25 British cars to drive before you die: 6) Aston Martin DB5, CAR+ September 2015

Published: 10 August 2015

► Aston Martin DB5 at #6 on our list
► The quintessential Aston
► James Bond’s choice. Gavin Green’s too 

There has never been a more beautiful or elegant Aston Martin, and at the wheel of a DB5 you’re always conscious of that. Styled by Touring of Milan – which also designed some of the best-looking early Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis – this was the work of Italy’s carrozzerie during their golden age, the ‘60s. Based on the DB4, the DB5 was a longer and more graceful beast – Italian grace matched to a purposeful British stance.Power to spare

It’s hard to beat a tuneful twin-cam straight-six for smooth and gutsy performance, and at the time the UK made some of the best examples of the breed (including the contemporary E-type’s equally seductive XK motor). The DB5’s 4.0-litre unit produced 325bhp in its top Vantage guise, making it one of the world’s most powerful engines at the time, and more powerful than its iconic contemporary, the V12 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Bespoke, special

Climb in and the smell inside a DB5 is priceless, the detailing gorgeous, as befits an interior trimmed entirely by hand. In fact, the whole car was handmade, one reason why it cost twice as much as its contemporary (and more mass-produced rival) the Jaguar E-type. Cars were constructed by hand-forming gorgeous alloy body panels over a hand-welded tubular chassis. Each engine was also assembled by a single dedicated engine builder.

Time spares no-one and, driven today, the DB5 does feel  a mite sluggish (and not particularly sharp when flung around corners, either). But at the time, this was one of the world’s fastest cars – that’s progress for you… The ‘normal’ DB5 maxed at over 140mph; the Vantage was good for more than 150mph.

With style and speed, it’s little wonder James Bond chose a DB5 (first used in Goldfinger). It soon became the world’s most famous movie star car, and reappeared recently in Skyfall. It was also a favourite of numerous ’60s style icons, from Mick Jagger to George Harrison. Feelgood cars come no more potent than this.

Aston Martin DB5: the specs

Produced: 1963-1965
Price at launch: £4175
Value now: £600,000
Engine: 3995cc in-line six, 282bhp, 280lb ft
Performance: 7.1sec 0-60mph, 142mph

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience