|Aston Martin DP214|
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One year after the DB4's debut, Aston Martin launched the DB4 GT competition version. Designed to break Ferrari's GT-racing stronghold, the DB4 GT was built for both the works teams and privateers. Outwardly, subtle changes distinguished the the GT from the standard DB4. Under the Touring styled body various modifications were carried through that really turned the DB4 into a racer.
Weight reduction was one of the objectives in the GT's design. Most weight was saved by the wheelbase reduction of just over 12 cm. For the body construction the 'Superleggera' principle of body panels fixed on a tubular frame was used. The alloy panels of the DB4 were replaced by 18 gauge magnesium aluminium alloy panels on the GT. Most distinguishable features of the GT were the large air scoops and the cowled front lights.
The DB4 was the first road going Aston Martin to be equipped with the all-alloy 3670 cc straight six engine, designed by Tadek Marek. In stock form the engine produced a decent 240 bhp, sufficient for road use but not enough to face the competition on the track. Power was increased to a factory claimed 302 bhp by fitting a twin-plug head, 3 Weber Carburetors instead of the two SUs and twin distributors.
As mentioned before, the DB4 GT made its public debut at the London Motorshow of 1959, but earlier in the year the prototype made an impressive competition debut in the hands of Stirling Moss in the International Trophy meeting at Silverstone. Moss took the victory in its class from a mediocre field. In the remainder of the season the DB4 GT proved fast and on pace with the less powerful long wheel base (LWB) Ferrari 250 GTs. Ferrari, however, were already working on a more powerful and short wheel base (SWB) version of the 250 GT.
Production started in all earnest in 1960 and at the end of the year many DB4 GTs were raced by privateers in Great Britain with considerable success. Although it was intended as a competition car, quite a few of the 74 DB4 GTs constructed were used as road cars. Unfortunately, on mainland Europe the DB4 GT was outclassed by the considerably lighter Ferrari 250 GT SWB. At Le Mans in 1960, Aston Martin was humiliated with 250 GT SWBs taking the first five places in class.
Drastic measures were needed to bring the DB4 GT up to 250 GT pace. Aston Martin commissioned Italian coachbuilder Zagato to design and construct an even lighter body. Zagato had earned quite a reputation with their lightweight bodies, mostly fitted on competition Abarths and Alfa Romeos. Lighter and more powerful than ever, the DB4 GT Zagato was still not able to beat the Ferraris. The final DB4 GT constructed was fitted with a Bertone styled body and was shown at the 1961 Geneva and Turin Motorshows.
Reluctant to give up the fight with Ferrari, Aston Martin developed a new version of the DB4 GT to run under the new four litre prototype rules of 1962. Dubbed the DP212, this new car was the first of four 'project cars' produced by Aston. Compared to the regular DB4 GT the DP212 was considerably lighter by using a lot more aluminium for the chassis. More striking was the completely new body, which from the front resembled the Le Mans winning DBR1 and much later inspired the designers of the DB7 Vantage.
Closer inspection reveals that the DP212 is more than just a lighter and rebodied DB4 GT. The engine was bored out to just under the four litres maximum, and the compression was increased. At the test bench the revised engine was good for 345 bhp, but when fitted in the car 327 bhp proved to be a more realistic figure. At the rear the double wishbone suspension was replaced by a more exotic DeDion setup. The new car was ready just in time for the Le Mans 24 Hours, so there was little time to properly tes it.
At Le Mans it faced stiff competition from Ferrari, who had converted one of their 250 TR racers to comply with the new regulations, creating the 330 TRI/LM. Signed to drive the DP212 were the BRM Formula 1 works drivers Richie Ginther and Graham Hill. In the first few laps all the efforts seemed to have paid off, with the DP212 leading the field. Unfortunately time was lost with some small problems, and eventually the DP212 was forced to retire with a busted piston, which paved the way for another Ferrari victory. Apart from the technical issues, the DP212 only suffered from some lift at high speeds.
Encouraged by the pace displayed by the DP212 development continued and for 1963 three new cars were built. These can be broken up in two different specifications; the DP214 for the GT class and the sole DP215 for overall victories. In reality the two versions differed little with the exception of the slightly smaller engine in the DP214. Nevertheless the two DP214s were given DB4 GT chassis number to convince the authorities that they were really based on the production car. The two GT racers were fitted with a 3.7 litre version of the familiar straight six, which produced a hefty 317 bhp.
The racing debut of Aston's latest GT car came at Le Mans. Piloted by experienced drivers the two machines gradually worked their way up the field until both were forced to retire with piston failure. In the remainder of the season minor victories were scored at Monza and Monthlery. At the end of the season Aston Martin ended the program and both cars were sold to the Dawnay Racing Team. They entered the cars in various major races and again a minor victory was scored. One car was virtually destroyed in an accident at the Nürburgring and later scrapped.
The surviving chassis '0194' is featured above. Since its retirement from contemporary racing, it has always been owned by great enthusiasts who campaigned the rare beast in historic events. It is pictured at a recent outing during the 2008 Goodwood Revival Meeting.
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|Article||Image gallery (19)||Specifications|