The number is still magical. Cars with speedometer dials ending at 300 are still anything but commonplace today. Like the 300 on the speed indicators from Aston Martin D B4 GT and Ferrari 250 SWB 1960 must have affected little boys and big men who flattened their noses on the side windows of the two GTs not really imagine. They were a distant dream, as far away as a moon landing.
Two rare character GT
The chance to find a parked to encounter Aston Martin DB4 GT or Ferrari 250 SWB was 45 years ago, of course, no greater than today. The total production number of both models is a little over 260. Most of them have survived in one way or another to this day. Just like the two GTs on these pages, which are in the Dauphin family's vehicle collection, which has recently become publicly accessible.
The Ferrari 250 SWB welcomes its driver like an old friend. You feel in good hands in the narrow bucket seat, the large steering wheel with the thin wooden rim is perfectly positioned, and the slim spokes reveal the two large round instruments. Even clumsy feet can find the right pedals straight away, and the gearshift lever is only a few centimeters away from the right hand. But what really impresses the Ferrari 250 SWB is the sober tool atmosphere in the interior. It completely dispenses with useless details, has nothing essential and certainly nothing luxurious, although this specimen is a so-called Lusso variant with leather seats, crank windows and steel body. It's a racing car, a GT in the best sense of the word.
The delicate key of the Ferrari 250 SWB needs to be turned to the ignition position and then gently pressed. What happens then is as typical of Ferrari as the black horse and the red color: After a brief starter singing, all twelve cylinders seem to ignite at the same time, and the three-liter, loaded with extremely little flywheel, spins at a velvety 500 rpm idling. The starting ritual of the legendary Colombo twelve-cylinder alone takes care of itfor more goosebumps than 100 kilometers in any modern sports car.
The Ferrari virus is administered intravenously in the SWB
Today, of course, the performance of the Ferrari 250 SWB is no longer bothering anyone: In 1960, Motor Revue measured an acceleration from 0 to 100 km /h in 8.2 seconds and refrained from revving the not yet fully retracted engine over 7,000 rpm. At least that was enough in fourth gear for 233 km /h. A Ferrari 250 SWB turned into the red area reaches around 250 km /h.
But the way in which the Ferrari 250 SWB produces these values is unsurpassed to this day. The engine reacts like a seismograph: Every millimeter of pedal travel is acknowledged with lightning-fast revving, accompanied by the loud slurping of the Weber DCL double carburetors, loud valve chatter and bright trumpets from the exhaust tract, which turns into a high-pitched howl at speeds of over 5,000.
The gearshift loses its stiffness as the gearshift speed increases, the gear changes become smoother, and the clutch does not press against the left foot as tightly as is often rumored. All of this differs only in nuances from the driving experience in more mundane Ferraris, such as the more distant Ferrari 250 SWB descendants 330 or 412. Only in the Ferrari 250 SWB is it more intense, more direct, it goes through the blood faster. The Ferrari virus is administered intravenously in it, and subcutaneously in the newer models.
Only in homeopathic doses: Ferrari Short Wheel Base
What you can hardly describe is the smell of a warm Ferrari 250 SWB. It smells of hot oil, unburned gasoline, bearing grease and tire rubber. Should you happen to stand next to a cooling Ferrari 250 SWB, please kneel down next to the air outlet opening in the left fender and sniff. Then you will understand what is meant.
Only 165 lucky buyers were able to enjoy a brand new Ferrari 250 SWB. After all, the Berlinetta, with its wheelbase shortened to 2,400 millimeters, was to be reserved for those customers who wanted to drive their Ferrari on the racetrack. After all, this was a sizeable part of the Ferrari clientele. If you take into account that between 1960 and 1962 only about 350 cars left the factory in Maranello each year, about every tenth Ferrari was a Short Wheel Base Berlinetta.
