Aston Martin DB2 front three quarter exterior

Aston Martin DB2 (and DB2/4)

BUYER’S GUIDE

Aston Martin DB2 (and DB2/4) review

With its powerful six-cylinder engine and beautiful aluminium body the DB2 set the template for the legendary DB cars that followed…

What Is It?

While the iconic DB5 perhaps represents peak post-war Aston Martin the opening chapter for this most celebrated family of sporting coupes started in 1949 with the original DB2.

Based on the frame of the previous 2-litre, the secret to the DB2’s success (and that of the cars that followed) was the switch to a powerful twin-cam straight-six, originally co-designed by none other than W.O. Bentley and acquired by David Brown as part of the purchase of Lagonda.

Raced at the 1949 Le Mans, Aston Martin’s signature combination of luxury and sporting pedigree was assured by the time the production car was unveiled in New York in 1950. With its coil-sprung suspension, power-assisted brakes and lightweight aluminium bodywork over a spaceframe chassis the DB2 was every inch the modern sporting coupe, and was developed into the larger and more practical DB2/4.

Corrosive Areas

Spaceframe chassis

Mounting points to aluminium bodywork

Front suspension

Checklist

  • Aluminium body obviously won’t rust, but the steel frame beneath can while electrolytic corrosion where the two meet will be expensive to fix – insist on evidence of any restoration work to spaceframe and check thoroughly
  • Interior trimmings and upholstery can be repaired by suitably skilled specialists but parts, fixtures and fittings may be difficult if not impossible to source
  • Independent front suspension requires regular lubrication and upkeep – if this hasn’t been done repairs can be very expensive
  • Gearboxes are generally tough and demand a level of physicality to operate, but beware any whines, clonks or other worrying noises
  • Matching numbers originality will matter in a car like this, so make sure you do your homework on any prospective purchase you are confident the history adds up
  • Most cars will have been through one or more restoration, so make sure this is properly documented and the work has been carried out by a respected specialist
  • The small number of cars means most will be known within the market, so if restoration work has been done you should be able to cross reference with the specialist who did it
  • Engines are generally understressed and tough, assuming they’ve been looked after properly and serviced as required
  • Head gaskets and liners require expert installation, so check who’s been working on the car and pay particular attention for any signs of failure
  • Vantage engine upgrade comprised different carbs, revised inlet cam and higher compression pistons for welcome extra power
  • If originality matters check history to see if the car was sold in Vantage trim, or if the upgrade was applied later in its life

How does it drive?

While it started out with a smaller and less powerful engine than the later DB models the DB2 was developed from the outset to be as competitive in racing and rallies as it was on the road, this need underpinning a definite sporting style to the driving experience. For the time the easy 100mph-plus performance, coil-sprung suspension (independent at the front), power brakes and part-synchro four-speed manual gearbox were all commendably modern and, approached with due deference to its vintage, a DB2 is a rewarding and suitably sporty car to drive.

Like any car of its age it benefits from smooth and measured inputs to the controls, all of which will have a level of physicality to them. The strong engine, great balance and predictable handling will all be a delight for any keen driver, and the fact it’s the original DB holds strong appeal.

 What’s good?

Looks and status are, of course, part of the deal with any Aston Martin and the DB2’s smooth lines certainly deliver on both. While superficially similar to the later Touring-bodied DB4s, ‘5s and ‘6s the DB2 is clearly a car of the ‘50s and not ‘60s, the ‘humpback’ body of the Sports Saloon creating an unmistakeable silhouette later refined on the more practical 2+2 DB2/4.

Convertible Drophead Coupes meanwhile have a timeless elegance, trading the hardtop’s sporting cred for a more gentrified touring ambience. Both have their fans. Representing as it does the first iteration of Aston Martin’s iconic DB series of cars and backed up by that fascinating origin story, true fans will appreciate its status and, with all the Bond-infused baggage heaped on the later and more recognised DB5, it might even be the ‘cooler’ choice among serious aficionados.

along the way.

What’s bad?

We’re in proper big league collectors’ classic territory here, the vintage and scarcity (just 411 DB2s were built, with 761 DB2/4s) ensure a level of exclusivity. The nature of the car also means it’s a vehicle demanding of specialist and expensive care to maintain that value, and a DB2 is never going to be a cheap car to buy, restore or maintain.

With the pool of available cars so small it’s likely that most will have been through at least one restoration by now, and as always the quality of the work and expertise of the people doing it will be crucial to its ongoing value. While there will never be any such thing as a cheap DB2 the cost of having one brought up to standard will likely make buying on price a false economy.

Which model to choose?

Sports Saloon or Drophead Coupe will be a choice based on personal taste but, for the sporting provenance, we’d err to the former, especially if you have any desire to compete in any of the many historic events the DB2 will be eligible for.

Early cars with the three-piece grille and ‘washboard’ wing vents have a rarity value given just 49 were built to this spec, and exclusivity will doubtless add value for originalists. Whisper it but the later grille perhaps looks ‘more Aston Martin’ if that’s what you’re going for.

Cars with the uprated ‘Vantage’ spec engines will be usefully quicker, the later DB2/4 much more practical thanks to its hatchback-style boot access and 2+2 seating. A year into production this got a more powerful 2.9-litre engine, which carried through into the MkII version but, as ever, you trade increased power against the additional weight of the more luxurious trimmings.

Specifications

Engine

2.6-litre six-cylinder petrol

Power

105PS (77kW) @ 5,000rpm

Torque

170Nm (125lb ft) @ 3,000rpm

Transmission

Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

c. 1,200kg

0-62mph

c. 11 seconds

Top speed

100mph-plus

Production dates

1950-1953 (DB2), 1953-1957 (DB2/4)

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