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Aston Martin DBS

The Persuader Published: 20th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Aston Martin DBS

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Post-1977 V8s
  • Worst model: DBS6 auto
  • Budget buy: DBS6 manual
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4620 x 1830mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent but costly
  • DIY ease?: Surprisingly good
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Values are taking off
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Former – if you buy right
Familiar straight six not quick but much cheaper to buy. Can be taken to 4.7-litres or swapped with Jag XK unit Familiar straight six not quick but much cheaper to buy. Can be taken to 4.7-litres or swapped with Jag XK unit
Wire wheels set car off beautifully. Not used on V8s Wire wheels set car off beautifully. Not used on V8s
After ‘72 a single headlamp design was used After ‘72 a single headlamp design was used
Earlier cars shorn of the fatter wheels and air dams are the nicer looking, especially pre ‘73 quad lamp models Earlier cars shorn of the fatter wheels and air dams are the nicer looking, especially pre ‘73 quad lamp models
Cabin (this is a later car) remained largely unchanged and it’s a roomy 2+2. Autos became increasingly popular Cabin (this is a later car) remained largely unchanged and it’s a roomy 2+2. Autos became increasingly popular
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Shunned for decades, the DBS is now starting to follow in the tyre tracks of earlier, almost priceless DBs. But value for money isn’t this Aston’s only enticement

Pros & Cons

Great cruiser, looks superb, appreciating in value and desirability, fast V8s
Thirsty, can be very costly to run, many tired examples around, tardy DBS6 autos

Many classic enthusiasts get excited by Aston Martin’s DB4, 5 and 6, while being left cold by the DBS – whether it features six cylinders or eight. Why this should be is a complete mystery to us, as the DBS looks superb, offers greater space and comfort than any of its predecessors, while also providing quite brilliant grand touring capabilities. Available for a fraction of the price of a DB4/5/6, the DBS has started to come in from the cold, as the same enthusiasts latch on to the fact that this is actually an all-time great. As a result, prices have started to climb, although the DBS is still an undisputed bargain. Here’s how to bag a great one for the price of a concours MGB or Stag before they soar!


Britain may had been swinging around the time that Geoff Hurst smacked in his famous hat trick but few people were partying at Aston Martin that summer. A tough economical climate (that saw Sterling devalued a year later) had seen sales of the old fashioned DB6 fall off the cliff and while a swift price reduction of a grand stopped the slump, bosses at Newport Pagnell knew it had to come up with new cars for the changing times – and fast. The DBS6 duly arrived in September 1967. Designed in house alongside a four-door version it was more modern looking and roomier than the DB6 it supplanted. Under the very 60s skin was fundamentally the DB6 chassis – albeit with a De Dion rear suspension that fi rst saw service in the earlier Lagonda Rapide. With lever arm dampers the platform was hardly high-tech even back then yet it was to remain largely untouched until theDBS bowed out in the late 1980s. The DBS first appeared with straight-six power. Buyers could choose between a standard (285bhp/280lbft torque) engine or a Vantagespec edition with 325bhp, the latter being a no-cost and fairly popular option. Two years later, the first V8-engined DBS appeared. Known retrospectively as the Series1, it looked like a DBS6 save for a power buldged bonnet and alloy wheels, as wires were now deemed incapable of handling the new found power. With Bosch fuel injection the V8 produced a healthy 345bhp and some 400lbft of torque (Aston never offi cially released fi gures), but theinjection system was extremely unreliable and it quickly gained the car a poor reputation. By May 1972 – a month after David Brown sold the company – the Series 2 had arrived, now with one headlamp on each side and a black grille but no DB badges; the cars are now simply known as Vantage (DBS6) and V8 respectively. While the looks were quite different, under the skin it was business as usual. Not so come August 1973 when the Series3 V8 went on sale, with a bigger bonnet scoop to cover the four twin-choke Webers which replaced the fi ckle Bosch fuel injection. Until the arrival of the Series3, the six cylinder car had continued to be offered, known simply as the Vantage. Never well liked, only 70 were built. However they are now rare fi nds and quite desired fi nds. From January 1977 the V8 was offered in Stage I tune, then the next month there was a Vantage version offered, with 390bhp, a blankedoff grille, front air dam and tail spoiler – plus a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. Four months later the fi rst open topped V8 went on sale; the Volante would prove especially popular in the US market. The Series 4 of October 1978 brought a bonnet bulge in place of the previous scoop, along with an integral boot lid spoiler, new dash and revised trim. In June 1980 the high-compression ‘580’ engine superseded the previous unit, to give better fuel economy (well, sort of!), then development slowed. The next iteration didn’t arrive until January 1986; the Series 5 brought a fl atter bonnet plus fuel injection to give 305bhp. The final instalment in the V8 story came in October 1986 when a revised Vantage went on sale, in X-Specifi cation 410bhp guise. The fi nal V8 was built in October 1989, when the replacement Virage made its debut.


