The Aston Martin DB5 is one of the most recognizable cars in the world. Used in multiple James Bond films, the attractive DB5 has been established as one of the seminal vehicles of the series and has maintained popularity ever since its production. It made its debut in 1964’s Goldfinger, standing in for the Aston Martin DB Mark III Ian Fleming had written into the original novel. It continued to appear throughout the series, up to “and including” the most recent installation, Skyfall, in which it was outfitted with its traditional ejection seat and front machine guns.
The Aston Martin DB5 was only produced from October 1963 to November 1965, a fairly short run by most standards of the time. Although the look and shape of the car did not change much from the previous model, the Aston Martin DB4, there were some important changes under the hood that made the model unique and deserving of the change to a new name. The DB5’s engine, for example, was enlarged from the DB4’s 3670 cc version to 3995 cc. This engine produced 282 horsepower, which made the DB5 one of the fastest models in the Aston Martin lineup. Initially, the car was also equipped with a David Brown 4-Speed gearbox, with the option of adding overdrive at extra cost. However, by mid-1964, the gear was standardized to a ZF 5 speed gearbox, which essentially added an overdrive feature without having to select it from the list of available options.
The DB5 was offered as both a Coupe and a Volante Convertible. 1,021 Coupes were produced over the 2 years it was built, with an additional 120 Volantes created. Additionally, because of the lack of space available in the original model, there were also 12 “shooting brake” conversions created by Harold Radford, which are considered high in value due to their rarity today.
One of the interesting notes about the DB5, which came with an assortment of gadgets during its stint as a Bond car, was that it lacked some of the finer accoutrements that many would find surprising today. The DB5 had no air conditioning, for example, and it lacked power steering, which meant that drivers had to use a more arm strength for best steering performance. These were not even offered as options for the DB5, so buyers could not add them in at extra cost. These details were not initially a problem, but as time went on it meant the car had lesser staying power than other models. Therefore, these were some of the issues addressed by the DB6 when it was released two years later, adding them as optional features.
Despite some of these flaws, as well as the fact that the DB5 was not a huge shift in design, nor a highly demanded and produced model, its appearance as James Bond’s car has cemented its place in history as one of the most popular, or at least most recognizable cars. It is still considered highly collectable, and a replica of the Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger is even on display in the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.
Aston Martin DB5 Trade Catalog: Aston Martin: Trade Catalogs: Specific Model: DB5 and DB6, 1963-1971, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.
Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 86.
Annalise Berdini is a Summer Intern for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.