1970 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage Volante
This rare DB6 Vantage Volante from 1970 has been with the same family since new. We talk to the first owner’s son and grandson about their long association with the car and their plans for the future.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY PAUL WALTON
ONE OWNER DB6
ONE FAMILY OWNED DB6
This rare 1970 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage Volante has been owned by the same family since it was new in 1970. We look at the car’s unique history.
Although cars aren’t featured (wrongly in my view) on the popular TV show Antiques Roadshow, if they were, then like an old grandfather clock or set of war medals, this DB6 has everything needed to make the crowds gasp with amazement. Not only has it been owned by the same family since new (oooh!) but it’s also a rare and now valuable Vantage Volante (ahhh!). But in good Antiques Roadshow tradition, Adrian Davis, the son of the car’s first owner (who himself has owned it since the late Eighties), has no immediate plans to sell the convertible, hoping it will remain in the family.
By all accounts, Adrian’s late father, Cyril Davis, was something of a car connoisseur, having previously owned a Railton, an Armstrong Siddeley and a Jaguar amongst many others.
So it doesn’t surprise me to learn he also had a black DB6 Mk1 that was replaced in June 1970 by a Mk2 Vantage Volante in Burnt Almond (that’s metallic brown to you and me) with a tan interior and hood. It is one of the rarest cars from the David Brown era, with only a tiny numberof the higher-powered version produced between July 1969 until production of the DB6 ended the following December.
Cyril was in good company since his car was similar to the Seychelles Blue car given to the then Prince of Wales byhis mother, HM Queen Elizabeth II, when he turned 21 in November 1969. Like the Davis family, the now King Charles III also still owns his car, although in 2008 the environmentally conscious monarch had the classic convertible modified to run on bioethanol.
As the managing director of Reliance Cords & Cables Ltd, a successful London-based business that produced electric wires, which had been started by his grandfather, Cyril’s Volante was a company car. Like the young prince, he used the Volante often for both work and pleasure. “My grandfather lived in Hampstead,” explains Adrian’s son, Kevin, “and despite the heavy clutch, he would drive it through the heavy traffic to the factory in east London. He’d then take it to Sussex every weekend where he had a cottage.” Kevin goes on to say that at the time the car wasn’t seen as anything special.
“My grandfather had a cocker spaniel which sat in the back and ripped the seats to bits. He also bolted on a couple of aftermarket wing mirrors which looked ridiculous.” Cyril also didn’t appear that bothered when it was stolen. “He used to take me to Lord’s cricket ground when I was a teenager,” continues Kevin. “He had a deal with one of the churches that he could park outside. When we came out after the match the car had gone yet he didn’t seem upset; he simply said it was probably a joyrider and that we’ll find it later.” Thankfully he was right and the car was soon located by the police, largely undamaged.
There’s a family story that Cyril crashed into a cow with the car (although Kevin says his grandfather told him this was the black DB6 and the reason for buying the Volante). The animal might have been thankfully unhurt, but the Aston was badly damaged. Cyril had it repaired but as his son would discover years later, this was done poorly.
Cyril was captured in the car during the filming of a 1978 episode of The Sweeney called One of Your Own. Towards the end of the programme, the Aston is briefly but clearly seen being overtaken by Jack Regan’s Ford Granada 3.0 squad car while travelling along the Holland Road somewhere between Earl’s Court and Shepherd’s Bush. Cyril had no idea this had even happened. His family has only recently discovered his and the Aston’s TV appearance, when Kevin spotted the car on the extensive Internet Movie Cars Database (imcdb.org).
When Cyril retired in the late Seventies, he bought the DB6 from the company and initially continued to use it regularly. Kevin has vivid memories of being driven by his grandfather in the brown convertible. “It was part of him,” he tells me. “When he passed away, it was our link to the many great memories of him.”
Despite the now tired Aston having some major remedial work in the early Eighties that included repairing several areas of rust, due to feeling he was too old to drive it safely, Cyril started to use the car less and less. Yet he did give his eldest son the chance to drive it.
“I drove the car on several occasions first long-distance journey was between London and Newcastle to see my wife.
Dad said to me, ‘It’s sitting there, not doing much, so why don’t you take the Aston?’”
