It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of a legend, but that doesn’t mean that all that comes after it will be bad, just not as spectacular. The Aston Martin DB6 is a fine sentiment to that, not a bad car, but not one many people remember, especially when what it replaced went down in history as “the most famous car ever made.”
Proposals for a replacement of the legendary Aston Martin DB5 went back to late 1964, when it was decided that Aston Martin itself would create a new car rather than using a proposal from Touring of Milan, the company that had created the DB5 Volante models. Under the codename 4 YMC, the main desire for the new DB6 was to create a car with greater aerodynamics for improved performance. The earliest DB6 prototypes were based on the chassis of the DB5 designated MP 219, with rear lip-spoiler and abbreviated Kammback tail Aston Martin previously incorporated in sports-racing prototypes. The decision was made to produce MP 219 as the Aston Martin DB6 although the prototype de Dion rear axle was rejected, Aston’s soldiering on with its well-located live-axle configuration reducing time to market, cost and complexity.
The overall changes to the DB6 from the previous DB5 included Roof line raised by two inches improving headroom (especially for rear seat passengers), genuinely useful leg room for rear passengers, a more steeply raked albeit taller windscreen, split front and rear bumpers, standard chrome wire wheels on bias-ply whitewall tyres, optional power steering, optional air conditioning, standard ZF five-speed manual unit and a
BorgWarner or optional three-speed automatic gearbox available at no extra cost, optional Vantage specification retaining triple side-draft Weber 45DCOE carburetors with other minor revisions raising quoted output to 325 hp, and finally the abandonment of the full superleggera construction technique patented by coachbuilders/stylist Touring of Milan. For later DB6’s construction, the more common body-on-platform technique was used; this was primarily due to the extended rear requiring a stronger and more rigid design using folding sheet metal frames. Surprisingly the modifications combined to add only seventeen pounds weight compared to the DB5.
The DB6 made its debut at the 1965 London Motor Show, but it was quickly seen with unfavourable views due to the design being considered somewhat dated. The DB6 has a resemblance to its predecessor, the DB5; with the most noticeable differences being its wheelbase, side profile, split front and rear bumpers and rear panels incorporating the Kammback tail rear end. The tail, combined with the relocated rear-axle and the 3.75-inch (95 mm) lengthened wheelbase, provide more stability at high speed. Though fashionable, the rear-end Kamm-styled design was similar to the Ferrari 250 — it did not prove popular with conservative, tradition oriented Aston clientele when the DB6 was
introduced. Performance was slightly improved over the DB5, with a top speed of 152mph on the higher-performance Vantage models.
Throughout its production life, the DB6 was given a set of variants (aside from the Vantage which was launched in 1965) to help broaden the market, starting in 1966 with the Volante convertible. This was introduced at the 1966 London Motor Show, and was used to replace the DB5 based Volante’s that had been in production a year after the end of the regular DB5. Overall, 140 of these cars were built, 29 of which were high-performance Vantage Volantes, highly prized by collectors.
One of the more notable owners of the DB6 Volante was HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, who had his Volante MkII given to him as a 21st Birthday present from his mother the Queen. He has since had the car’s engine converted to run on Bioethanol, and was notable for making an appearance at the Royal Wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
Though the DB6’s replacement, the angular DBS, was introduced in 1967, the DB6 remained in production until 1970, bringing an end to the 13 year old design pioneered on the Aston Martin DB Mark III, with 1,788 examples produced.
Today, the DB6 has a fond reputation, but that’s only from people who know it exists! Because of the incredible fame of the preceding DB5, most Aston Martin models that followed, including the DB6, DBS, Lagonda and V8, fell very much into obscurity and are seldom remembered. Among its fans though, the DB6 does have a warm reputation for good performance and being a bit more practical than the DB5.
Perhaps the funniest thing however is when people attempt to pass off their DB6’s as DB5’s for the unsuspecting viewer. I’ve been to many a car show where DB6 owners have painted their cars Silver and attempted to woo people with what they try to brand as a DB5 because they couldn’t afford a genuine article. But being a car enthusiast, I’m always quick to point out with insufferable amounts of smugness why their car is not the genuine 007 DB5, but instead a simple knock-off, and to that end not a very good one…