The DB5 - all that publicity but poor sales!

Aston Martin had had a very chequered financial career with several rescues from economic catastrophe. However in 1947 an old established engineering and machine tools company called David Brown limited bought Aston Martin as well as another failing luxury car manufacturer, Lagonda, which he bought mainly because that company had an engine designed by the legendary W.O.Bentley. David Brown, the owner, started building Astom Martin models named after his own company, the DB range.

By 1963 they were up to DB5. This was one very prestigious car; externally a mixture of grace, elegance and brutal aggression, internally luxurious, and under the bonnet was a straight four cylinder 4 litre engine producing 282 brake horsepower, which could power the car up to 142 mph. It was expensive, but very very desirable.

That desirability was boosted by some first-class advertising. No less a person than James Bond, the fictional 007 Special Agent who was licensed to kill, drove one in the 1964 film 'Goldfinger' with an ejector seat for getting rid of unwelcome passengers, an oil sprayer to make the road behind it into a skid pan, a smokescreen generator, battering rams, devices for slashing tyres, a bullet proof retractable shield, a radar scanner (this was the early 60s remember) and even machine guns and battering rams at the front.

Sadly none of these features were available in production cars; however they did have electric windows, reclining seats, a fitted fire extinguisher, a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes all round. Even air conditioning was available – something the macho Mr Bond could have used to cool himself down with, after his amourous activities.

It would be reasonable to expect that, since the James Bond films were popular worldwide, sales of the DB5 would be phenomenal. They weren't. The problem was that this was an expensive car, at £4,175 at launch it was around twice the price of the E-type Jag which was able to get up to 150 mph. Fuel consumption was very poor as well; 15 miles to the gallon seemed to be about the average.

Sales figures before production ended in 1965 were claimed to be:

Two door 2+2 coupe: 886
Two door convertible: 123
Two door estate car: 12

If we compare this with the E-type Jaguar, of which around 70,000 was sold, it doesn't seem to be much of a success. However to millions of people wordwide the DB5 typified Britain during the Swinging Sixties and there is still enormous interest in it - helped no doubt by it's appearance in everything from made-for-TV films to computer games. The relative rarity of the car means that any that come up for sale can command very high prices, particularly if it has a history: one built for the film 'Thunderball' sold for more than £5 million in 2009. The next James Bond film 'No time To Die', scheduled for release in 2021, will also feature a (replica) DB5 so interest will probably remain high.

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