Track enjoys a new DB4 on the hills of San Francisco in April 1962
Was there a more perfectly proportioned car than the Touring-designed DB4 that debuted at the 1958 London Motor Show? From every angle the proportions and lines were just right. It was a restrained, yet still masculine design from the Italian masters, an enduring theme that was to serve the Newport Pagnell company well through to the early 1970s.
An elegant and surprisingly practical 2+2, the new DB4 nonetheless packed a punch from its 3.7-litre, all-alloy DOHC straight-six: an early test by factory driver Roy Salvadori recorded a maximum of 140.2mph and a 0-60mph time of just 7.5 seconds.
From launch in 1958, production of the DB4 ran through five series, finally ending in June 1963, each more capable and better engineered than the last. Every commission told a story as the car quickly gained favour with film stars, industrialists and the landed aristocracy.
Some cars were exported, finding homes in the most exotic locations including Lebanon, well-known in the 1960s as the “Paris of the East”. This left-hand-drive example is one and has – quite extraordinarily – remained in the same family ownership from new, 56 years to be exact.
The Aston Martin DB4 Series 5
Aston Martin introduced the final version of the DB4 in September 1962. 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 it more comfortable and practical, yet retained its original sporting wheelbase. To maintain the svelte lines, new 15in (previously 16in) wheels were fitted. Well-heeled buyers could choose from open or faired-in headlamps. Bar a few automatics, all had the final version of the classic 3.7-litre ’six paired with a David Brown four-speed gearbox.
It was a smart, well-executed and now tried-and-tested 2+2, superseded by the very similar DB5 in July 1963.
Of the 1,110 DB4s, marque experts suggest that c.145 were Series 5s, with open-headlamp saloons numbering just 50. Whilst no exact records exist, the most recent (2000, 2005) Registers of the Aston Martin Owners Club list barely a handful in left-hand drive.
This car, only sixth in the series that started with ‘1001/L’ and finished with ‘1050/R’, is one.
This Motor Car
Aston Martin DB4 chassis 1006/L was, according to a copy of the original factory build sheet that accompanies the car, a commission received from RG Kettaneh, PO Box 242, Rue May Ziade, Beirut, Lebanon.
Rue May Ziade is an old street in the Clemenceau district of Beirut. Despite the often-tumultuous history of this beautiful city, what’s known as ‘the Kettaneh building’ still stands today. The four Kettaneh siblings, Alfred, Charles, Désiré and Francis, took over the property in 1958, having established an eponymous trading company in 1922. The Kettanehs were a well-established family of great means, moving goods between Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Teheran.
The factory record sheet declares the car manufactured in 1963, though both the ‘guarantee issued’ and ‘delivered’ dates are recorded as 4/12/1962.The guarantee expired on 3/12/1963, yet the car is described as shipped on 4/12/1963! It can be but conjecture that the normally efficient typists at Newport Pagnell made an error transcribing the handwritten records, reinforced by a first service at the factory recorded at 580 miles on 3/12/1962.
Regardless,‘1006/L’ was a left-hand drive DB4 with open headlamps, twin SU HD8 carburettors, a David Brown four-speed gearbox, 3.31:1 axle (with optional limited-slip differential) and Dunlop RS5 cross ply tyres, in this case whitewalls.The colour was ICI M037-3267, Aston Martin Desert White. The interior was trimmed in Connolly Vaumol VM 3171 Red. A kilometre speedometer was fitted to the car and it was registered ‘924 CGT’.
Raymond Kettaneh clearly intended to use his new Aston in the manner for which it was designed. In addition to the Power-Lok differential, the following non-standard equipment was fitted to the Desert White car:
• Chrome wire-wheels
• Oil cooler
• Spark plug holder
• Two Marchal fog lamps
• Two wing mirrors
• Two Britax safety belts
• Tudor badge bar
• Halda Sports Special Mk IV Speed Pilot rally computer
• Wing aerial
The national distributor, Joe Saouda & Co, handled the sale, although the family recalls that the car was actually ordered direct from the factory. An Aston Martin St Christopher with Raymond Kettaneh’s name engraved on it still adorns the glove compartment. After a short time in the UK, in 1963 the car was shipped to Cambridge, MA, for him to enjoy while at Harvard Business School. After six months it was despatched to Lebanon, where it would be driven from Beirut to his weekend home in the exclusive town of Bikfaya in the Lebanese mountains.