It’s often been said over the years that the DBS never went as good as it looked – especially in original DBS6 form where the added girth and weight (actually that’s about the same as a new Mondeo!-ed) sapped power from that legendary straight six, even in triple Weber carb Vantage tune that’s faster when you thrash it but not as good at low revs as the SU-fed engine. It depends what you’re after from a little used classic, even a sports one, but the DBS6 is surprisingly acceptable even if it’s signifi cantly slower at the top end than its much more valuable forerunner, due to that massive front-end blunting speed let alone an added 90kg over the DB6. A manual DBS6 is about as fast as a modern GTi (0-60mph arrived in as little as 7.1 or a lazier 8.6 seconds according to road tests at the time) although automatic versions can feel downright sluggish in comparison and as a result are not liked. There again these versions are the great DBS bargains and make a fi ne way to get into Aston Martin ownership if outright pace isn’t critical. Questionable performance didn’t stop weekly Motor hailing this new Aston standing for “S for ’superb’” as well as one of its top cars of 1968. Anyway, any horsepower issues were soon addressed by the long awaited V8 for which the DBS was designed for from the outset. Reliability delayed its launch until 1969 but it was worth the wait. With the ton coming up in less time a Cortina GT could hit sixty back then, the race-bred V8’s performance was judged to be streets ahead of the DBS6 despite these original fuel injected wonders being tetchy beasts. Naturally the later the car, the better the grunt, fl exibility and reliability especially the Oscar India models. As befi ts an engine that was derived from racing, the Aston unit was never a lazy V8 and its lack of low-rev lustiness may surprise many. However no one can accuse a good, well tuned DBS of being slow or anything less than satisfying however it is driven. Thanks to its weight and mass the DBS doesn’t like to be hustled and bustled along country lanes in too much haste. But it’s not as lorry-like as has been often suggested either and certainly that De Dion rear end ensures that a DBS feels more planted than earlier Astons. In today’s terms they may feel slightly soft and lardy but this suits the Aston’s comfort and touring departments well. Any DBS, even an Oscar India, is best as a relaxingly rapid GT rather than supercar where – heavy clutch and ZF-gearbox shift excepted – the AM’s comfy, traditional cockpit and quite decent 2+2 lodgings make the going easy… except on the credit card. You’d be lucky to see much more than 18mpg even by driving gently or more likely 12mpg if the engine – six or V8, there’s little difference – is past its best or you want to have some fun. There’s a 21 gallon to fi ll up too and the unleaded doesn’t last long. As Autocar remarked in its 1971 test: “On the Continent, for example, one needs to look for a fi lling station about every two hours and it is very easy to run out of working cash in the right currency, most tankfuls costing at least £5! Those were the days…


The early six-cylinder DBS still lags behind V8s and later six-pot cars, with prices starting at around £20,000 for anything worth considering. You really need to spend at least £25,000 to get something half decent though, with good V8s now £30,000+. The newer the car, the more it’s worth; expect to pay at least £40,000 for an okay Volante with an equivalent Vantage weighing in at £35,000. These prices double, or even treble, for newer, nicer cars. The fi nal editions are now touching £125,000 so clearly the days of the cheap DBS are coming to an end. You still see cheap DBSsaround and while you may strike it lucky there’s more chance that it will prove to be a liability. DBSs are good value, so buy the best you can.


