Introduction to USA
IN THE WORDS of an old Cockney song, "It's the rich that gets the gravy, and the poor that gets the blame." The gravy in this particular case is the new Aston Martin DB6 and my tongue was already hanging out when I arrived at the factory for a quick driving impression arranged by AM's new sales manager, Fred Hartley.
We last tested an Aston Martin in October 1964. That was the DB-5, and it combined extreme performance with very good handling in exceptionally luxurious surroundings. The DB-6 is basically similar but it incorporates several features that make it even more desirable than its predecessor. The most notable of these features is that it is now a full 4 seater capable of accommodating four adults, and th is was proved when four of us, all 6-footers, piled into it.To obtain the additional capacity, the wheelbase has been increased by 4 in., the overall length by only 2 in., and the line of the top has been altered so that it slopes more gently to the squared off stern. Extending an existing 2-seater so that it will accommodate four people is usually disastrous from the styling viewpoint, but in the case of the DB-6, the result is much more handsome than the original because it has given the car a longer, squatter, and meaner look. The rear end has been particularly well thought out, even if it may seem familiar to Ferrari owners. It incorporates a spoiler, which is of course high fashion, but in this case it is apparently legitimate because it exerts an additional downward force of 50 lb at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Complementing the DB-6 is a convertible called the Volante which is basically the same as the old DB-5 convertible but uses the new mechanical features of the DB-6.
An interesting feature of the DB-6 is that it is marketed with various options at no additional cost so that those difficult decisions which normally tend to increase the ultimate' price of the car can be made much more easily. The primary option is the Vantage engine, which develops 325 bhp at 5750 rpm as opposed to the standard engine's 282 bhp at 5500 rpm.
The extra power is obtained from the use of three twin-choke Webers instead of three 2-in. SUs, improved manifolding, and different cams and ignition advance curve. Therefore, the reliability and longevity should not be impaired unduly because the engine has not been pumped up tight by the use of higher compression ratios, etc. Instead, what is there already is used more efficiently.Aston Martin claims that the Vantage engine is no less flexible than the standard engine. Fortunately, the test car was Vantage-powered and it was immediately evident that there was all the flexibility one could possibly need, and the engine, picked up cleanly throughout the range. Due primarily to the manifolding, there isa point at 3500 rpm when one suddenly starts to get the benefit of the Vantage engine, but this does not meal1 that it is intractable below 3500 rpm, and the surge of power is not sufficient to be dangerous.
As far as the transmission is concerned, the 4-speed with overdrive has been. dropped, leaving a choice between a 5 speed ZF unit and a new Borg-Warner Model 8. The test car was equipped with the ZF and it is impossible to fault either the adion or the selection of ratios once one has become accustomed to the shift pattern. Unfortunately, no automatic was available at the time, but this unit apparently provides engine braking In all gears, manual override control of low and 2nd, and it can only be an improvement over the previous one, which did not seem nearly so well matched to the torque characteristics of the engine.
Driving out of the factory gates, after receiving instructions not to bend it because it was the only DB-6 extant, the first impression was that other changes had been made apart from the visible ones. In fact, the spring rates have been altered and the rear shocks, which are lever type, can be set in any of four positions by a knob on the instrument panel. The latter modification was introduced halfway through the life of the DB-5 but it was not included on ourDB-5 test car. The result is that the tendency to roll, culminating in some roll oversteer when the car was pressed very hard, has been eliminated, and the DB-6 will slide its Avon GT tires before any roll is particularly apparent. The shock absorber adjustment can be used to compensate for additional weight at the back, and there is a recommended setting for use when the rear seats are occupied.
The steering is typically Aston Martin, with lots of self-centering action. The brakes require a definite conscious effort. They are exceptionally positive and completely progressive without noticeable servo assistance, so that one knows exactly what one is doing with them and they are exactly as they should be. The diaphragm spring clutch, which was introduced on the DB-5, is light and smooth in action and well matched to the characteristics of the ZF transmission. Despite some beefing up in the suspension department, the ride is by no means harsh, although it appears to cater slightly less to the over 50 age group than did' the DB-5. When these assets are combined with the hard and responsive Vantage engine, the result is a superb automobile with outstanding capabilities in the hands of an experienced driver.
At $15,400 the Aston Martin DB-6 is indeed a lot of money, but on the other hand it is also a lot of car. Apart from the virtues which we have already outlined, the limited production of 750-1000 a year means that it is also comparatively exclusive, and Aston Martin has long had a strong following among celebrities of all kinds.
The DB-6 should be on the market in America in time for the Christmas rush and all you need, to be numbered among the fortunate few, is the gravy. Unfortunately, all the majority of us are likely to get is the blame.