At the beginning of the civil war in Lebanon in 1974, Raymond Kettaneh left Beirut for Paris with his family. The DB4 passed to his younger brother, Alfred Kettaneh Junior, who was already a car enthusiast of note: at the time he kept three Porsches including a 1973 Carrera RS Lightweight that he used in Middle East rallies. He also owned a vintage Packard that once belonged to the late King Faisal II of Iraq.
From 1975 to 1985, ‘1006/L’ was kept in the increasingly dangerous city of Beirut. Cathy Kettaneh, Alfred’s wife, remembers taking the car out one night, when the city was deserted save for odd militiamen manning checkpoints.
As Cathy and Alfred drove through the quiet streets, the exhaust on the DB4 began backfiring loudly, setting off a burst of machine gun fire. “Night revellers, just like us,” Alfred commented, trying to reassure an anxious Cathy.
Parts invoices from Aston Martin Lagonda (1975) Ltd dated 10/8/1977 and Aston Service Dorset (5/10/1979) attest to not only ownership by the Kettanehs but also the lengths to which the family went to maintain the DB4 in the correct and best possible condition.
The car’s days in war-torn Beirut were coming to a close, as in 1985 it was shipped to the UK. An invoice from Aston Service Dorset for a full service and much other work dated 31/5/1985 is most likely the point at which it returned, at which time its odometer read 65,012km. The Kettanehs then joined other members of the Aston Martin Owners Club on the AMOC’s 50th Anniversary Tour to mainland Europe. Following the trip, renowned marque specialist RS Williams carried out more work on ‘1006/L’ and an invoice dated 26/9/1985 to A Kettaneh Jnr, c/o Kettaneh Bros, Piccadilly, records the odometer reading of 70,453km. On both these 1985 service bills the registration recorded was Lebanese:‘6404 Liban’.
After the European tour, Alfred Kettaneh returned to Beirut and the car was dispatched to live a quiet life in the English countryside. On 29 September 1988, another invoice from RSW states the car has covered 72,125km and that it is now registered in the UK,‘KGF 940A’ – the mark it bears today.
The DB4 was then little used but carefully maintained, exercised regularly on a private estate and presented for its annual MOT (UK roadworthiness certification) by RS Williams and, latterly, Nicholas Mee & Co Ltd. All invoices (and the current V5) are made out to either the Kettaneh family or their representative. In 2011 Alfred’s daughter, Gillian Kettaneh, returned to London, took possession of the car and garaged it in the capital.
From invoices and MOT certificates the annual mileages can be confirmed as follows:
• May 1985 65,012km invoice
• Sept 1985 70,453km invoice
• June 1987 70,578km invoice
• August 1995 75,037km invoice
• August 1997 75,387km invoice
• June 1999 78,376km invoice
• July 2000 78,576km invoice
• May 2002 79,220km invoice
• June 2004 80,167km invoice
• May 2006 80,895km invoice
• August 2009 81,587km invoice
• June 2012 81,750km MOT
• August 2014 82,598km invoice and MOT
• June 2016 82,993km invoice and MOT
• May 2017 83,104km MOT
• May 2018 83,154km invoice and MOT
We are therefore certain that the total distance covered from new is 83,177km. The most recent service work and MOT were carried out in May 2018 at a cost of £2,286.89 by Nicholas Mee. During that visit, various works completed included attending to the engine and overhauling the dynamo – typical of the care and attention the family have given their car since new.
Nowadays, the opportunity to buy a classic car from the original purchasing family with a fascinating back-story is rare. To acquire a oneowner Aston Martin DB4 – the marque’s groundbreaking and definitive ‘Newport Pagnell’ model – in left-hand drive, an attractive colour, to an unusual specification and with its original interior is almost unheard of. UK-registered and immediately enjoyable, this DB4 is an exciting find which deserves another great home