An Aston Martin DBS requires careful buying - let CCFS be your guide...
Settling into the cabin of a DBS makes you appreciate the bespoke nature of an Aston Martin. It’s very wide, a lucky accident of the car’s design originally being created as the four-door luxury Lagonda saloon, the DBS being shortened but not narrowed to create a coupé body shape. Individual stitches in the dashboard covering, seats and soft furnishings are a reminder that here is a car created without the uniformity of mass production. The Tadek Marek-designed six-pot burbles into life, yet needs warming thoroughly before you can drive the car. An Aston isn’t a car to thrash from cold.
Cars of this era, size and power that run on wire wheels are unusual, yet those wires also add a vintage aura to the car. Brakes and steering combine to allow sufficient control for cruising, but the car’s happiest gait, which is over the legal maximum, is helped by the over-riding weight, at which pace the dampers soften slightly and give astonishing ride comfort. True, the de Dion rear axle can be upset by poor road surfaces and the all-round discs can feel wooden, but are easily cured. Get out and drive it!
Aston Martin DBS
Power (bhp@rpm) 282bhp@5750rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 290lb ft@ 4500rpm
Top speed 140mph
Gearbox 5-spd manual/3-spd auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Wire wheels fitted to DBS Astons are close to the combination of weight and performance they can bear. Check for broken spokes and spline wear as on any wire-wheeled car. Original wheels may have already been replaced, but avoid cheap new-looking replacements. Assure yourself they are up to the car’s weight and performance specification, or budget for a conversion to DBS V8 alloys or upgrade to a premium make of current, new wheels from an established maker such as Borrani.
Examine the extensive glazing for traces of delamination on the windscreen. Check rubbers for traces of overspray. Paint repairs are often harder to detect on higher-end, bigger margin cars, especially when values are accelerating. Yet fresh paint may only be disguising deeper problems not adequately repaired.
Check for accident damage and panel misalignment. The front cradle carries engine, front suspension and steering along with the bodywork extremities. The weight of the car means the rear should also be checked for details showing crash damage.
The rear wheelarches are often where the first traces of corrosion can be seen, so check for recent work to cover dodgy arches.
Check the chassis and bodywork minutely for corrosion. Examine for rot in the sills, pedal box and rear suspension mounts. Look for signs of electrolytic corrosion between steel components and alloy skinning over the whole car inside and out.
Blocked drain holes can lead to damage within doors, sunroofs and boot area. Also check for corrosion inside the fuel filler doors. Corroded cars are, as a general rule, best avoided – buy the best car your budget allows.
Straight-six engines should have colossal oil pressure. You should see approaching 100psi on the gauge at 3000rpm. The units have a reputation for overheating and, as an alloy motor with iron liners, can be prone to sludging, especially around the rear three cylinders. This is owing to a slack spot in the water circulation. Coolant should be fresh and clear, with adequate antifreeze to protect the block from internal corrosion and sludge build-up.
If you are looking at a car with a re-built motor, check the invoices to see if the liners have been lifted for any cleaning.
Beware cars described as ‘needing a tune-up’. If an owner has not had the wherewithal to keep it in tune, then he’s probably skimped elsewhere, or alternatively, there is something much more major wrong with the engine than a mere tune-up could fix. Engine oil should be fairly fresh, with no carbon build-up internally.
Chrysler Torqueflite three-speed auto gearboxes can be simple and moderately cheap to repair, but they don’t like long periods of inactivity as the brake bands can delaminate from the backings when condensation forms in the gearbox from short runs. The dog-leg ZF five-speeder can be noisy in use, though seldom fails, as it is extremely strong.
And finally be aware that clutch wear can be high, so consider that when looking over the car.
A known DBS weak-spot concerns the differential and its seals. The inboard rear brakes can cause localised hot-running, which thins the diff oil and can cause leaks. The seals also degrade with the proximity of the brake heat, compounding the problem. Leaking differential seals can be prohibitively expensive to repair, and running with low oil levels can shorten final drive life drastically.
Interior trim generally wears well, and is made from good quality materials. However, beware re-trims which are not as well made as the original. Repairs are simple, though costly. Electrics, instrumentation and switchgear are simple, although electric windows may be slow or sticky in operation.
For too long, the DBS has been an unloved, formerly glamourous car hijacked by the newer, twinklier, and more coverage-worthy V8 in all its iterations of be-spoilered, high performance furore. And as the oldest car from that era of Astons, it has lagged in value and been seen as a curio by restorers and classic fans alike.
Only now is the car getting the recognition it deserves as the sire of a new generation of Astons for the 1970s and beyond. And for that reason, good DBSs should be prized beyond compare for their design purism and relative affordability. Yet buyers beware. A DBS will cost as much to restore as a DB6, practically to the penny, yet be worth a fraction when complete. So next time you see a beautiful DBS on the road, remember, it’s only the truly heroic DB fan who will be running one.
William Towns’ wonderful shape for the DBS captured the late 1960s enchantment with clean crisp lines and an intelligent-looking update to the Aston grille design incorporating quad-lamps. It was a radical departure compared to the curvy shape of the earlier DB6, and instantly made the older cars look out of date. The 1967 introduction of the DBS was hailed for its de Dion rear suspension, a departure from the DB6, but the additional heft of this larger car quashed performance, so the straight-six DBSs are more leisurely performers than forebears that are fitted with similar spec motors. As a classic, this is less of a problem, as you’re not buying into the latest performance motor car, but accessing what the marque stands for.
Prices are strengthening and, should you want one, now is the time to buy a captivating GT with full-sized seats giving touring capability for four. And doesn’t the shape look pure? The suave good looks of the 1960s lived for a long time as the updated V8, yet the earlier car is still the purest. Buy right and it might still reward with appreciating value, too.