Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Aston Martin DBS

Published: 12th Aug 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS

Buyer Beware

  • There’s some cracking DBSs out there but also, thanks to the car’s lowly values, many bodged examples so you need to vet carefully. Ideally have a look at a few to set a general datum.
  • Rust is the biggest worry understandably although few are basket cases. The sills are a priority; you need to remove the stainless trims to check for rot underneath. If a buyer refuses, walk away and look elsewhere.
  • Floorpans can rot badly; there’s massive box sections at the front, so it’s the rear that the most suspect; battery tray, boot floor rear chasis legs and so on.
  • Not Superlegga, the body is all aluminium but its frame is metal. Due to expansion rates and electrolytic reaction, paint can blister; check behind door handles, window surround and especially the doors.
  • Early Volantes weren’t well built and later cars had added metal around the fuel fillers so a frame over the axle was installed. The fuel flaps are corrosion prone.
  • It’s an expensive body to fix: £7000 fro a front panel, £1000+ for bumpers although Cortina MK2 side light clusters were used with Hillman Hunter types at the rear.
  • Mechanically the car is strong but look for overheating, low oil pressure (should be 100psi @4000 rpm when hot on the ‘six’, 60lb on the V8). Six has replacable bore liners which can ‘move’ in service.
  • ZF transmission is tough but parts are becoming scarce and a rebuild costs £2000+. If second is obstructive, it’s on the way out. The clutch is heavy, but if it needs superman effort suspect the clutch itself; pre-76 cars need to have the cabin stripped to gain access to the ‘box.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Immensely satisfying; quick and sure-footed if you show it who’s boss

  • Usability: 4/5

    No better or worse than any old supercar; dire economy on all models

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    Easy enough with plenty of specialists around – DIY quite possible

  • Owning: 3/5

    Never going to cheap to repair or restore if done properly

  • Value: 4/5

    Prices rising but compared to early DBs, they remain good bargains

Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Following in the tyre tracks of earlier DBs, the once unloved DBS is now a true classic says Robert Couldwell

Having bought the ailing Aston Martin company in 1947 and Lagonda in the following year, David Brown set about taking on the likes of Ferrari and Maserati with an updated version of the prototype Atom developed in the last throws of Aston Martin’s independence. What would come to be known as the DB1 would be the start of a dynasty of wonderful Aston Martins now cherished by those wealthy enough to afford a minimum of £100,000. Of course that’s loose change to what a classic DB can sell for these days but if there’s one model that’s been almost the poor relation to the breed it’s the DBS. William Towns formerly of Rootes and Rover who had joined Aston Martin as a seat designer in 1966 was given the job of designing the new car that would become the DBS, a design that would see Aston right for more than 20 years. Now, and rightly so the DBS is properly respected for its style, performance and credibility. And before prices really soar the time to buy one is now.

Which model to buy?

Sales of the DB6 were dwindling fast and Aston had to launch the new car despite the fact that the new V8 wasn’t ready. Therefore, the existing 4-litre straight-six engine from the DB6 Mk11 was utilised with 282bhp on triple SU carburettors or as a no-cost option, The Vantage 325bhp engine on triple twin-choke Webers. Two inches shorter but six inches wider with four full width seats, the new car was 200lb heavier which stifled the performance over the outgoing DB6 but that was outweighed by greater comfort, better braking and sharper handling thanks to the new De-Dion rear suspension and wider track. After all, it could still top 140 mph with 0-60 in around seven seconds, pretty impressive nearly fifty years ago. Established Aston Martin engineer Tadek Marek created the new V8 engine that was promised in 1969. Like Bristol and Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin declined to quote power figures for the V8 but it is reckoned at around 325bhp. While that was not much more than the Vantage six-cylinder there was much greater torque which transformed the car with 0-60 now under six seconds and maximum speed close on 160 mph. The Weber carbs initially gave way to Bosch fuel injection, the optional automatic transmission was now a Chrysler TorqueFlite unit wire wheels became gorgeous alloys to handle the power and the previously optional power steering was now thankfully standard. In 1972 David Brown sold out to Company Developments Ltd who removed his initials from the designation and the Aston Martin V8 was born and was known as the Series 2. At the same time the standard six was dropped leaving just the V8 and the Vantage (six), bringing with them a new two-headlight grille harking back to the DB2-DB6 shape but no mechanical changes. During 1973 the Series 3 lost fuel injection in favour of four magnificent twin-choke Webers which amazingly improved performance and tractability. This first AM V8 became known as the Series 1. It was during 1973 that the underrated straight six finally died. A full eleven years after the first DBS, a Volante convertible was finally launched in 1978 but was only available with the stock V8, the more powerful Vantage not being offered until 1986 when the Series 5 coupé and Volante were launched with yet another induction change back to fuel injection, this time by a Weber/ Marelli design which was so compact that a bonnet bulge was no longer required. Production of the V8 ceased in 1989 by which time the DBS had long lost it’s sleek styling by way of bawdy wings and things. Around 800 six-cylinder cars were made against 3300 V8s meaning that V8s are easier to find which may determine the choice. Both sixes and eights are reliable but obviously the V8 uses even more fuel than the already juicy straight six and the choice is really a very personal one as both provide more than adequate performance for today’s congested roads, even if the DBS6 auto feels hamstrung by the self shifter. Take it from us, as the more desirable Aston prices venture further into the stratosphere both will be excellent investments. A late Volante would seem to be the favourite for enjoyment and investment.

