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by Mike Duff

So if you found a DeLorean with a working Flux Capacitor, when would you set the time circuits for?

You could head 20 years into the future to see if the post apocalypse had brought us Barter Town and a warrior caste in Falcon XB coupes. You could return to 1978 and warn Colin Chapman of the ill-advisability of saying yes to John DeLorean, at risk of triggering a paradox that would see your means of escape disappear into a time vortex.

Speaking personally, I reckon I’d dial up 1958 or thereabouts, making sure to pack enough dollars to fund a career as a gentleman racer.

The sports cars of this era weren’t the quickest, but that was part of their appeal to well-nourished amateurs.

The best drivers were still the quickest – Stirling Moss gave the DB4 GT its first victory in its maiden race, the International Trophy at Silverstone in 1959 – but amateurs still made up most of any field.

Ask yourself: did a finer-looking car ever go racing?

Although it looks almost exactly the same, this isn’t one of those early DB4 GTs. Rather it’s the first of Aston’s Continuation models, a run of 25 all-new, all-old versions that are being built by the company’s in-house Works restoration division.

The official justification being that this represents the difference between the 75 that were built in period, and the 100 that were officially required to homologate the car to go racing.

All have been sold, despite a price tag of £1.5m before taxes, with Works’ commercial director Paul Spires confirming that two of the buyers are in Australia.

Both are lucky guys. And thanks to the strange ways of the classic sports car market, both have bagged unlikely bargains.

Original DB4 GTs have been going for at least double what Aston is charging, with the ultra-rare Lightweight version – the one copied by the Continuation – carrying a substantially higher price tag.

According to Spires, values of period cars have actually increased since Aston announced the run of new ones. So much for the immutable laws of supply and demand.

There are no old or donor parts. Every bit of the GT is new, including both the steel chassis underneath the hand-beaten aluminium bodywork and a freshly cast engine.

Substantive changes are limited to those that would have been made to an original DB4 built to compete in historic motorsport, meaning that the prototype I got to drive had a modern rollcage, race-grade bucket seats, a six-point harness and both fire-extinguisher and battery cut-off systems.

But although it’s been made in the same way as it predecessors, and with some of the same suppliers – Italian wheel maker Borrani dusted off its design drawings to make the 16-inch wire rims – it has also been made better.

Spires says that tolerances have been improved dramatically, as apparently all of the original cars were built with a slight kink to their chassis – likely due to being produced in one of David Brown’s tractor factories.

Panel gaps are tighter and the paint finish is to a far higher standard. Assembly, trim and painting have taken an estimated 4500 hours per car.

So there’s a fair amount of pressure to return the prototype from my brief drive without any extra patina. I really don’t want to be known as The Man Who Crashed The Seven-Figure Aston.

There’s also the small matter of it having already been sold to an American buyer who is expecting to take delivery just a few weeks after my turn.

Appropriately enough, this takes place at Silverstone, the same track on which Sir Stirling gave the car its race debut nearly six decades ago. But doing this in January means the depths of the English winter, with air temperature a bracing six degrees and the circuit surface cold and greasy.

Apparently, Aston has made the first track booking of the year. At least it’s not actually raining.

The view from the driver’s seat is pretty much worth the price of admission – 1950s sports car racers didn’t expect their cars to be short of instrumentation, and most of the DB4’s dashboard seems to be given over to chrome-bezelled dials. All of which, except the rev counter and its 6000rpm redline, are destined to be ignored for my brief stint.

In the GT, there are more important things to worry about. Fundamentally, not bending it.

The track surface feels to have barely more grip than a skidpan, and deploying anything like the engine’s peak 254kW turns out to be a challenge on the period-skinny Dunlop tyres.

The big straight-six engine is tractable and happy to grumble along. It sounds great, rasping through triple carburettors and with minimal exhaust baffling, but attempts to explore the lower reaches of the throttle pedal get the back end squirming, even on the longer straights of the National Circuit.

Corners are more of an adventure.

Turning into the slow right-hander at Becketts at a very cautious pace sees the front end slither into undignified understeer. Backing off and slowing further brings it back into line, but then a gentle throttle application sends the back end breaking for freedom.

I try harder to be gentle and discover that – despite the lack of adhesion – the DB4 is a fundamentally friendly beast.

The steering is direct and talkative, the brake pedal firm enough for the heel-and-toe downshifts necessary to smooth changes for the dog ring gearbox. Lacking synchromesh, it needs both a firm shift technique and for the engine and wheel speeds to be matched for a smooth shift.

Retardation is good as well, as the GT slows down with far less drama than it speeds up.

By the end of my brief stint, I’m starting to get the knack of the gearbox, and realise that the best way through corners is to go in slow and then accelerate to the edge of power oversteer.

Small wonder so many pictures of the race cars of this period show them in four-wheel drifts…

Aston is offering Continuation buyers both the chance to take part in exclusive track days with fellow owners, but also to have specialist tuition to help them with the techniques necessary to get the best from them. Probably a good idea given how different it is to drive from anything modern.

After too few laps, the GT is returned in one piece and I’m back in the real world.

Is it a real DB4? Undoubtedly yes, although the market will likely never treat it as being anything other than a modern recreation. But it’s also a car that buyers are more likely to use properly – a car to be driven and raced in the historic championships that will allow such clones to enter.

It’s definitely given Aston an appetite to consider similar projects in the future.

“Having put together such an exceptional team, and created such an exceptional car, it would be a shame if they weren’t allowed to do something else,” Spires says, with a twinkle in his eye.

Begging the question: what would you like to see brought back next?

Click on the Photos tab for more images of the Aston Martin DB4 Continuation by Dean Smith.

MORE: Everything Aston Martin






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