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Aston Martin DB2

Aston Martin DB2 Published: 17th Oct 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: DB2 & MkIII
  • Worst model: Anything bodged
  • Budget buy: DB2/4
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs additive and you can’t convert
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4369 x W1652
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: More complex than you think
  • Club support: Typical Aston Martin
  • Appreciating asset?: Values are soaring
  • Good buy or good-bye?: An acquired taste
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Template for the famous DB strain of Astons with a totally different character to the DB4. Despite being 70 years old, the design is more complex and specialist than you’d credit when it comes repair and restorations but the rewards are enormous


By rights, Sean Connery should have owned a Feltham Aston. In his books author Ian Fleming had our hero driving a DB MkIII, which included Goldfinger, long before his gimmick-laden DB5 took over. Clearly 007 had a touch of class about him. Known as the Feltham Astons (even though David Brown used his factory in Farsley, West Yorks, to make the engines and chassis) and not Newport Pagnell (which saw the start of DB4 production) the DB2 was the logical development of the original DB1 and provided the template for all post war Astons; a sleek long-nosed coupé. And thanks to the firm’s acquisition of Lagonda, the DB2 also had a fine engine to power it, the legendary W.O. Bentley twin-cam 2580cc straight six, no less.

With the spotlights firmly focused on later DBs, the Frank Feeley Feltham fastbacks have only fairly recently soared in value yet are still significantly cheaper than the DB4-6 line and definitely are the more debonair DBs.

Driving and what the press thought

If you’re thinking of buying an earlier DB, don’t let that legendary badge fool you. The DB2 is a world away from the later DBs and as such an acquired taste. Being designed in the late 1940s, it understandably has a vintage feel, especially in terms of performance which is leisurely by today’s (repmobile) standards – expect 9-12 seconds to 60mph according to engine tune and top speeds shy of 120mph, for example.

On the plus side fuel economy can hover around a very un-Aston-like 20-28mpg if set up properly, especially if overdrive is fitted.

Being a road-going derivative of the company’s racing cars, the DB2’s handling was ahead of its time. Little compares to this Aston, except perhaps a Jaguar XK, but even so the DB2 is that bit sportier.

Despite a plush looking cockpit, DB2 refinement was never a strong point. That 1940’s feel means that all the controls are heavy but a steering upgrade to lighten the effort is very popular (see Improvements section) plus adding discs and a servo to earlier cars to make the pedal effort more acceptable all adds up to a more modern feel – if that’s what you really want. You may never use the diddy rear seats fitted to the DB2/4 but the added practicality of the rear hatch is very useful and, as a tourer, the DB2/4 makes a good companion.

The press naturally heaped praise on the DB2 and road tests reveal what was back in the 1950s an extremely quick car for it time. Motor summed up the more powerful 140bhp Vantage reckoning, with a 0-60 time of a neck snapping 10.3 seconds, that the Aston’s acceleration was “of an order well outside the experience of the everyday motorist”.

Autocar’s excitement in hitting 60 in 12.4 seconds and reaching 110mph back in 1950 was hard to contain in print either. “It’s difficult to give too much praise to the handling and performance,” it said. The late, great, deerstalker-wearing John Bolster in Motor Sport was equally gushing with plaudits saying that the DB2, “inspires confidence at first acquaintance” and that the “Aston Martin engineers had endowed the car with well-nigh perfect cornering and roadholding characteristics… corners can be taken at racing speeds… the DB2 must rank as one of the safest cars it has been our good fortune to try.”

Motor only had one major criticism – lack of seat support which is especially emphasised by the hapless front passenger who “when cornered fast is thrown around like a proverbial pea in a pod.

“But these are the only criticisms of great consequence in a car of rare quality, unusual performance, exceptional roadworthiness and unrivalled versatility.” Best fit some seat belts!

Classic caring

Being 70 years old, there’s very little a decent home mechanic can’t tackle in the way of routine servicing. That all enclosing engulfing bonnet allows Triumph Spitfire-like accessibility to the engine and front suspension where 14 lubrication points need attention every 2500 miles – annually is best. King pins also deteriorate and, being an oldie, demands lubrication with EP90 and not grease although, like MGs and Triumphs, it probably hasn’t been adhered to.

