How Did The DB5 Begin?
At its initial offering in September of 1963, the DB5 continued Aston Martin’s habit of naming their cars with the initials of their owner and company head, Sir David Brown. Years earlier, Brown had bought the company for a mere 30k pounds (the equivalent of about half a million in today’s dollars) after seeing it listed for sale in the newspaper. In response to the influx of cash, designers began naming the new models after him, using his initials. The first “DB” Car was a 2-liter sports car built in 1948.
Aston Martin enjoyed significant success with its DB4 GT coupe. Wanting to continue the momentum in the European market and compete with Ferrari and Maserati, they introduced the DB5 during the summer of 1963. The new GT was equipped with an enlarged engine, new transmission, and various amenities designed to pamper owners who had shelled out the $12,775 to own an Aston Martin. During the two years of its production run, 1021 DB5s were manufactured, with 123 being convertibles.
The DB5 demonstrates its reliance on the body features of the DB4 Vantage - (a variant of the standard GT coupe released in 1961). The design influences are evident almost everywhere, especially in the front fascia with the narrow slatted chrome grille, recessed headlamps, chrome grille, and long flowing hood. The hood scoop is slightly modified, stretching toward a slightly angled wraparound windshield. Round exterior mirrors on either side are set a good foot from the cockpit area.
The similarities continue with the same side air vents, single-bar chrome accents, and chrome door handles. The company uses a magnesium alloy body built and attached as individual panels to reduce weight, helping with aerodynamics. The fabrication also lends to the smooth, simple lines of the body. The roof line slopes toward the rear end, and the chrome rear bumper matches the multispoke wired wheels. The overall look is an expensive, refined gem of an automobile, fun to look at even before you sit behind the wheel.
The most significant difference for the DB5 occurred under the hood, with the adoption of a 4.0 L inline six (up from 3.7 L in the DB4). The engine had an aluminum block, which lighted the weight by almost fifty pounds and proved an aggressive beast with its increased bore and stroke (96 mm X 92 mm - 3.78” x 3.62”). The engine has 280 hp and is capable of 145 mph top speed. Atop the inline six are three SU carburetors providing a steady flow of the air-fuel mix.
Although initially, the DB5 came with a four-speed manual, it was quickly replaced with the new ZF five-speed transmission due to the increased torque of the 4.0L engine. (A Borg-Warner three-speed automatic was an option, but most owners opted for the peppy five-speed).
The DB5 had a live rear end, using parallel trailing links with improved coil springs. The front independent suspension and disc brakes help keep the 15-inch tires firmly planted on the winding roads sports cars so often love to travel.
The Aston Martin DB5 pampered owners with a standard seven gauge instrumental panel (identical to the DB4 Series V), woodgrain steering wheel, leather reclining seats, seating, fire extinguisher, and power windows. To make room for air-conditioning components (the air was an option), dual fuel tanks were moved to the rear and accessed through an access door on either side of the C-pillar.
James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 Becomes A Hollywood Legend
Without its appearance in James Bond films, Aston Martin would likely have faded into black like the end of a forgettable movie. In 1964, Aston loaned two DB5s to Eon Productions for use in the movie Goldfinger. Both units were sent to the special effects department of Pinewood Studios for modifications (one was installed with gadgets, while the other was kept for high-speed driving scenes.
The movie was released on Dec. 22, 1964, and was an instant hit with the public. Americans shelled a dollar for a seat to watch the 111-minute Bond film as the suave secret agent seeks to defeat Auric Goldfinger’s plan to blow up Fort Knox. The movie was a financial success netting over $125 million in worldwide revenue, and at the time, was considered to be one of the most profitable movies on record. (The movie’s original budget was a mere $3.5 million, putting it at about $30 million in today's dollars). While the movie didn’t win any major awards, it did manage to pick up an Oscar for sound editing the following year at the 37th annual Academy Awards (1965).
Another example of the Bond Aston Martin’s DB5 was how a diecast replica toy flew off the shelves. The gold-painted die-cast model was the most coveted toy of the Christmas season in 1965. The car had machine guns appearing from the front bumper (press a small button) and a protective screen raised from the trunk (push the dual tailpipes). The 4-inch replica also had a working ejector seat (simply push a different button on the side), and a small, plastic Bond villain would be catapulted from the passenger seat compartment through an open roof. The toy sold at a fast clip (750k units in seven weeks and would go on to sell around 4 million units).
The Aston Martin Goldfinger DB5 received a full 10 minutes and 21 seconds. After its initial debut, the car appeared again in the next Bond film, Thunderball (No actual DB5 was harmed in the process, the crew used mockups).
The Aston Martin DB5 remained incognito for the next thirty years of Bond films until Goldeneye was made in 1995. (The car was Bond’s personal vehicle, complete with champagne cooler and fax machine). Since then, the DB5 has appeared in six more Bond films during the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig eras. Actual DB5 sportscars were used in every film except for No Time To Die, which used eight replica DB5s built exclusively for filming.
What Once Was Stolen Is Now Found
Once the original two Goldfinger/Thunderball DB5s were finished filming, one was stripped of the gadgets and sold to a private collector. The vehicle traded hands through a couple of owners, making appearances at Bond events occasionally, but enjoying retirement as part of a collection in Florida. Unfortunately, the DB5 was missing from a Boca Raton storage hangar in 1997. While no one knew where it had gone (the thief wasn’t saying), the car tuned up in the Middle East as part of an exquisite car collection. (Apparently, the new owners were unaware that the vehicle had been stolen). At the time of this writing, the car was estimated to be worth around $25 million, so it remains to be seen if any resolution can be made;
Aston Martin Celebrates A Legacy
In 2020, Aston Martin decided to create 25 James Bond DB5s (based on the Goldfinger movie) and offer them to the public. The cars were hand-crafted individually, at the same factory where the original was produced, with as many of the same components as the ones built in 1964.
The cars were equipped with a 4.0L inline-six engine, five-speed Zf transmission, and mechanical spy gadgets like a smoke screen, bullet-proof shield, oil slick, and a revolving license plate. The cars featured leather interiors, exact duplication of the instrument panel, and electric windows just as the original had been built with. Handmade aluminum panels fastened over a steel frame (like in 1964) were prepped and sprayed with the same Silver Birch color as the one Sean Connery had driven in Goldfinger. The specially-made cars sold out quickly, with owners paying nearly $4.6 million each. (The only problem was that they were deemed too dangerous to be operated on the street).
The Specs Of The Aston Martin DB5
All Good Things Must Come To An End
It wasn’t long before Aston Martin moved from the DB5 in September 1965. During wind tunnel testing, Aston’s researchers discovered that the DB5 had a rear-end issue (the wheels tended to lift during high-speed maneuvers). In addition, the car needed improved aerodynamics to continue to compete with its rivals. The new DB6 retained some of the design features of its predecessor, although there were plenty of changes as the rear window sloped more uniformly toward the rear. The most significant difference was that the wheelbase was extended, (the rear axle was moved back). The additional length provided more interior room for both the driver and passengers and made the car much safer to operate.
While it is doubtful that any imported car will ever reach the legacy of a James Bond DB5, this little car company has earned itself a place in automotive history and likely will be a part of every Bond lover’s dream for decades to come,