1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT
- 1960 Tour de France Automobile competitor, the only DB4 GT to enter the gruelling event
- 1962 Mont Ventoux Hill climb competitor
- A well-known DB4 GT with period competition history
- Matching Numbers, The fastest production car of its day
- One of only 28 LHD Aston Martin DB4 GT’s built, Unique colour combination Aston Martin DB4 GT
The Aston Martin DB4 GT
Aston Martin had already been working on the DB4 GT concept for some six to eight months prior to the September 1958 release of the standard DB4. With John Wyer believing the sports-prototype racing cars were becoming too fast and too disconnected from the production cars manufacturers were offering, he set about making a competition variant of the DB4.
The DB4 GT featured a shorter chassis than the standard DB4, with the wheelbase reduced by five inches. This reduction in length occurred just behind the front seats, resulting in shorter doors and roof and new window glass. The rear bulkhead was also moved, resulting in a near identical amount of space behind the front seats as a standard car. This space was particularly useful for luggage, as the boot was almost entirely filled by the competition-specification, 30-gallon fuel tank and spare wheel. This large fuel tank was placed in the boot to balance the weight of the engine at the front and improve handling, with Monza competition fuel fillers fitted atop each rear wing.
The most noticeable external difference between the DB4 and DB4 GT was the headlights, as the GT’s were set back under sloping Perspex covers — a more aerodynamic solution that is credited to Bert Thickpenny and would later become adopted by the DB4 Vantage, DB5 and DB6 series.
Overall, the GT was a more aggressive-looking machine, befitting of a competition car.
The GT was noticeably lighter than the standard DB4, with Aston’s engineers removing 185lb, leading to an impressive power-to-weight ratio. The GT was built from thinner, lighter, 18swg magnesium-alloy body panels and fitted with Perspex side windows and rear screen. The doors had aluminium frames, the front seats were considerably lighter than the standard car and the rear seats were replaced with a luggage shelf, which all made a difference in weight savings. The GTs were also fitted with Borrani wire wheels that had alloy rims and three-eared spinners.
The 3.7-litre engine was also heavily revised, with the main improvement being a twin-spark-plug cylinder head that was fed by three twin-barrel Weber 45 DCOE carburettors. The compression ratio was also increased to 9.0:1, due to larger inlet and exhaust valves and improved camshafts. These improvements resulted in a significantly increased power output of 302 bhp at 6,000 rpm and a top speed in excess of 150 mph. The gearbox was a close-ratio, four-speed, all-synchromesh David Brown unit.
This Aston Martin DB4 GT
The Aston Martin DB4 GT offered here, chassis DB4/GT/0120/L, was invoiced to French Aston Martin agent Garage Mirabeau on 11 August 1960, with the guarantee being issued to the first owner, Mr René Bourrely, a day later. A resident of Nimes in southern France, René bought the car with his brother, Robert, who was an accomplished racer himself, having competed regularly with a Gordini since 1953, even entering the Tour de France Automobile a total of six times!
This DB4 GT is one of only three DB4 GTs originally finished in Elusive Blue and, of those three, it is the only to be fitted with a Connolly Blue Grey leather interior — a unique colour combination for a DB4 GT. The car was fitted with engine number 370/0120/GT and gearbox number S.432/3/546, both of which are still in the car today. A rear axle ratio of 3.54:1 with a power-lock differential was chosen, along with a Smiths speedometer and Avon Turbospeed tyres. On 26 August 1960, this car was registered with French license plate ‘200 FB 30’.
As one of the earliest DB4 GTs, this car has several special features, starting with the absence of a number plate plinth on the front bumper, which, as a consequence, means there are two scoops to direct air to the brakes and two further intakes for the oil cooler.
1960 Tour de France Automobile
Proud new owners of their DB4 GT, the Bourrely brothers entered the car in the world’s most famous rally, the Tour de France Automobile, which, in 1960, was held over 5,075km and comprised of seven speed tests and seven races, including Le Mans, Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. The ultimate test of man and machine. René and Robert had previously competed together at this event in 1959 with another Aston Martin, a DB MKIII.
The Bourrely brothers were assigned race number 167, with the event starting in Nice on 15 September and due to finish in Biarritz eight days later. Within the Grand Tourisme class were 48 crews, including 10 Ferrari 250 SWBs, one 250 LWB and one 250 Interim! This Aston Martin was the only DB4 GT to ever enter the Tour de France Automobile — something Aston Martin even noted on the car’s build records, a copy of which is included in the history file.
