Adding the cowled headlights from the DB4 GT created a much sportier look for the DB5, which was justified by an upgrade to a 314 bhp Vantage engine and a five-speed ZF gearbox. The launch of the Aston Martin DB5 in 1963 was memorable for many reasons. Its arrival coincided with the departure of John Wyer."
It bore the mark of the masters who continued to work on the car - Tadek Marek in the choice of the 4 litre engine giving usable power right through the engine range and Harold Beach moving the company on from the David Brown four speed box with overdrive to the competent, if slightly noisy, ZF five speed. The 4 litre engine had three SU carburettors that helped deliver the smooth torque curve - the valve covers and the exhaust manifolds were stove enamelled and a small hydraulic damper at the front of the engine eliminated vertical shake. There was a larger air filter and later a Lucas alternator to cope with the increase in electrical gadgets.
More power meant that the old single place clutch was replaced with a 9 inch Borg & Beck diaphragm unit, significantly reducing the pedal pressure needed. 3 transmission alternatives can be found on DB5's - first fitment was a David Brown 4 speed box with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive. However, from chassis number 1340, a ZF 5 speed box was fitted. The unit had seen life in commercial vehicles and with Maserati but importantly for Aston Martin, it could cope with the torque of the new engine. A little noisy at idle, it also gave its share of clutch problems and the Borg & Beck clutch gave way to a Laycock single diaphragm unit. Perhaps reflecting Aston Martin's luxury image, the third transmission is the Borg-Warner automatic, which, although it had been fitted to the Lagonda, made its debut with Aston Martin on the DB5.Aston Martin also introduced the option of air conditioning.
There was already production experience from its fitment to the Lagonda Rapide, and for £320 extra, the Normalair system was offered on the DB5. Lack of space under the bonnet meant that the only place for the receiver and the evaporator was behind the rear seat. To accommodate this, the petrol tank was replaced with two wing mounted tanks in the manner of the DB4 convertible - this had the effect of reducing the capacity from 19 to 16 gallons of fuel. In spite of the fact that the DB5 was a direct derivative of the DB4, it cost £4,175 - a £670 premium over its predecessor. The price differential to the convertible was maintained with it being offered at £4,490. A total of 1,021 Aston Martin were built - 89 less than the number of DB4's but over a much reduced production run. Of those 1,021 cars, convertibles accounted for just 123 cars so it was a very low volume car. Even lower volume was one that derived from a personal request from David Brown when he had asked the factory to convert a DB5 Coupe into an estate car - the requirements were a capacity to accommodate his polo kit and a grilled rear compartment for his dogs.
Conceived as a one off, the conversion was completed by a few master craftsmen at Newport Pagnell by modifying the rear seating, adding a roof section and a rear door. That would have been the end of it if regular pubic appearances in the car by David Brown had not produced a number of enquiries from potential customers. Too complex and costly to tool up for at Aston Martin, the conversions were undertaken by coachbuilders, Harold Radford of London, who built a total of 12 examples. With John Wyer's departure. David Brown relinquished some of his duties and introduced two new faces at the top - Jack Thompson as joint managing director and Steve Heggie as his deputy. Steve had a keen sense of the value of promotion and publicity, and was instrumental in Aston Martin becoming the car of choice for James Bond.
Harry Saltzman's idea was that the car would, as far as possible, resemble a production car, but would have a host of extras that suited the lifestyle of Britain's newest, and ultimately most famous, secret agent. The car chosen for conversion was the prototype DB5 - actually the DB4 Series V Vantage that had been the London Motor Show car in 1963. Hydraulic overriders front and rear formed ramming devices while two "Browning" type machine guns fired from concealment behind the front side lights. The rear lamp clusters each had their own surprises - one spewed oil while the other fired out special triple headed nails. Triple headed also were the chariot type scythes that came from the rear wheels to catch the unwary pursuer. Other rear end gadgets included a "bullet proof" screen and smoke screens produced by canisters in the exhaust pipe.
To fool the enemy, the number plates rotated to show three different numbers from three different countries - BMT 216 A from the UK, LU 6789 from Switzerland and 4711-EA-62 from France. The very sporty racing mirrors on the front wings concealed radar scanners. The scanners fed a dash mounted screen - very much science fiction at the time and convincing dummies. Definitely not trickery was the Martin Baker ejector seat fitted from a fighter aircraft. In the film, the ejector seat operated from a concealed switch in the gear lever and the seat looked entirely normal. This required a little bit of cinematic trickery - the Martin Baker unit was huge, and required a rather offset removable roof panel to function for the film and was replaced in normal or promotional use.
The whole lot added 136 kilograms to the weight of the car and the overall cost of the project was £15,000. The premier of the film that the car was built for, Goldfinger, happened in Leicester Square, London on 17th September 1964 and the popularity of the film and the Aston Martin DB 5 was such that the film company ordered two duplicate cars - DB5/2008/R with the registration YRE 186H and DB5/2017/R registered as BMT 216A. The impact on Aston Martin was electrifying - the name was on everybody's lips and the company could have sold fifty cars a week, what a pity for the balance sheet that they could only produce eleven every seven days! There were models produced for the toy market, but the factory had just one more James Bond car to build and that was a miniature version of the DB5 convertible, full of 007 goodies, for the six year old Prince Andrew - a second miniature was reserved for Reza, son of the then Shah of Iran.
After its introduction in Goldfinger, Aston Martin became synonymous with James Bond, returning with Thunderball then in later films when Pierce Brosnan had replaced Sean Connery. As for the original car - after promotional tours, it returned to Newport Pagnell where all the gadgetry was stripped off the car, the DP216/1 dealer development chassis plate removed and the car was then returned to the production line where is was re-worked into a brand new DB5. Roger Stowers of Aston Martin recalled delivering the car to its first owner in Chislehurst in Kent. Subsequently rediscovered, the car was returned to its 007 specification and went on to be sold in the United States by Sothebys for $275,000 plus commission and taxes but was then stolen from its Florida base. Like that other missing thoroughbred, Shergar, it has been the basis for rumour and conjecture ever since - one unconfirmed report alleging that insurers for the car had paid out a massive $4 million on its loss. Whatever happens, it is unlikely that any product will achieve greater brand prominence from association with a film than Aston Martin enjoyed with James Bond.