Aston Martin – The Essence, from DB2 to DB6 by Etienne Dricot
Today, it’s a different type of article you are about to read: we are talking about a book (two books in fact, yeap). It all started at Chantilly Elegance 2019. At this type of event, your mind is blown every seven seconds in average by the cars you meet there (we all remember the two gto’s in 2017). At some point, you want to get down to earth, so you go and visit the clubs, which are usually less spectacular in the display, but more friendly than the main event. And of course being who I am, I could not resist going to the Aston Martin club.
If you don’t know much about AM, you will maybe recognise some Vanquish, DB9, DB7, even DB5! Actually, if you know your Astons, you will also usually find a dark blue DB4 GT, how amazing? It was not long before I met Etienne Dricot, owner of a DB7 Vantage (and the problems that come with it), he was very warm and friendly from the start. We talked a bit about the DB7 and the variety of problems that can caracterise such a car (could take days to cover it), to end up discussing older Aston Martins on which he recently wrote a book. I love car books, and we had a great time disussing, so we met again and he generously gave us his book.
The Essence : the Holly Bible of the Aston Martin’s Brown era
Yes, the Holly Bible, I measure my words. In my life, especially younger, I read a lot of books about cars, and usually, there is always something you can’t really understand, or a picture that does not really illustrate the words, or even worse, false information. Well, The Essence is quite near perfection. It took Etienne ten years of work, met hundreds of cars, drove them, photographed them, from DB2 to DB6, he even admits he had to leave some cars out of the book (which features enough).
So it all started with the DB2, a.k.a. the washboard. You didn’t know its little nickname? I didn’t either. It was actually the very first version of the DB2, at that time it had a lateral air extractor topped with a grille that apparently looked like a washing board (sorry we only knew the washing machine). In short, this book starts with dozens of photos of each detail of each model. And when I say model, I don’t mean the type but the car that Etienne had the chance to photograph, giving us an unprecedented review of the slight differences between the cars that follow each other but are in fact all different. Thanks to him, we can admire cars in completely different conditions, ranging from the totaly restored car, to the cars forgotten in barns, through the nicely patinated and crazy charming cars. To give you an idea of the level of detail of Etienne Dricot’s research, there is a page dedicated and illustrated to the different mirrors offered to DB MarkIII customers. What other book presents this kind of detail?
Anyway, I personnally am more interested in the DB4 than in the other models: my father used to own one for twenty years, it’s sort of my “madeleine de Proust”. So let’s focus on the DB4, and frankly, it has always been in the DB5’s shadow, so maybe it’s time to learn a thing or two about it, right? Plus, you probably don’t know, but James Bond’s DB5 is actually a DB4, you will understand later in the article.
So what is a DB4 really? Well, it’s actually very close to a DB5, mostly recognisable by the uncovered headlights. In the book, you will learn everything there is to know about the DB4, and I am not exagerating. The book features dozens of examples of DB4, illustrated by amazing pictures (Bravo Etienne), with explanations about the history of each example. Of course, if you have interest in the DB4, you know how difficult it can be to differenciate the different series. Well, you will also learn every specific detail to each series, and at your next Retromobile, you will be able to impress everyone by instantly recognizing what is what (more useful th an it can sound).
Aston Martin – The Essence and the truth about James Bond car
One very interesting part in the book is about the Series V. The series V has a longer rear end than an earlier DB4, and often comes with covered headlights: so really, it is impossible to differentiate from a DB5. Well the book contains the few tips you can use to recognise a Series V, which I never read anywhere else. And yes, James Bond Goldfinger was presumbably shot with a DB4 series V (I even met an engine restorer that worked on the very DB4), the DB5 was not ready yet at the time the movie was shot. Don’t insist I won’t tell you how to differentiate them, you would have to buy the book.
After the DB4, you will find a part about the wonderful DB4 GT, with several examples featured: one of my favorite cars ever made. The GT was made to race, and ironically, in 1959 Carrol Shelby and Roy Salvadori won Lemans with a superb DBR1, only one prototype example of the DB4 GT (#DP199) ever raced at Lemans to break its engine at the third hour. Of course, many GT’s raced in other events, with some success, and even later, many cars were used as racing cars by gentlemen drivers. In the book, there is even a road test of the 1959 DB4 Saloon by Roy Salvadori, very interesting.
The DB5 part is also very interesting, the “James Bond car” is very well explained, showing great details such as the cabin controlled suspension setting (in 1963, take that Ferrari), the new 4 liters engine (and how to differenciate it from a DB4 engine), the new 5-speed ZF gearbox. It covers it all, again, illustrated by wonderful pictures.
The Essence is definitely my favourite car book
You all guessed by this point that I have a special affection for the AM brand, and I won’t deny it. And yes Felix, it’s much better than Jaguar, and No Nicolas, they are not all Fords with a nice badge. Don’t hate me for not talking about the other models, don’t worry, they are widely covered in the book, and you will learn everything about the DB2, 2/4, DB5, DB6, Short chassis: well every road going AM really.
Anyway, Aston Martin or not, it is objectively the best book I read about a brand, featuring amazing information, beautiful picutres, and an overall astonishing presentation (hehe goodluck translating that wordplay in French). If you have any interest in Aston Martin, or want to make a great gift to a Petrolhead, Aston Martin – The Essence is what you need.