Monday 22nd July 2019,

Aston-Martin DB2/4 1953-1957: The First Hatchback

Aston-Martin DB2-4 1953-1957 light green metallic top view
The DB2 was replaced in 1953 by the Aston-Martin DB2/4 saloon. However, it wasn`t really a saloon, it was a 2+2 grand tourer with a hatch-back. That point cleared up we shall continue.

The new car was based on the DB2 and was a great improvement. The DB2/4 shape was similar to DB2 but with a higher roof-line to give head-room for the rear seat. Unlike the later Jaguar Plus 2 E-type, the modification didn`t spoil the overall shape.

One feature of the Aston-Martin DB2/4 was both revolutionary and years ahead of it`s time. Not only was it the world`s first hatch-back saloon / coupe but the rear seats folded forward to create an easily-accessed and huge luggage area. Everybody does it these days but somebody had to invent it. Thank you, Aston-Martin.

There were several improvements on the Aston-Martin DB2 body as well. A wrap-around windscreen and bigger bumpers were great improvements. The headlights were slightly raised to satisfy legal regulations. The production arrangements were still complicated and decentralised.

David Brown was a native of Yorkshire and DB Industries tractor factories were in the area of Huddersfield, in that same county. The rolling chassis` were produced at the Meltham Mills and Farsley plants, while the body panels were made by various companies and assembled in Birmingham at H.J. Mulliner`s coachworks. Final finishing was done at Feltham (west London). If you think that`s complicated you are quite right, David Brown thought so too!

In 1955 David Brown moved all and everything to the Farsley tractor plant with Mulliner supplying trimmed body shells. Fortunately the take-over of Tickford Coach-builders at Newport Pagnell solved all the problems at a stroke. All Aston-Martin-Lagonda production eventually moved there. That is the end of the history lesson. Confused? You`re not the only one!

Let us get back to the lovely Aston-Martin DB2/4. The early cars were fitted with W.O. Bentley`s lovely six cylinder twin-overhead-camshaft 2.6 litre engine tuned to Vantage spec and producing 125 bhp. Soon after, in September 1953, a larger version, the 2.9 litre replaced it. The 2.9 litre represented a significant improvement in performance, producing 140 bhp and 178 ft/lbs of torque. The car was very light at only 1177 kg, giving the DB2/4 a very respectable power-to-weight ratio of 118.95 bhp per ton. The available top-speed was 120 mph with a 0-60 time of 10.5 seconds. The low kerb weight was largely due to the alloy body.

It was a two-door fixed-head coupe (FHC) with a forward-tilting nose. A drop-head coupe (DHC) became available in 1954 but the majority of DB2/4 production was FHC. The MKI was replaced by the MKII in 1955. We will concentrate on the 1954/55 MKI FHC, being the most plentiful on today`s classic-car market.

The steel-tube space-frame was used, as for the Aston-Martin DB2. Steering gear was cam & roller by Marles. Drum brakes were fitted front and rear, with a diameter of 305 mm. Servo assistance was standard. Front suspension used independent coils and wishbones, rear suspension used a live-axle with coils. Wire-wheels of 16 inch diameter were standard.

Alloy panels completed the stylish and handsome coach-work. The nose of the car was forward tilting. A rear hatch-back was fitted for the first time anywhere. Boot-space was excellent, much augmented by folding forward the rear seat. The interior was luxurious, leather and walnut veneer everywhere. It was capacious and comfortable, a true luxury car with sports-car performance.

Engine & Transmission:
The Lagonda masterpiece, designed by W.O. Bentley was fitted. The engine was now displacing 2922 cc (2.9 litres). It was a six cylinder inline engine with a compression ratio of 8.2 to 1. Twin overhead camshafts with two valves per cylinder and twin SU carburettors. David Brown`s four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox was superb.

Driving impressions:
The Aston-Martin DB2/4 was, and still is, a superb machine to drive. Crisp, smooth power delivery, sharp and predictable steering and handling to match, made it an instant classic. The braking was excellent considering it had drum brakes, the servo was a great addition. The interior noise level was very good, the comfort level was excellent.

On the other hand, the exhaust note was quite fruity but not raucous. The performance put in very good company. Only a barbarian would say that his Golf GTI is quicker. This was 1954 and the DB2/4 was without doubt a high performance luxury car. Production numbers are a matter of conjecture. We have exhausted our sources and can only give the reader an estimate. We are led to believe that MKI production reached +/- 761 units, of which 102 were DHC. We must stress that this is an approximation, but you only want one of them!

The Aston-Martin DB2/4 is not a rare car, most of the original production is alive and kicking. However, they are not cheap, and rightly so. A true British classic car.

Aston-Martin DB2/4 1953-1957 Specs
Body Type2+2 seater 2 door fixed head coupe/convertible
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Cargo VolumeBigger with the rear seats folded
Engine2.6 Lagonda DOHC 12V (DB2/4 MKI)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement2580 cc157.4 cui
Power93 Kw125 bhp5000 RPM
Torque195 Nm144 ft. lb2400 RPM
Power/weight99 bhp/t
Top Speed179 km/h111 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph12.6 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1257 kg2771 lb
Engine2.9 Lagonda DOHC 12V (DB2/4 MKII)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement2922 cc178.3 cui
Power104 Kw140 bhp5000 RPM
Torque241 Nm178 ft. lb3000 RPM
Power/weight119 bhp/t
Top Speed192 km/h119 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph10.5 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1177 kg2595 lb
Engine2.9 Lagonda DOHC 12V (DB2/4 MKIII)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement2922 cc178.3 cui
Power121 Kw162 bhp5500 RPM
Torque244 Nm180 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight128 bhp/t
Top Speed193 km/h120 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph9.3 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1270 kg2800 lb
Engine2.9 Lagonda DOHC 12V (DB2/4 MKIII)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement2922 cc178.3 cui
Power133 Kw178 bhp5500 RPM
Torque244 Nm180 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight140 bhp/t
Top Speed200 km/h124 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1270 kg2800 lb
Engine2.9 Lagonda DOHC 12V (DB2/4 MKIII)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement2922 cc178.3 cui
Power145 Kw195 bhp5500 RPM
Torque263 Nm194 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight154 bhp/t
Top Speed206 km/h128 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph8.1 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1270 kg2800 lb
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

1 Comment

  1. Anthony S Durbin 1. October 2015 at 2:28

    Absolutely right!! Aston Martin built the pioneer, world’s first hatch sport’s saloon. It was designed by Frank Feeley – and l own that car, and have done so since 1961 as it’s third owner after David Brown Tractors and a gentleman Arnold Gully. The chassis is DB2 – No. LML50/221 with Registration plate YMP200.
    The original Brown road vehicle registration document that l still have records the fact that it was a test bed for engine DP101/9 that was later transferred to the Collins/ Frere 1955 Le Mans DB3.
    Whilst in the ownership of DB Tractors YMP200 was a company hack demonstrator and Mille Miglia training car. It was also featured fully in the magazine Autocar as a car of excellence for gentlemen.
    This very historic, Pre-production prototype Aston is barely recognised, or ever illustrated by the Aston Martin Owners Club magazine or any other organisation – despite the fact that the Autocar magazine detailed the car fully in the October 2nd issue 1953.
    Since then it is now fully described and illustrated by a French website – a strange car LML50/221
    It’s really something that a knowledgeable Franchman know more about my car than anyone here in the UK !!
    Thank you -
    Yours Sincerely – Anthony S Durbin

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