Four Ashes Garage is one of the leading specialists for this Aston and says spare supply is better than it has been for 30 years. The Midlands expert produces a host of updated modernised parts such as improved rear engine oil seals and latterly a modified distributor baseplate to accept Mini Cooper S c.b. points for better running and ease of fitting. Four Ashes also now markets improved thermostats.

Some cars have been fitted with the later DB4 unit, but it’s not a straight swap. A Jag XK engine is also feasible but given the increasing value of these cars, it’s not a wise ploy either unless the original unit is totally shot anyway and you haven’t 23 grand or so for a proper overhaul. Talking of proper overhauls, it’s said that the DB2 strain is a more complex car to restore than later DBs, because the build is even more bespoke with seemingly identical cars differing in many areas.

Realistically, you’re looking at £300,000 to restore a car right. Expensive… but as with all Aston Martins, you usually get what you pay for so beware of that bargain basket case. Experts claim you can spot a DIY rebuild a mile away so you may be wasting your time and money with a home restoration.


There’s not a huge amount you can do to a DB2 to improve it – or probably want to do for fear of affecting its value, although certain mods are becoming far more accepted in classic circles. Most of the Aston specialists offer the same or similar products: here are a few.

The lorry-like steering effort can be lightened either by substituting more modern roller king pins (a £200+ kit is available from Davron – 01722 716040.davron. or electrically operated power steering care of GTC Engineering (01280 851100) although the latter costs more than £4000. Or you can try mainstream EZ or Litesteer systems. Four Ashes Garage can rebuild the standard steering to display negligible play in it, which is the first step.

A swap to modern disc brakes costs between £1500-2000 from Rex J. Woodgate (01327 858051) and well worth doing for modern roads along with DB5 callipers if you use the MkIII parts.

Engine tuning of this iconic old unit is a very specialist affair so speak to an Aston expert such as Four Ashes Garage (01789 266851, www. fourashesgarage. before any tweaking is carried out. Four Ashes recently tuned a 2.6-litre engine bored to 2750cc with its special liner and piston combination.

Complemented with triple 1.75 SU carbs mounted on a special inlet manifold, fabricated exhaust manifolds, polished and ported cylinder head with larger valves, 9:1 forged pistons, steel connecting rods, modified distributor and fast road cams, the engine developed a strong 192bhp with 160lbft torque at only 2000rpm and 182lbft at 4500rpm.

Fitted with the later DB5 diaphragm clutch, all this makes the engine very tractable and the car easy to drive. The end result was nice road car, says the company but it has also extracted still a road going 225bhp from a 3.0-litre unit with far more on the table for racing purposes.

Without doubt according best ‘mod’ (even if it isn’t) is to have the car properly sorted and serviced. Four Ashes says less than 10 per cent of the 1500 or so left are properly set up (engine, suspension, brakes, geometry etc) and so don’t drive like a DB2 ought to. It specialises in removing the huge amount of slack in the steering for better handling and has made its own front disc kit and overdrive conversion, although the latter is only for the MkIII as DB2s, so far, can’t accept overdrive due to their constricted chassis design.

An uprated radiator, a ‘dynator’ (that’s an alternator in a dynamo body) and better lights wouldn’t go amiss on any car although electronic ignition doesn’t appear to be an easy fit according to Four Ashes who offers better distributors instead.

Values and specialist view

Read it and weep. DB2s used to sell for less than £500 during the late 60s and early 70s but six figure sums are now the norm for a half decent good car with the DB2 and the last of the line MkIIIs the most valued – think DB6 money.

With all the variants out there, people ask what is the most popular model, Classic Motoring asked Philip Jones of Byron International who is known as “The Aston Man” to let us have his thoughts.

“A lot depends on whether you are looking at investment or straightforward fun” was Philip’s immediate response “With the DB2 – the earliest (and rarest, just 49 built) examples have a three piece grille. Or the Drophead, 101 of those built with three built by Graber.”

But having sold four Feltham cars already this year the spread of values has been from £110,000 to £300,000 and that tells you as much about the models as their condition. From those needing full restoration through to those rewarding enthusiastic ownership on to those already well restored.

But beware of cars that are not all they seem. Philip added “Earlier in the year, we had to pass on a Drophead DB2/4 that looked like a thorough restoration at first glance but missed on important mechanical and safety items. Always, always, seek a full engineer’s report if you are buying – it is probably why an operation like ours is a better bet than auctions because you need time to assess condition.”

