Expensive and exclusive, with W.O. Bentley's twin-overhead-camshaft engine in a tubular chassis, the Aston Martin epitomized racing pedigree and class. Launched at the London Motor Show in October 1953, the Aston Martin DB2/4 gained its name from the addition of two occasional rear seats. Removal of cross bracing over the rear axle had allowed the space to fit the seats while a raised roofline gave rear passenger headroom.
A further departure from the DB2 saw a large rear screen and the introduction of a something car buyers are all too familiar with in the present day, a hatchback. For more luggage space, the fuel tank had been reduced from 19 to 17 gallons with the tank set lower and the spare wheel accommodated in a hinged carrier below the fuel tank. The dashboard was simplified with the speedometer and rev counter in the centre of the display while the pedals were moved forward two inches (50mm) to provide more interior space. So effective was this new design that one contemporary commentator termed the Aston Martin DB2/4, as the fastest shooting brake in the world.
The car was launched in both saloon and drophead form and whilst the drophead missed out on the hatchback, it shared other design changes with the saloon. A new one-piece windscreen changed the view from the inside and outside of the car while new bumpers with over riders protected the bodywork. Safety was also the rationale behind the newly raised headlamps. At launch, power came from the 2.6 litre twin overhead camshaft engine of the DB2 "Vantage" tune delivering 125 bhp an additional 50 kilos in the weight negating any potential performance advantage over the DB2 it replaced.
In mid 1954, this engine was uprated to a 2.9 litre (2922cc) format offering a power output of 140 bhp and a top speed of 120 mph. With Robert Eberan-Eberhorst designing the DB3, the Race Team was not interested in the DB2/4 for circuit racing but the Works Racing Department were commissioned to prepare 3 privately owned examples for the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally. Fitment of the newly developed DB 3 cylinder heads delivered an uprated 170 bhp and the honour of the marque was upheld when 3rd, 4th and 7th place finishes delivered the Team Prize to Aston Martin.
Records show that at least 73 Dropheads were built in a two-year production run that saw developments in vehicle production as well as changes in design. Chassis and engine production was based in Yorkshire while body production moved to Mulliners in Birmingham. As a result, Feltham moved to become a point of final assembly as well as the focus of some of the industrial disputes. Whilst not proven, it is thought that one consequence of these new arrangements was an early glitch in production leading to there being more engine/chassis than bodies - a number of these were supplied as rolling chassis to other coachbuilders delivering some masterpieces of automotive art. In 1954, Stanley Harold "Wacky" Arnolt, an American industrialist commissioned Italian coachbuilder Bertone to produce a Spyder on a DB2/4 chassis.
A total of 8 rolling chassis were delivered to Bertone who produced dropheads, fixed head coupes and Spyders. Some of these wonderful developments of the Aston Martin DB2/4 survive today, others, like chassis 810 a specially commissioned Disco Volante, based on the Alfa Romeo of the same name, have been "lost", something that will always enliven a market place with debates over the provenance of "finds". Aston Martin now progressed in two ways - the Works Racing Department had advanced with the DB3 concurrent with the development of the DB2 and the DB2/4 that Robert Eberan-Eberhorst development continued with the DB2/4 Mark II.