1958 Aston Martin DB4
RM | Private Sales
First DB4 ever shown to the public
- 1958 Paris Motor Show Car
- First DB4 ever shown to the public
- First Left-Hand-Drive DB4 ever built; second DB4 off the production line
- Presented with ‘matching numbers’ engine and gearbox
- Extremely rare and highly desirable early Series 1 model; one of only 50 produced
- The first of David Brown’s most famous “gentleman’s express”
Just before the 1958 Paris Auto Show, Marcel Blondeau of Garage Mirabeau held a private party for his most discerning clientele. Highlighted under the showroom spotlights was Aston Martin’s brand-new offering – the all-new DB4. In fact, it was this exact Aston Martin DB4, chassis DB4/102/L, that took pride of place at Blondeau’s party. Days later, this DB4 would take center stage at the 1958 Paris Auto Show – becoming the first DB4 to be presented to the general public.
Aston Martin had been working on the DB4 since 1956, when General Manager John Wyer selected Touring of Milan to design the successor to the DB2/4, alongside Aston Martin’s internal engineers - Chassis Designer Harold Beach, and Engine Designer Tadek Marek. With a new decade rapidly approaching, it was decided to start this car from scratch – every major component in the DB4 was brand new.
Sitting alongside the DB2/4 Mark III on the Aston Martin stand, chassis 102/L must have looked like a vision of the future. The British marque’s chassis technology had remained largely static since the DB2’s introduction in 1950, but Harold Beach worked closely with Touring to create a chassis that would hold their patented Superleggera body system. Gone was the old rectangular steel-tube chassis; instead, Beach designed a sturdy platform chassis on which a framework of light-gauge tubes were welded – these supported the aluminum body panels designed by Touring. It took only six weeks for Beach and Touring’s designer, Federico Formenti, to pen the shape that would soon become a global icon. Mechanically, the DB4 received independent front suspension via double wishbones, Armstrong shocks, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. The live rear axle used parallel trailing links, coil springs, and a Watt’s linkage. For the first time on one of their production models, Aston Martin fitted all-wheel disc brakes.
Housed inside 102/L’s white bonnet, the all-new DB4 engine was a complete redesign carried out by Tadek Marek. Marek’s engine was 22 kg (48.5 lbs) lighter than the previous cast-iron block, thanks to its all-alloy construction. Bore and stroke were squared at 92-mm, and displacement rose to 3670-cc. Twin SU HD8 carburetors were fitted, and compression was increased from 8.2 to 8.25:1. A David Brown four-speed manual gearbox was fitted as standard, with a single dry plate Borg & Beck clutch. All told, 102/L was quoted as having a peak output of 240 bhp – an astounding 78 bhp over the DB2/4 Mark III that shared its stage.
That day in Paris when Marcel Blondeau first laid eyes on the DB4, he is said to have been delighted, telling John Wyer “I can sell as many as you can supply.” It isn’t difficult to see why Blondeau was so enthusiastic, looking at the very same car today. Chassis 102/L, presented in a recent Desert White respray over its original black leather upholstery, is one of those extraordinarily rare early DB4s – only the second ever produced, the first left-hand-drive, and one of just 50 produced without bumper overriders or door window frames. These early DB4s also feature a rear-hinged front opening bonnet. It retains its matching engine, without a doubt one of the very first production engines built by Tadek Marek.
After its time on the Paris Motor Show stand, 102/L returned to Aston Martin at Newport Pagnell, where it had some post-demonstration work done. On the 6 March 1959, some minor bodywork damage was fixed and a complete respray in Desert White was performed. The following week, a 14-gauge exhaust was fitted, and a complete pre-delivery maintenance was performed including an engine tune. The DB4 was then officially delivered to Garage Mirabeau on the 31 March 1959. Shortly thereafter, an Aston Martin factory supplied replacement gearbox was fitted to the DB4, which is still in place today. It should be noted that Aston Martin records list both the original and the replacement gearbox numbers on this DB4’s build card as does BMIHT on their certificate. One year later, the car was recorded as having done 22,000 kilometers.
By 1986, DB4/102/L was sporting a deep burgundy paint color and was still in France under the ownership of Mr. Mihel Alzon. A large number of invoices and letters remain with the vehicle dating from Mr. Alzon’s ownership. Upon passing to another owner in 1987, a valuation was performed. At this time, the original mileage appeared to be around 168,000 km, with the odometer showing 68,622 km. It was noted that the mechanics appeared to have had a recent overhaul and were in an excellent state. The DB4 would remain with this owner until 2016, when it was sold to the current owner. At this time, the car was resprayed to the original color of Desert White, and the carpets were replaced.
There is something special about owning the very first of something. This DB4 is not just the first DB4 to be shown in public, or the first left-hand-drive example; it is the first taste of the Golden Era of Aston Martin. Building on the success of the DB4, Aston Martin subsequently heralded such feats as victory at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the 1959 World Sportscar Championship, the incredible film premiere of the DB5, and the decades-long partnership with Zagato. Sitting in the driver’s seat of DB4/102/L, it is easy to see how this vehicle left such an iconic legacy.