The front suspension was taken from the DB6, so it’s ancient but effective. It’s possible to fi t kits to alter the handling – consisting of stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars – but this is best done only if the car is going to be driven hard. If you’re looking at a DBS model and it bounces all over the road, it’s because the Armstrong Selectaride lever-arm dampers need to be rebuilt, which costs around £100 apiece. Many owners simply convert to Koni telescopic dampers, as fi tted to later V8s. Brakes can be upgraded (there is a complete AP kit available albeit costs over £3000), but just ensuring the standard set-up is working properly might make a big difference.

What To Look For

  • Rotten cars are very rare, with complete restorations are almost never needed. The key areas to check are the sills, as they’re crucial to the car’s strength and they’re the most rot-prone areas. Ideally you’ll be able to remove the stainless steel sill covers (held in place by self-tappers), looking for blistering of the metal underneath. Once corrosion gets into the sills, it spreads into the surrounding areas so check the fl oorpans closely, and especially the jacking points, bases of the A and B-posts and the outriggers below the front footwells.
  • The ends of the sills have a triangular section, and once these have rusted the whole sill (inner, outer and centre sections) will need replacing. It has been known for just the end sections to be renewed, so ask who has done any work. Also ask to see photos and receipts to prove what’s been done. The job isn’t diffi cult, but it is time consuming as the lower portion of the wings needs to be removed in the process.
  • Floorpans can rot badly; the massive boxsections at the front of the car mean it’s less likely you’ll fi nd rot here, but you must ensure there’s no evidence of damage from an impact. The back of the car is much more susceptible to corrosion, including the battery tray, the rear of the boot fl oor, rear chassis legs and radius arm mounting brackets.
  • Open the boot and make sure it’s not awash with rainwater; if the fuel fi ller drain holes have got blocked, the water can end up in the fuel tanks causing endless running problems.
  • Not Superlegga, the panelwork is all aluminium, but the frame over which it’s fitted is steel anyway. Because of the difference in expansion rates, the paint cracks around the seams and edges, to the degree that it’s normal to have to fettle the paintwork every dozen years or so. As a result you need to inspect the paint very closely, paying particular attention to areas around fi ttings such as the door handles, badges and windscreen surround.
  • Because the panels are hand-beaten alloy they’re very expensive to replace, so don’t expect to buy new ones off the shelf and just fi t them; each one has to be fettled to fi t properly. Having said that, it’s a lot easier to repair dents than you might think, so unless they’re badly mangled, items such as wings and door skins are often salvageable.
  • The doors consist of a steel frame over which alloy panels are attached. The steel often rots through, leading to an electrolytic reaction along the bottom edge. Other corrosion hot spots include the base of the windscreen pillars, thefl oorpans under the rear seats plus the door and wing bottoms. If a new windscreen seal has been fi tted, ask who did the work. If it’s been done by an amateur it may be that they’ve not sealed it properly; underneath the stainless steel trim there’s supposed to be plenty of DumDum to stop water leaking into the footwells.
  • If you’re looking at an early Volante, take a look at the metal around the fuel fi llers. These early cars weren’t supported well enough here, which is why later cars have a frame under the rear axle to make the shell more rigid. While you’re looking here, make sure no damage has been caused by the boot lid being opened with the fuel fi ller fl aps open at the same time. Also check the condition of the fuel fi ller fl ap hinges, which are corrosion-prone.
  • Still on Volantes, the top of the windscreen is a prone rot spot. On a test drive ensure that a roofl ess DBS don’t feel overly sloppy as it could point to severe chassis corrosion. As ever with any specialist car, drive as many as you can to get a reference point and use an expert to judge the car if in doubt.
  • As it’s a specilaist car there’s a mix and match of components and if you know what’s what you can save money by using non Aston parts. For example, the front indicator units on quad light models are Cortina Mk2 while the tail light clusters came from a Hillman Hunter.
  • Never underestimate the cost of body repairs on this Aston. The front panel can cost £7000 in parts alone and that’s about the same what it costs to rebuild rotted sills. Bumpers are about £1000 a pop so don’t treat the cosmetic on a DBS too lightly.
  • The famous six-cylinder engine is strong as long as it’s looked after properly – and there’s the rub. Neglected cars suffer from blown head gaskets through overheating, as well as major oil leaks (crankshaft rear main, usually). The overheating is often down to poor coolant circulation, usually because of serious corrosion of the cast-iron cylinder block, so be wary of cars that feature an electric cooling fan which tackles the symptom rather than the cause.
  • If looking at a six-cylinder DBS, look for strong oil pressure at 100psi at 4000rpm when hot. These engines are usually tough – good thing too as a proper rebuild can cost a staggering £27,500 says Aston experts RS Williams!
  • The six relies on replaceable iron liners which can become sludged up and lead to overheating. If the head has to come off for a gasket change, reckon on a big bill as the gasket set costs £200 with valves and guides £30 a pop.
  • The V8 will happily take 200,000 miles in its stride as long as it’s had proper regular maintenance and been allowed to warm up properly. A full rebuild can easily cost £12,000, with the top and bottom ends getting a thorough overhaul. If it’s only the bottom end that needs TLC, a partial renovation is usually £5000-7000.
  • To prolong the life of the V8 it’s essential to maintain a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze in the cooling system, as the block and heads are all alloy. The engine must also be warmed up properly; 2500rpm shouldn’t be exceeded until the oil is up to 50 degrees (there is an oil temperature gauge). As the sump’s capacity is 12 litres, it takes a while for the oil to get up to temperature. Oil changes every 3000 miles won’t have done any harm either, using a good classic oil such as Castrol GTX, Penrite, Millers etc.
  • If the engine runs badly, suffers low compression and uses oil, it’s because of sticking piston rings, worn valve guides or cylinder liner wear; the result of the engine having been revved hard when still cold. The top end won’t be affected, but a bottom end rebuild will be necessary – which is where that £5000+ bill comes in.
  • While expert assessment is always desirable with the engine (especially with things such as cylinder compression readings), there are some simple checks you can make. Ensure the oil pressure is at least 60psi at 3000rpm when hot (and at least 10psi at tickover), and see that the coolant temperature doesn’t exceed 90 degrees at all. If you can, check cylinder compressions; you’re looking for 150psi across the board.

