Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE 1959 ASTON MARTIN DB-4 could well have been 007’s first car, though it wasn’t. His Bentley 4 1/2 Litre (first appearing in the Casino Royale novel, 1953) was “almost new in 1933…one of the last 4 1/2-Litre Bentleys with supercharger by Amherst Villiers.” Other 007 cars appeared in print and film before the soon-to-be-famous Aston Martin DB-5 introduced in 1963 and appearing in the Goldfinger movie, 1964. By the way, in the 1959 Goldfinger novel, Bond drove an Aston Martin DB Mark III (a precursor to this R&T test car).

This and other images from R&T, May 1959.

In any case, it seems that 007 had no influence in R&T’s cover feature/road test of the 1959 Aston Martin DB-4. Instead, the magazine got another Englishman of note, race driver Roy Salvadori, to compose the test.   

“The lines are unmistakably Italian (it was styled by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan), yet it is unmistakably an Aston Martin.”

Bylined R&T Road Tests. For many years, R&T road tests were purposely anonymously authored; this, reflecting staff consensus. Occasionally, a test performed overseas would carry a local byline. 

Roy Salvadori, 1922-2012, British race driver and team manager, competing in Formula 1 1952-1962. Image of Salvadori at Sebring, 1958, by C5813—own work from Wikipedia.

Roy Salvadori was destined to co-drive with Carroll Shelby to win the 1959 Le Mans in an Aston Martin DBR1/300. Coming in second was another Aston, this one driven by Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frère (in time, R&T European Editor and friend).

Assessing the DB-4. “Thanks to a very low door sill,” Roy remarked, “the car is easy to get into, even with my long legs. Once inside, one is conscious of ‘completeness.’ The seats are luxurious, upholstered in leather, and give support where it is needed and allow a relaxed driving position, a vital factor in a car of this performance. At last a British manufacturer has seen fit to include as standard the Chapman Reutter seat mechanism, allowing finger-tip control for every possible angle to full reclining position.”

“The wood-rimmed wheel will sit in your lap or lend itself to a straight-armed Italian manner. The rear seats are comfortable for all but tall people on a long trip.” 

Roy continued, “At last I was ready to set out on my comparatively short test on busy English roads—not the best of conditions! After only a few miles I realized the DB-4 quite definitely had a dual personality. It is a very potent performer and a docile family car rolled into one.”

“The 6-cylinder engine, a direct development from the DBR-2 racing unit, has twin overhead camshafts and an aluminum-alloy crankcase and cylinder head.”

0 to 100 to 0. “I had read,” Roy said, “the publicity handout claiming acceleration to 100 mph and back to a stop again in 26.2 seconds, but just to convince myself I decided to have a go.”

“With a skeptical friend operating the stop watch and checking the speed with the speedometer (which was afterwards checked and found to be accurate),” Roy recounted, “I reached 100 mph and stopped dead again in 27.4 seconds.” 

“Fair enough, I thought,” he wrote, “but immediately repeated this performance in about the same time to see if there was the slightest indication of fade in the brakes, for they had to work really hard bringing this 2884-lb car to a halt. There was none, a truly magnificent performance.”

The Grandmother Metric. “Very high performance,” Roy concluded, “has been achieved without the noise generally associated with a sports car, and there is space and comfort superior to many family cars—even your grandmother would not object to riding in the DB-4!”

Or even David Brown’s grandmother, I daresay. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023


  1. Mike Scott
    February 20, 2023

    Though it was suggested Ian Fleming, whose favorite personal car a ’57 T-Bird, knew more about skiing, cuisine, and British naval bureaucracy than cars, his popcorn novels had some nice wheeled passages.
    The cinematic comic books, apparently aimed at 13-year-old boys, had not a single car from any of Fleming’s books.

    Oft wondered what the Aston Martin owner got unavailable from an XK Jag for a third the price, tho’ Sir William Lyons, i believe circa late ’60s, while still on the board of Jaguar, no doubt inducing exasperation in his fellows, remarked, “We could never get our XK quality up to Porsche levels.”

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