“Right now, Felthams are a car that attracts enthusiasts – the values of the Newport Pagnell Superleggeras have escalated to the point where, whilst static in the current market doldrums, are still beyond many pockets. If you look at a DB Mark III and a DB4, they may have different structural architecture but the Aston Martin DNA is clearly identifiable.”

As to the future values of these 1950’s icons, Philip sees a gentle upward slope as restorations will improve the average condition of cars on the road plus also because market interest in Aston grows and demand has its own impact on the valuation curve, after all, as Philip says “They aren’t making them any more!”

Martin Brewer of Runnymede Motor Company says the attraction over the later DBs is twofold and frequently price driven. DB4 and DB5 prices start at over £300k for a driveable DB4, requiring at very least some refurbishment and as we all know DB5 prices can stretch to over £1m for a concours car with much more than that for a convertible. The other reason is that the older generation like the cars from the Feltham era and as with many models in a production run, the first and the last are the most valuable. “We have sold seven or eight Feltham cars over the past 18 months at prices ranging from £90k at the bottom end for a car requiring a full restoration to £300k for a lovely restored MkIII. The first of the DB2/4s with 2.6 engines are the entry point with prices ranging from £85k for a barn find through to £150k for a good up and running car and even in excess of £200k for a really well prepared, nothing to do car.

“The DB2/4 MkII’s are rarer and more desirable and difficult to find and were a quicker car with the uprated 2.9 engine and individual bucket style front seats. However, the Jewel in the Crown is definitely the MkIII, made for only one year between late 1957 and late ’58. They incorporated an even more powerful 2.9 engine, the body style was becoming more streamlined and a greatly improved dash layout. They tend to drive in a more positive fashion than the earlier cars and whilst overdrive was quoted as an optional extra, we consider it to be an essential item today as it greatly reduces engine revs for high speed touring.

“With regard to future values, we have seen a tumble in prices over the past 18 months but values are now on the increase and whilst they still attract older buyers, we have also sold to the 35 to 50 age group this year.”

First steps to a Feltham

As with all Astons, early specialist help and advice could well save you a fortune and a lot of heartbreak. Speak to an owners’ club or Aston expert first of all and many will gladly check a car over or suggest where suitable ones are for sale.

Rust is the main worry and remember that even the newest car is almost 60 years old so look for bodges over the many decades. Look past the shiny bits and buy a car that’s sound as a pound rather than eye candy.

A book on how to restore a DB2 by AuthorHouse UK ( is available via Amazon, titled Restoration of a Classic DB2/4 MkIII (ISBN: 978-1-49699-955-9). Experts worth seeking out include Aston Service Dorset – spare parts only, Four Ashes Garage – parts, rebuild and servicing, Davron – parts, rebuild and servicing, Rex J Woodgate for parts, rebuild and servicing, Tim Stamper – parts, rebuild and servicing and finally, Post Vintage, parts for rebuilds, repairs and general servicing.

I used to own one

Spotted at the recent Silverstone Classic, this MkIII was recently owned by long standing AMOC member David Irving for some 20 years, bought because he was after a “cheap Aston” and his brother also used to own one. It was purchased from specialist Runnymede who subsequently took the car back in part restored form in part exchange for a modern V8 Vantage. This is the first time David has seen his old DB MkIII back on the road again!

Say cheese to this engine

The Bentley derived engine wasn’t too durable early in its life and a rebuild or two over the decades (with modern materials) may well have been carried out. It’s those that have not been done correctly which makes the situation worse. Chief worries major on cracked blocks and liner failures, leading to oil and water mixing.

Here’s the cheesy bit. These are four large aluminium pieces that mate the crank main bearings to the block. Fine when new, but inevitable deterioration causes them to distort and so lead to leakage and loss of oil pressure. However, this only applies to old engines for there are modern fixes for this and they may well have been incorporated already.

Oil pressure on early engines (not the MkIII) should be between 50-60lbft if all is well, but it can drop to 20lb or less (even 10lbs) when idling). A sure sign of an over packed out oil pressure relief valve is over 90lbs when cold dropping to normal pressures when hot – this can cause oil pump drive gear failures. MkIII engines display 65-75lbs with 50lbs at idle but as the oil pump has excessive capacity it’s not easy to gauge worn out main bearings because of this as oil pressure is so good.