When Cyril was finally contemplating selling the Volante in 1988, Adrian and his late younger brother, Jonathan, both expressed an interest in buying it. “He said to us, ‘I need a new everyday car. If you buy me an Austin Maestro, you can part-exchange it for the Aston Martin.’” Considering the current values of both, this had to be the deal of the century. But DB6s – even a Vantage Volante – were worth just approximately twice that of the Maestro at the time.
Adrian tells me that part of the car’s attraction was its connection to his father but mainly because it was a Volante. “I’ve always liked convertibles,” he tells me. “My first car was a Morris Minor Tourer and I later had open versions of an Austin A40, two Hillman Minxes plus a Sunbeam Alpine and a Peugeot 504 Cabriolet.”
Although still driveable and with an MOT, Adrian describes the condition of the car as “awful”. The engine soon needed to be rebuilt plus more rot cut out. But by the start of the 2000s, it was clear the car needed a full restoration. When the specialist tasked with the jobtook the body down to its bare metal, the poor-quality work following the post cow incident 30 years earlier was clearly evident. “There was no filler left in the joins,” exclaims Adrian. “The space behind was completely empty and only the paint was holding everything together.” Parts of the under frame had also rotted through and it was obvious the body hadn’t been very well protected when built.
Since he didn’t like the original Burnt Almond, Adrian specified British Racing Green instead. “I like the colour and it seemed more appropriate for the car.” He did keep the tan hood, though, resulting in a very handsome and eye-catching combination.
The car also has the bonnet mascot of a leaping horse that was first added by Adrian’s father in the Seventies – it can clearly be seen in the short Sweeney clip. Other than it being a gift from a friend of his parents, little is known about its origins. It can cause controversy, though, as Kevin explains. “When we go to shows, a lot of Aston purists often ask what is that monstrosity on the front? But for us, it’s part of the car’s history.”
Adrian admits to using the car only sparingly since the 2003 rebuild and less so recently because, like his father before him, despite being an admittedly sprightly 90-year-old, he no longer feels he can drive his beloved DB6 safely.
Yet this time the car won’t be left in the garage since Adrian remains a regular at Aston Martin Owners Club events across the country when the DB6 is usually driven by his former son-in-law or Kevin.
It was at this year’s AMOC Spring Concours at the Imperial War Museum when I first came across Adrian and his car. Even before I knew its unique history or realised it was a rare Vantage model, I was still drawn to the green convertible by its immaculate condition. The dark green car has a lustre as rich as the day it was applied, the panels are arrow straight while the chrome shines as brightly as that of the King’s car.
Yet since the interior was largely left alone during the restoration, resulting in the worn leather upholstery looking like an old briefcase, the car isn’t totally devoid of character. Plus in the glovebox is Cyril’s old hip flask – which although is now empty still smells strongly of brandy – plus a matchbox for spare fuses. No doubt as old as the car, his now faint writing can still be read on the sleeve. There’s also the original handbook, clearly well thumbed over the years by several members of the Davis family.
It’s easy to imagine Cyril behind the wheel, fighting the busy London traffic – including the fictional Flying Squad in their Granada – on his way to work.
Like an old dog, the affection the pair feel for the car is obvious but as Adrian himself says, it’s now a family pet. Like all of us, the Davis family have plenty ofstories and folklore but many of their memories are based around the car. It’s because of this long association why Adrian tells me he would like the Aston Martin to stay with the family, to be passed down to the next generation and beyond. Yet he understands the car’s current high values might make this an issue.
“I wish it was worth nothing,” admits Kevin. “I love the car for sentimental reasons. My sisters, Meriel and Helen, and I were all very close to our grandfather, and dad too. There’s not many things that families get to keep for over 50 years.” After five decades with the same family, the story behind the DB6 is as beautiful as the car itself or any other well-loved family heirloom on the Antiques Roadshow.
Adrian underneath his beloved DB6 Volante
Thanks to: Adrian and Kevin Davis.
Cyril Davis’s former hip flask plus his matchbox full of fuses with the original handbook Cyril in the DB6 about to be overtaken by Jack Regan’s Granada during a 1978 episode of The Sweeney The car being rebuilt following the change from Burnt Almond to British Racing Green The DB6 in August 1985 still awaiting paint, following repairs to the body.
Adrian Davis with the car in 1996 The poor state of the sills in the mid-Eighties The car after being stripped for its major 2003 restoration.
The bonnet mascot of a leaping horse that was originally fitted by Adrian’s father, Cyril.
Adrian Davis has owned the car since 1988.