Hero Worship Well Warranted: My Test Drive In A Souped-Up Aston Martin DB5
Photography by Will Broadhead
Never meet your heroes, they’ll never meet your expectations, won’t live up to the lofty pedestals that they occupy in your mind, and will ultimately prove to be an insipid version of what you come to realize as a caricature. It seems this saying rings truer in regards to cars than it does to people (see: supercars with seating and leg positions that go against Geneva’s guidelines on torture), and I’m sure we have all experienced it one way or another over the years. Thankfully we know there are still plenty of exceptions to this “rule,” and some heroes are everything you ever wanted them to be.
A few exotic Italians aside, my absolute idol on four wheels growing up was the Aston Martin DB5. A slightly obvious choice perhaps for a child schooled on the exploits of Her Majesty’s favorite spy, but Bond was just one thing that linked me to this car.
It was my dad’s fault really, he adored the DBs, anything Aston in fact, but the sixth generation in the David Brown lineage was always the pinnacle for him (and therefore for us) back then. Sadly, he never realized his dream of driving, let alone owning, an Aston Martin, but a week or so ago I was invited down to the Classic Motor Hub for an experience in the legendary DB5, something I won’t soon forget.
It’s not every day that you get a phone call asking to check out a properly sorted Aston, never mind taking the thing out on the road for a test, so it’s fair to say my night’s sleep was frequently rocked back into a state of consciousness—nobody gets a full eight when they’re this excited. I was seven years old again, waiting for the arrival of Saint Nick, breaking every rule I have about staying balanced before a photoshoot with a dream car.
This particular DB5 isn’t one for the purists, though. It’s no longer a matching-numbers car or anything close to its factory spec, but my goodness is it perfect. Rolling back the hangar doors at the Classic Motor Hub and seeing the instantly recognizable face of a DB elicited a grin on my own, but while it’s clearly an Aston it’s clearly not a standard one.
The flared wheel arches give away the fact right off the bat that not all that it seems. The roomier fenders now house wider wheels that accommodate the modern rubber on this car. All the better for gripping the road my dear, as I would soon find out.
With these slight changes in form and stance the car takes on a more muscular appearance without trading away any of its regality, and while I will know there will be those that won’t approve of modifying this car, I think it looks great, and slightly reminiscent of when Zagato similarly enhanced the DB4.
The story continues under the long bonnet scoop: a completely reworked engine, brought up to Vantage spec with three giant Webers, revised camshafts, and the usual host of performance-enhancing bits from the crank upwards: pistons, valves, name it. If numbers are your thing then it’s kicking out around 345 at the crank, a good 60 horsepower more than the original. I’m there for startup, and once the float bowls on those big carbs have been primed the over-sized Cosworth pistons of this 4.8L are exercised back into life with that familiar straight-six thrum accompanying the classic smell of a mean engine started cold.
I can’t wait to get it out on the road, my excitement is now threatening to take over normal speech functions and I have to remind myself that I’m at work, but this is a DB5 and I can’t quite believe that I’m sat in the thing. There is a time and a place for professionalism of course, and 400 meters down the road I’ve gone well past it and have given in to the Aston’s charms. I’m absorbed in these moments, enjoying every poke of the accelerator and every bit of the road translated through twitches in the gorgeous walnut wheel in my hands. The uprated Koni suspension and AP Racing disc brakes make the car assured and confidence inspiring in a way that emphatically belies the age of this chassis, and those wider boots afford levels of grip to match the uprated power the hot engine delivers. Oh, that engine! It picks up instantly, the Webers responding to my greedy right foot and supplying plenty of fuel and oxygen to propel the DB down the road in a fashion I’m sure 007 would have raised his Martini glass at with a wink. It feels tremendous and is surpassing all of my expectations, for which a small part of me is extremely relieved.
This car has proven to be everything I wanted it to be and more, it has since invaded my being and satisfied the hero status I had given it, like so many others. The experience has been visceral, in the way that it picks up its skirts and runs when asked, the roar it emits in doing so, and the way you can just lean on it in the bends. It has been emotional as well, in the memories it evoked of my dad’s love for these special DBs and just how much he would have enjoyed this one. While all the modern enhancements add to the car’s capabilities, they by no means change it in any fundamental sense. You still have to drive the thing the same way you would were it box stock, this one just rewards a slightly more spirited performance behind the wheel. It’s a typical thing to say but we always need more tallies on the right side of the scoreboard so please allow me to reiterate: meet your heroes if you have the chance to, otherwise how else would you know if they deserve it?