Behind the wheel?

Compared to earlier DBs, the DBS remains a bit of a bargain

The DBS was often criticised for being bulkier and heavier than past DBs but with the wider track and a lengthened wheelbase over the DB6 and much more sophisticated suspension the DBS offered state of the art handling of its time with the excellent rack and pinion steering of the DB6. These cars can really be hustled if you have the confidence and if power steering is fitted, and even in hardly fast six-cylinder form can maintain high speeds cross country. It has to be said that these are ‘men’s car’s and need to be taken by the scruff of the neck to make them perform at their best but despite this sports car handling and grip they are really best suited as long distance cruisers and even today could easily take you to the south of France in one day without fatigue, provided of course that you could afford the fuel which even in the smaller engine will be in the mid teens. The brakes on the V8 cars were beefed up compared with the six and the ventilated front and solid rear discs certainly pull the car up with less fade than the earlier all-solid ones but used sensibly even the anchors on the six will be perfectly adequate. The DBS was the only real British competitor for the Ferrari 365 GT, Lamborghini Espada and Maserati Indy as other GTs like the AC 427, Gordon Keeble, Jensen Interceptor and Bristol 410/411 used lots of proprietary parts and ‘low-tech’ American engines. The DBS held its head up brilliantly whether with six or eight cylinder power – it performed, handled, steered and braked as well as any of them and better than most and at the same time was more reliable, much less fragile and much easier and cheaper to maintain.

The Daily Option?

The DBS remains a pretty sophisticated car so DIY is limited to servicing and basic repairs

Whether or not you use one of these cars as a daily driver is entirely dependent on your wealth. These cars when new were among the most expensive and desirable available which tends to set the running costs even when nearly fifty years old. Just the petrol at well over £6 per gallon will cost you at least £1 for every three miles covered never mind the specialist servicing and repairs needed frequently. However, if you have the money these are totally practical everyday cars; dependable, comfortable with more than enough performance to despatch hot hatches at the lights and enough boot space for a family holiday or a couple of sets of golf clubs – you might even get away with parking in the Captain’s parking space. Like all old classics, the Aston is a heavy old brute and the clutch action wouldn’t do a lorry an injustice which is why so many came with a three-speed automatic. On the DBS6 model however, it blunts the performance considerably. Okay for cruising though.

Ease of Ownership?

Make no mistake the DBS remains an exotic, fairly sophisticated motor car and unless you have a PHD in vehicle engineering or are an Aston Martin trained technician you are not going to be able to do anything more than basic servicing and repairs yourself and service intervals are not lengthy ones as on a modern. The good news is that there are many specialists around who will charge you much less than you would be charged for Italian exotica or even a modern executive saloon. The six-cylinder engine has a long history going back to the 1940s and even the V8 was made for more than 30 years meaning that there is no shortage of expertise around. If you can afford to run one of these icons you will probably not be concerned about insurance and road fund licence but classic cover will be just around £300 depending on where you live and state of licence plus early cars will be road fund licence tax exempt, which is always a welcome relief.



DBS is launched, running alongside MKII DB6 which it shared a lot of the running gear, including the straight six in standard or Vantage tune. Five-speed manual is standard with optional three-speed auto.


Long awaited V8 introduced; a fuel injected quad cam unit derived from racing delivering 345bhp. Alloy road wheels fitted as traditional wires deemed too fragile. DBS6 also remains in production.


By May 1972 it was time for the Series 2 to surface, with its new nose, to signify the car losing its DB moniker as a result of the company being sold. There was now one headlamp on each side and a plain black grille.


Last of the DBS6s produced, latterly known as just the Vantage – just 70 made. Series 3 V8 has a bigger bonnet scoop to cover a quartet of twin-choke Weber
42DCNFs instead of previous troublesome fuel injection.


From January 1977 this iconic engine could be tuned to Stage 1 spec and from February ‘78 there was a Vantage V8, with a blanked-off grille, front air dam and tail spoiler. A special edition, better known as Oscar India, was offered; only 50 made. Series 4 appears later that year.


In June 1980 a high-compression ‘580’ engine superseded the previous unit. January 1986 sees a Series 5 went on sale. Identifiable by its flatter bonnet, it also featured fuel injection to give 305bhp.


Finally a new Volanteconvertible is introduced but the final V8 model was built inOctober 1989, when the car wassuperseded by the Virage replacement (which is more unloved than the DBS ever was).

We Reckon...

It is interesting to watch the price inflation of less rated Astons as the most desirable continue to soar. A DB6 used to be very much the poor relation left unloved in the corner. Now pristine Coupés are fetching £100,000 and Volantés over £300,000. This suggests that less revered Astons such as the DBS and V8s as well as more modern models like the DB7 are a great prospect for appreciation which may go some way to justify the high running costs. Running one of these wonderful cars is probably still cheaper than playing golf and surely far more rewarding.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine