Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire: Carroll Shelby did it first, Jaguar did it best (so far, anyway); now Aston Martin is about to jump on the “continuation” bandwagon with 25 brand new 1959 DB4 GT lightweight racers.
Granted, the DB4 GT was something special in 1959 - a shorter, lighter, strictly two-seater version of the production DB4, its magnificent Tadek Marek-designed 3.7-litre twin-cam, dual-spark straight six fitted with three twin-choke Weber 45DCOE9 carburetters and tweaked to deliver a genuine 225kW at 6000rpm and 366Nm at 5000rpm.
It had double-wishbone front suspension, a live rear axle with trailing arms and a Watts linkage, disc brakes all round, and it could hit 100km/h from a standing start in six seconds, with a top speed of 243km/h.
Only 75 were made between 1959 and 1963, of which just eight were built to lightweight racing specs, with no bumpers, very little trim and paper-thin aluminium body panels on a tubular-steel frame. They weighed just 1100kg but, surprisingly, most of them have survived, and are now worth more than R50 million each.
Which is probably why Aston Martin has announced that it’s going to build 25 new versions of those eight cars, for delivery from the third quarter of 2017, at an indicative price of £1.5 million (R26 million) each. Their VIN numbers will continue from the last of the original DB4 GTs – Chassis 0202R – and they’ll be built in the newly-refurbished Aston Martin Works department at Newport Pagnell, where the originals were made half a century ago.
But whereas the original bodies were entirely handmade, the continuations cars’ panels will be rolled on computer-controlled machinery and and hand-finished, which means that not only will they be more consistent from car to car, but it will also be possible to replace a damaged panel if necessary.
The new cars will have a race-tuned version of the original twin-cam engine for which Newport Pagnell is quoting 255kW, driving via a four-speed ‘box and limited-slip differential as per the original. They will however, have updated suspension, brakes and safety kit, carefully set up so the car still handles and feels like the originals.
And that’s the problem; while an original DB4 GT is covered by vintage regulations, allowing it to be driven on the road, the continuation cars will be legally classified as brand new vehicles, and their 1950s technology will never pass current safety and emissions regulations. You have more chance of flying to the moon than you do of registering one of them for the road.
So, faced with the prospect of building 25 lemons, Aston Martin has made lemonade, creating a two-year international track driving programme that will be held at some of the world’s finest circuits – including the spectacular Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
Aston Martin Works mechanics will fettle the cars and bring them to the circuit; all you have to bring is your helmet and gloves, to be time-warped for a few hours to the world of Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Driving instructors, up to and including multiple Le Mans class winner Darren Turner, will also be on hand to help you master driving technique from an era when motor racing was more a black art than a science.