Three Of A Kind

Bristol 411
Bristol 411
We could have chosen any V8-engined Bristol from the 407 of 1961 to the Britannia that ran until 1982; all of these ultra-rare hand-made leviathans are individual, fast, refi ned and thirsty. The 411 is reckoned to be the best of the V8-powered 400-series cars, thanks to its elegance and usability – as long as you take the 10mpg fuel consumption out of the equation. Good ones are £15k+.
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
Long awaited replacement for the DBS, the Virage employed a similar make up while the V8 now used 32-valve cylinder heads. It should have knocked spots off the earlier car but a combination of poor build and and too many Ford Scorpio interior parts mean that enthusiasts give this car the cold shoulder, like they did with the DBS. These are real bargains (sub 10K) and will no doubt rise in value, especially the later, improved Vantage models.
Jensen Interceptor
Jensen Interceptor
One of the biggest and best long-distance cruisers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Interceptor’s instantly recognisable styling – courtesy of Touring – is one of its most appealing features. Like the Bristol, power came from a Chrysler-supplied V8 that gives the Jensen terrifi c thirst, but it also makes it fast and relaxing to drive too. Expect to pay from £12,000 for a good one.


The DBS is still under-rated, although valuesare rising fast. However, it’s still easy to spend more on remedial work than a car is worth, which is why a pre-purchase inspection by an expert is essential. While these cars are tough, the bills can potentially be huge; you’ll easily recover the cost of an inspection if you look at a tatty car that’s been well disguised. It often makes sense to borrow some money to buy a better example than you could otherwise afford; even fairly small jobs can cost plenty, so you must buy the best example you possibly can. Get a good one and you’ll soon appreciate just how under-rated the DBS has been in recent years.

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