My All-Time Favorite: the Aston Martin DB5

By Harry Newton

By the time this appears in British Motoring, the Car of the Century will have been named, selected by a panel of experts from all around the world. It is embarrassing to admit I was not among the top 132 journalists who devoted part of the last three years to making the selection. Some of the nominees were, to be charitable, inane. My prediction is that the final choice will be from one of the following trio: Ford Model T, VW Beetle or Austin/Morris Mini.

The Mini would get my nod, but not because of any Anglophile bias. My rationale is that 80% of today’s automobiles are front-wheel drive, have transverse-mounted engines and are examples of superior space-utilization, and that means the Mini had a greater influence on the worldwide industry than have the other finalists. Since 1960, Mini emulators have accounted for more passenger cars than the mere 50 million combined units represented by the VW and Ford Model T. The Toyota Corolla, a car that in my opinion is without merit, was being bruited about as another possible winner. No matter what car is named as the winner, please, oh please, don’t let it be the Dodge Viper. But fair warning—some journalist/panelist did nominate that caricature for the honor.

So, how does the above relate to my choice of the Aston Martin DB5 as my lifetime personal favorite? Docs it mean that I would have voted for this or any other Aston Martin as CoC? First off, favorite is not synonymous with most important. The former is totally subjective, while the latter at least has the connotation of objectivity. And, in defense of the nominees, I did own a Beetle-based Karmann Chia back in 1958, and several Minis have put smiles on my face over the years. Not only was the DB5 a car that pleased me aesthetically, economically and, most definitely, performance-wise, the circumstance of its having found its way to my garage also was one of my more pleasant memories from a half-century in the automobile business.

I was employed as a salesman by Inskip in late 1963, and was promoted to retail sales manger in January, just in time to manage our presence at the 1964 New York Auto Show (Rolls Royce/Bentley, Aston Martin, BMC, and Iso-Rivolta). After the show ended, company president George Jessop rewarded my efforts with a one-week, all expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico. My wife Betty and I had a wonderful time.

By the time of the 1965 auto show, Gus Ehrman had replaced George as company president. Rather than set my sales objective just a bit higher than that of the prior year ($50,000), Gus quintupled it…and that was when a new SC III listed at $20,000, an Aston Martin cost $13,000 and an Austin Healey went for around $3,400. At the black-tie Champagne preview, Ned Herzog, of Lazard Freres, purchased a couple of Rolls Royces, an Aston Martin shooting brake and a Princess 1100, a sort of glorified MG 1100. Then, Farnum Spicer and Bob Akin ordered matching BRG DB5 Vantage coupes…and so it went for the entire 10 days of the show. This time the prize was no one-week trip to the beaches and casinos of Puerto Rico, but three weeks in England, where we would visit those appropriate factories and do some touristy stuff, as time allowed.

For our ground transportation, I ordered a Fiesta red DB5, trimmed in red-piped black leather. Options included three-ear hubs, headrests and fog lights, plus air conditioning, fender-mirrors and a good AM/FM radio. The car was completed in April and Steve Heggie, Aston Martin managing director, personally ran it in for 2,000 miles before our arrival in early June.

This was our first trip to England, and, after a night at the Dorchester, we drove to Newport Pagnell with the Spicers, who had ordered their DB5 for factory delivery, as had we. I admit getting a kick out of being on hand for the delivery of a car that had been ordered months earlier at the New York show. Our British registration tags were consecutive, DGY 172C and DGY 173C. After a quick tour of the factory, we went our separate ways.

During the coming days, we revisited Newport Pagnell, staying at the Swan Revived and enjoying happy hour down the lane at the Canon Bar with Fred Hartley, Roy Bamford and other AM/L staffers. We also went to Abingdon, where we had lunch with John Thornley and the MG management. Rolls Royce hosted several lunches in London and we were kept busy most of the time. Our evenings were divided between elegant dinners, nightclubs, private gambling clubs and the theatre…sometimes all in the same evening.

One night, we dined with the Heggies at the Green Man Inn near Silverstone, where four bottles of wine seemed just enough for the four of us. To our dismay, when we returned to the Swan Revived, we found the hotel as impregnable as Fort Knox and were obliged to settle down for the night in the DB5 in the adjacent car park.

Of all our wonderful experiences, Le Mans had to be the best. We drove to Dover, survived a rough crossing to Boulogne and motored briskly indeed to Paris, where we booked a modest hotel room and sampled the local cuisine. Early the next morning, we visited the local Aston Martin dealer, Garage Mirabeau, where we picked up some powerful credentials that Roy Bamford had been able to organize for us. Driving in France was even better than in England, and I greatly enjoyed dicing with a Porsche all the way down from Paris to Le Mans. For the race, our vantage was a lavish hospitality booth directly above the Shelby Cobra working pits…where caviar and champagne were on tap throughout the 24 hours. Following the race, we spent a couple days driving to Calais via Fougere, Mt. Saint Michel, Deauville and St. Valery sur Somme, growing ever fonder of Normandy along the way. An al fresco lunch of moules marinieres at a beachfront bistro at Cabourg remains one of my most memorable dining experiences.

Be assured that the Aston Martin DB5, with its Tadek Marek DOHC six, its five-speed gearbox, Connolly leather scats and flawless aluminum coachwork was an incredible machine. But, in all honesty, had we spent that fabulous month with an MGB, Morris Minor or Trabant, then that car might now be my all-time-favorite.

'My All-Time Favorite: the Aston Martin DB5' has 1 comment

  1. February 15, 2017 @ 2:41 am Maxime Hubrecht



    I fond in Belgium the Aston DGY173C from this publication. Can i have contact with Harry Newton for talking about the DB5?


    Maxime +32477959626


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