Many of Aston Martin's most beautiful cars have worn a DB model name, starting officially with the DB2 in 1950. With the first all-new DB model, the DB11, now on the market, now is a good time to revisit the DB moniker.
DB stands for David Brown, the English businessman who bought Aston Martin in 1947 and Lagonda in 1948. Before World War II, Aston Martin was very much a low-volume sports car maker, with a pre-war high of 170 cars produced in 1937. Brown aided in Aston's transformation into the big-name it is today.
The early DB series cars earned Aston Martin legitimate sporting credentials and with the James Bond favorite DB5, world recognition. Brown sold the company in 1972, the same year the DBS ended production, but when Aston staged its 1990s comeback under Ford's stewardship, it revived Brown's initials for the DB7.
While this limited-production car was never an official DB model, it retroactively became known as the DB1, as it was the first model to be produced during Brown's tenure. Based on Aston Martin's Atom concept car, the 2-Litre Sports used a tubular space frame chassis with Aston's 2.0-liter inline-four. The car at its first ever race, the 1948 Spa 24 Hours. Just 15 were produced in total.
Brown bought Lagonda for its W.O. Bentley-designed 2.6-liter straight-six, knowing that Aston Martin's speciality was chassis, not engines. The marriage of the two produced the DB2, which in many ways, set the template for the modern Aston Martin.
Only 410 were built, but this was a significant amount for the tiny Aston Martin, helping Brown prove his worth as Aston's leader. It also had some competition success with podium finishes at both Le Mans and Sebring.
The DB2/4 continued where the DB2 left off. A lengthened chassis allowed Aston to add two (small) rear seats to the DB2, hence the name. The DB2/4 also received an upgraded 2.6-liter straight-six, first used in the DB2 Vantage, later being enlarged to 2.9-liters.
As was customary at the time, many DB2/4s were made with coachwork bodies, some as two-seat coupes and convertibles. 761 were produced in total.
Rather than come up with an all-new car, Aston Martin took what it had in the DB2/4 and revised it to create the DB Mk III. The venerable Lagonda straight-six was tuned to 178-bhp and front disc brakes were made standard after the first 100 cars were built.
Over the DB2/4, styling was refined, producing what is arguably the first appearance of the now-trademark Aston Martin grille, though previous DB models had a similar design.
For 1958, Aston Martin had an all new model, the DB4. While it wasn't a significant departure in spirit from previous DB cars, it was a huge improvement over its predecessor. It featured a Carrozzeria Touring-designed "Superleggera" body, which used aluminum panels over a tubular space frame. A new 3.7-liter straight-six making 240-bhp was also employed. This helped make the DB4 one of the fastest cars of its day.
The DB4 also gave birth to two unique body styles; the lightweight DB4GT, which previewed the DB5 to come, and the stunning DB4GT Zagato. The latter was the first collaboration between Aston and coachbuilder Zagato and was designed to beat Ferrari.
If there was ever a single car to define Aston Martin, it's this, the DB5. Its turn in the James Bond film Goldfinger is arguably the reason Aston still exists today, unlike many of its low-volume British rivals. The DB4's straight-six was enlarged to 4-liters for the DB5, with an impressive 282-bhp on tap. Aston also employed a ZF 5-speed gearbox and front and rear disc brakes from the DB4GT.
, Connery's Bond was supposed to drive a Jaguar E-Type, but Jaguar wanted the film's production company to pay for the cars. A call to Aston Martin was placed, sealing the DB5's place in history.
If you're not keen-eyed, it's easy to mistake a DB6 for a DB5 (or DB4GT, for that matter). Indeed, the DB5 and DB6 are mechanically very similar, but the latter featured a longer wheelbase and higher roof to make it a more practical daily driver.
The DB6 adopted a fastback style and a Kamm tail for increased high-speed stability. Despite the increase in size, Aston managed to keep weight low, adding just 18 lbs over the DB5.
Though the DB6 ended production in 1970, Aston introduced a companion DB model in 1967, the DBS. One somewhat gets the impression that this was a difficult car for Aston to develop: Like the two cars that preceded it Touring was supposed to design the DBS, but it went out of business, forcing Aston to hire William Towns to design it in-house. It was also supposed to get a V8 from launch, but that engine wasn't available until 1969.
In any case, the familiar 4.0-liter six made 325-bhp in Weber-carburetted Vantage specification and Aston claims the V8-equipped car was briefly the world's fastest four-seater. That engine formed the basis of Aston's V8s for years to come.
Features in Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Persuaders! helped make the DBS a cultural icon, but Aston was in trouble. The DBS ended production in 1972, the same year David Brown sold the company.
22 years after Brown sold Aston, his initials were invoked once again for Aston's new entry-level model, the DB7. Aston was in when Ford took the helm in the early 1990s, so it directed the company to build a volume seller. Ford's extensive corporate parts bin–which included Jaguar at the time–helped offset the DB7's development cost, but it wasn't as finely pedigreed as its predecessors.
The body was steel; the platform, a heavily revised version of the aging Jaguar XJS, which was shared with the Jaguar XK8; the engine, a supercharged straight-six developed by Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). Despite cost-cutting measures, it featured a gorgeous Ian Callum-designed body and helped Aston Martin survive in the 21st century. A worthy bearer of Brown's initials.
The supercharged TWR straight -six was good for 355-bhp, but the DB7 got serious with the launch of the Vantage model. As a replacement for the aging V8 models, the entry-level Aston was given a new 6.0-liter V12 good for 420-bhp.
The DB7 Vantage was a sales success for an ailing Aston Martin, with 6677 coupe, Volante convertible and Zagato-bodied models sold. This helped offset the development cost of the car that truly returned Aston to glory.
The DB7 was a worthy successor, but the DB9 was a true return to form for Aston Martin. The all-new chassis and Ian Callum-designed body used an aluminum-intensive construction and a more powerful version of the DB7 Vantage's V12 was employed.
While this car was a home run for Aston Martin, things took a downturn a few years after its launch in 2003. Ford sold Aston in 2006, which made any future development work extremely difficult. Instead of making an all-new car, Aston has churned out numerous variants based on the DB9's platform and using the same V12.
One of the ultimate variants on the DB9–before the launch of the Vanquish–was the DBS, which brought back the name of the DB6's successor. More aggressive styling, featuring extensive carbon fiber bodywork, paired well with a 510-bhp version of Aston's now-familiar V12.
The DBS appeared in Daniel Craig's first James Bond film, Casino Royale.
I almost hesitate to include the DB10 on this list, as it's actually a V8 Vantage wearing new bodywork for the Bond film Spectre, but it does bare David Brown's initials. Only 10 were built and just one was sold to the public, at a price of $3.2 million.
The DB11 is the DB9's true successor, equipped with turbochargers for the first time in the model line's history. The 5.2-liter V12 joins new looks and a heavily improved interior.
After just 20 months, the normal DB11 was replaced with the DB11 AMR (shown above) in Aston Martin's lineup. It brings 30 more horsepower and a vastly improved suspension geometry.
Here's a short explainer on how the "DB" nameplate came to be, via .