Cylinder heads can also crack and gaskets are known to let go. Despite being as old as the hills, the engine is the most complex part of the car and still needs AM specialist know-how to rebuild one properly.

Tappet clearances are critical. It’s not dissimilar to the XK design albeit without shims but factoring in a decoke and a £2000 and above bill looms.

What engine is fitted now? Due to earlier unreliability and the high cost of rebuilds (£23,000 minimum says Four Ashes), any compatible unit from other DBs or Lagondas may be installed. For the MkIII an improved DBA design was launched but because there are no valve seat inserts it can’t be converted to unleaded seats so you really need an additive. On the other hand, new blocks and cylinder heads are now available for all models, as are inlet and exhaust manifolds, and so on.

Thanks to Byron International for the fantastic images used in the article. The Surrey-based specialist is a leader in classic Aston Martins.

Testing out the transmission

The gearbox is a sturdy affair made by David Brown himself. Early cars may have been converted from column change to floor shift which was an option. Four Ashes says it can rebuild these heavy-handed units to perform very nicely indeed it claims. Apart from a noisy (non synchro) first gear there are no major problems, although parts are quite rare and an overhaul costs the thick end of £3000.

Leaks are common but parts have now been made to reduce or stop these, but Laycock overdrive should work okay if oil has been regularly changed. Rear axles are also pretty leak prone, especially if they’ve been used as a jacking point. DB2/4 used a 3H Salisbury axle but the later, stronger 4H is preferable. Four Ashes has recently extended its range of axles and ratios but fitting the internals in an older casing is quite an involved job albeit one that’s worthwhile.

Aston-nomical problems may lay ahead

The chassis demands the closest scrutiny as it’s a box section and a rust bug haven. Look in particular at the centre diagonal sections, sills and bulkheads, for rust, welding repairs and normal accident damage.

The bodywork is a mix of hand formed 16-gauge alloy and steel. Doors, rear arches, bonnets, scuttles are all prone, especially where steel meets alloy such as the edges of the wheel arches and by the bumpers. The DB2/4 MkI is far more specialist with alloy scuttle, sills and door pillars. Repairs are a lot more involved and expensive if it’s bad here. Having said that, only a small percent of cars have ever been scrapped and a quality if costly, rebuild will pay dividends long term.

What To Look For

Suspension, steering and brakes

According to specialist Four Ashes, the running gear is more complex than a DB5. See that the car sits square. The steering is inherently sloppy – to the tune of two inches of play although this can be rectified. And don’t dismiss worn and leaking lever arm shock absorbers lightly as they can cost almost £180 per corner plus fitting.

The real worry is a complete failure of the front end if the alloy spring mounts collapse with age and wear. Other worry points, due to age, include rear axle arms and eye ends, alloy axle brackets and hubs which can let go, especially at the front. The braking system was initially all drum up to 1957 with discs up front as an option on first 100 MkIIIs. Just the usual checks and lack of use seizures apply. Alloy Alfin brake drums were used on some. If worn, new ones cost almost £550 each so you may have to go the cast iron route at just over half the outlay from Four Ashes. Handbrake is a pull up type and is usually okay. Wire wheels were of Dunlop – 5.75-6.00 x 16. New wheels are £400 each.


Three Of A Kind

Jaguar XK120/150
Jaguar XK120/150
The closest to the DB2 in terms of style, driving and character, the Jaguar XK scores with their added pace but the Aston handles that bit better it is said. However, there’s also more choice of XKs around with a better spares and support back up – virtually all you could want for one is out there both new or used. The Jaguar is still considerably cheaper to buy too, especially mainstream condition ones, but the gap is closing, especially with 150Ss.
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Built around the same time as the Aston, the 541 was a development of the original Interceptor albeit with a glassfibre body. The triple carb 4.0-litre Austin straight six gives the car good pace and relaxed cruising on 2.75:1 gearing. Later 541R and 541S models were better drivers care of disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, 150bhp and more. A much underrated car, it can be likened to a family-sized Big Healey.
Alvis 21
Alvis 21
The TC/TD saloon and the TE/TF 21 convertibles have a similar character to Astons albeit more a sophisticated cultured cruiser than sports car, but a lovely period piece all the same. Up to 150bhp comes from the six-cylinder unit that dates back to when DB2 was launched. A highly cultured car and exceptional value – read our special owning elsewhere in this issue.
Classic Motoring

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