Only 100 GT-Version Aston Martin DB4s were built
The same share of the Aston Martin The Aston Martin DB4 GT also had DB4 production: around 1,100 DB4s were built, there are exactly 100 Aston Martin DB4 GT versions, The number also includes the 19 Zagato, the four Le Mans prototypes and the jet car body by Bertone. Only one year after the start of production of the DB4, the decision was made inNewport-Pagnell to build a racing version of the street sports car. The start was promising: Stirling Moss won the first race of the prototype in the fall of 1959.
In contrast to Ferrari, where the Colombo engine for the Ferrari 250 SWB only had to be slightly modified, were the Tadek Marek designed the 3.7 liter six-cylinder of the Aston Martin DB4 GT, which required deeper interventions in order to achieve competitive performance values. The most obvious measure: The Aston Martin DB4 GT has dual ignition, with each of the two camshafts driving an ignition distributor. And instead of two SU carburettors in the Aston Martin DB4 GT, the mixture is prepared by three Weber twin carburettors. 302 hp according to British standards were the result. The more horsepower also had significantly less weight to accelerate. Thanks to thinner aluminum sheets, a shorter wheelbase and plexiglass panes, an Aston Martin DB4 GT weighs around 100 kilograms less than the street version.
Noble interior and sovereign engine in the Aston Martin
In any case, the engineers around Aston boss John Wyer had not skimped on the equipment. The racing Aston Martin DB4 GT is hardly less comfortably furnished than a normal DB. Expansive club armchairs, soft carpets and shiny chrome create little racing atmosphere. Of course, that changes when the filigree ignition key is turned and the twelve spark plugs ignite in the six combustion chambers. A dull six-cylinder bollern fills the interior, and the needles of the small round instruments twitch wildly.
The Aston-typical curved instrument panel with the small displays, the thin steering wheel and the chrome-plated buttons could come from the driver's cab of the legendary Mallard, the locomotive that set the current speed record for steam locomotives at 202 km /h on July 3, 1938.
Accordingly, the Aston Martin DB4 GT starts moving as soon as the short selector lever of the the non-standard ZF transmission has moved to position 1. The DB4 was only available with the old David Brown four-speed gearbox, the ZF five-speed box only got the DB5. Even if the shift maneuvers slide smoothly from the wrist than in the stubborn Ferrari, it is rarely necessary.
The Aston Martin is the more relaxed GT
The square-shaped straight six of the Aston Martin DB4 GT pulls out of the cellar like a cop. There is hardly any temptation to chase the engine over 5,000 revolutions. But first you have to get used to the unfamiliar seating position in the right-hand drive Aston Martin. The steeply standing steering wheel and pedals seem to be shifted slightly to the left, and the gearshift lever sits even further to the left, deep down on the transmission tunnel.
After the intimate confinement of the Ferrari cockpit, you feel cool in the Aston Martin DB4 GT and distant. It's easier to imagine traveling to Nice than in Le Mansto burn a fast qualifying round on the tarmac. Not that the DB4 is the slower car: In contemporary tests, the Brit accelerated a touch faster than the SWB. The Aston Martin DB4 GT is the less strenuous car. He calmly follows steering commands, does not act as nervous as the Ferrari and appears overall more suitable for everyday use and more binding than the 250 GT.
Neither of them had a long career. In 1962 the production of the Ferrari 250 SWB was stopped, in 1963 the Aston Martin DB4 GT came to an end. Aston Martin tried to keep up with the overwhelming Ferrari GTO with the prototypes DP 212, 214 and 215, but the days of the front-engined racing cars were numbered anyway.
Fortunately, after the comparison drive, you don't have to ask yourself which one GT one now gives preference. Together they represent a value of around one and a half million euros. But you can understand anyone who desperately wants both. After all, they are the last representatives of an era in which the gentleman could clinch a class win with his car on Sunday and drive to work on Monday.
Maybe not everything was better in the past. But today there aren't as many gentlemen as there used to be, and it was also 35 years ago that the moon landed