The event was tough, but the Bourrely brothers and this DB4 GT made a great start. The first speed event was the ascent of the Braus Pass, a 7.1km climb in which the Aston finished 14th. The weather was terrible, with persistent heavy rain pouring down as the crews passed through the Col du Turini on their way to the timed climb up Mont Ventoux. The weather worsened, with thunderstorms rumbling through the skies, but the Bourrely brothers displayed great skill and finished a strong 3rd. On this stage, the only cars capable of matching the Aston’s performance were the two Ecurie Francorchamps-entered Ferrari 250 GT SWBs driven by Willy Mairesse and Olivier Gendebien.
The next stage was a 14km hill climb along the Rousset Pass. Once again, the Aston Martin performed well, finishing 9th. The rain was now wearing the crews down and rendering windscreen wipers useless, with some teams even cutting holes in the floor of their cars to let the rain water out! The next event was at the Nürburgring, after a non-stop 1,000km road section.
The fearsome Nürburgring played host to an hour-long race, held in dry conditions, with the Aston Martin finishing a strong 12th — don’t forget, there were more than 110 crews who took to the start ramp in Nice! The Aston Martin was proving itself to be a worthy competitor in the more established field. With many crews failing to finish the Nürburgring test, the remaining competitors were pleased when everyone completed the next challenge at the fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, which saw this DB4 GT finish in 6th, over 3km in front of the Ferrari 250 LWB Interim of Edgar Berney and Jean Gretener.
The next race was held at the Linas-Montlhéry circuit, just outside Paris, with the competitors’ road section passing through Boulogne-sur-Mer and Dieppe before the 90-minute event. The Bourrely brothers continued to impress with this DB4 GT, finishing 7th, which was followed by an 11th-place finish in the following race at the Circuit de Rouen-Les Essarts. At the famous Circuit Du Mans, this Aston Martin’s impressive competition debut would end with a blown head gasket, one of four cars to retire in this stage with the same problem. The 1960 Tour de France Automobile had shown the tremendous potential the Aston Martin DB4 GT had, as it regularly beat the Works-supported Ferrari 250 GT SWBs throughout the race.
1962 Mont Ventoux
As well as noting the 1960 Tour de France Automobile entry on the build records, Aston Martin also noted the issue: “No.1 Piston burned, cylinder head gasket blown due to cylinder head nuts not being tightened and cylinder head face distorted. .030; two exhaust seats found loose; cylinder head reconditioned and engine rebuilt by Garage Mirabeau at owner’s expense”. Later in October 1960, it’s also noted that the car received a new fuel tank and engine mounts, with mileage noted as 7,690km. Clearly the Bourrely brothers were enjoying ownership of their new DB4 GT, and in June 1962, they entered the famous Mont Ventoux Hill Climb, finishing 18th in class and 32nd overall, reaching the top in a time of 14 minutes 30.8 seconds.
For many years, the Bourrely brothers maintained ownership of the car, with it rarely being seen in public, before selling it to Bertrand Brun in July 1967. A copy of Mr Brun’s title it contained within the cars extensive history file. A year later, the car was photographed near Montpellier, France, displaying its new license of ‘550 MS 63’, again, a copy of the image accompanies the car.
In January 1986, the DB4 GT was sold to Guy Constans, as noted on the Aston Martin build records. A resident of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest Paris, Constants re-registered the car with the license plate ‘2120 RV 78’.
The fourth owner, Robert Sarrailh, also a resident of Paris, bought the car in May 1997 and, in 2001, allowed three-time Formula One World Champion Sir Jack Brabham and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Roy Salvadori to drive the car in the Tour Auto.
In 2009, the car moved to its fifth owner, Jean-Pierre Slavic, who quickly embarked upon a thorough and complete restoration, which included engine, gearbox, rear axle and brake system rebuilds. The bodywork was also stripped and repainted in the original and elegant Elusive Blue.
In 2013, having moved into the ownership of a Belgian collector, UK-based Aston Martin specialist RS Williams was entrusted to retrim the driver and passenger seats and refurbish the wheels. The original seat leather was preserved and still accompanies the car.
The car is now UK-registered, having recently been serviced and MOT’d by RS Williams, and is presented as it was at the start of the 1960 Tour de France Automobile — finished in its unique DB4 GT colour combination, fitted with its original engine and gearbox and accompanied by an impressive history file.
Thanks to this actual car being the sole DB4 GT to have contested the original Tour de France, all Aston Martin DB4 GTs are eligible for the world’s most famous rally, now known as Tour Auto. The DB4 GT is almost unmatched for its blend of performance and usability, and as such, it’s eligible at competition events around the world, including the Goodwood Revival, Colorado Grand and Le Mans Classic, and would be a welcomed entrant at many concours d’elegance, including Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach.
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