Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

Find out what to look for when buying a DB2 or the later DB2/4 and how much repairs and maintenance should cost.



Everything you need to know to buy one of these classic Aston Martins

When the dated 2.0-Litre Sports was due for replacement towards the end of the Forties, the DB2 was the ideal candidate and arguably kept Aston Martin in the limelight during the Fifties, paving the way for a new design of sports car. Having competed as prototypes in the 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours and returning in 1950, DB2 production began in late 1950 with a two-door saloon, introducing a drophead coupe the year after.


A total of 309 two-door saloons were produced up to 1953, along with 102 dropheads, all equipped with aluminium bodywork over a shortened 2-Litre Sports space frame chassis, except for five drophead coupes that were sent to Graber in Switzerland to be clothed in steel. The two-seat DB2 was replaced by the longer DB2/4, which was launched at the London Motor Show in 1953. Not only did it off er seating in the rear, but it had a full-width windscreen instead of the split screen of the DB2 that was a familiar sight on Land Rovers, Morris Minors and Volkswagen Transporters of the time. The rear screen was larger, and the roofline was higher at the rear to help accommodate rear seat passengers.

Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

Available as a four-seat saloon or drophead coupe, Aston Service Dorset says a total of 562 DB2/4 models were produced during its two-year lifespan, which included a mere 102 of those aforementioned DHCs, along with 12 as a chassis only for delivery to coachbuilders such as Bertone, Tickford (owned by AML), Vignale and Allemano. What is now known as the DB2/4 Mk I was replaced by the DB2/4 Mk II in late 1955. This lasted for another couple of years (ending in August 1957) in which 199 cars were built, the majority being four-seat saloons, although 16 drophead coupes were made along with 34 fixedhead coupes – a saloon was an early design of fastback, whereas a fixed-head coupe is pretty much a drophead coupe with a permanently fitted hardtop.

Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

The Mk II had a taller roofline and more exterior chrome trim. The easiest way to identify this generation of Aston Martin is by its aluminium bonnet. If the bonnet incorporates the entire front wings, you are looking at a DB2/4 produced between 1953 and 1955. If the lower half of the front wing (rear section) is left attached to the chassis when raising the bonnet, then it’s a Mk II. A chrome strip (perhaps an early design of the now well-known side strake) should be fitted where the bonnet and lower half of the front wing meet.

Look for signs of coolant leaks from the hoses and radiator, which not only suggest a leak, but could have resulted in the engine overheating and potentially blowing the head gasket. Check for coolant in the oil, signified by a mayonnaise-like residue, although this can be down to condensation because of a lack of use. And if the coolant has an oily feel to it, this can suggest the head gasket has failed or is starting to fail. However, Tim Stamper at Stamper Aston Martin warns that if a sealant has been added to the coolant, this may result in an oily residue, which could be wrongly diagnosed as head gasket failure.

Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

The reason for head gasket failure isn’t solely down to an overheating engine, but the cylinder liners that are fitted into the engine block. The liners are shimmed and need to be fitted using a special tool to help ensure they are correctly positioned in relation to the top of the engine block.

Should they not be correctly positioned, symptoms of head gasket failure can arise because of oil and coolant mixing or escaping into the combustion chambers – and if oil or coolant (or both) seep into the combustion chambers, look for white (coolant) or oily smoke from the exhaust. Whilst a head gasket on a 2.6-litre costs £424 from Aston Parts, further costs can be incurred for skimming the cylinder head and repositioning the cylinder liners. And Tim Stamper recommends replacing the head studs and renewing the washers, especially if the old washers have become distorted and dished.

There are three timing chains and two of them have oil-fed tensioners. The timing chains can stretch and become noisy, so it may be worthwhile replacing them. A timing chain kit with seals and gaskets costs a little over £200 from Four Ashes Garage.

Buying guide Aston Martin DB2 and DB2/4

Look around the engine for signs of oil leaks. The common leaks include the camshaft oil seal (front of the engine), which can be replaced. Tim Stamper explains that oil leaks from around thefront of the engine can be caused by a failed O-ring for a high-pressure oil feed from the engine block to the cylinder head. He also says that the crankshaft’s rear oil seal is a scroll type, which can fail and leak engine oil, so look for oil around where the engine and gearbox are fitted together. Upgrades to a modern neoprenelip seal are popular and Four Ashes Garage charges around £720 for this conversion.

With the engine running and warm, check the oil pressure rises with engine speed (assuming the oil pressure gauge is accurate). Whilst oil pressure may be low when the engine is idling, as a rough guide, there should be around 10psi of pressure for every 1,000rpm on the tacho.

Although oil pressure is an important factor in determining the health of an engine, Tim Stamper also says that oil flow is equally if not more essential. It is however, harder to measure, but if an engine has been overhauled, he recommends inquiring as to whether any modifications to the oilways have been made.

When the engine is running, listen for a persistent valve clearance rattle from the top area. The valve clearances can be adjusted, but it’s a specialist job. A conversion to shims is popular, which makes altering the clearances much easier. Otherwise, the valve seats or tips of the valves need to be machined to alter them. Tim Stamper warns that closing up the valve clearances by too much risks burning out valves – the profile of thecamshaft lobes are designed to have a quietening ramp to reduce engine noise, so this needs to be accounted for when adjusting the valve clearances.

On a less serious note, Tim says that if the vacuum advance pipe is missing between the Lucas distributor and carburettor, this is not a problem and something he recommends. He also says that if the vehicle has any tuning data on its distributor, it’s worthwhile checking what advance curve has been set. Whilst it should be around 45 degrees, he recommends a lower 36-38.

Check whether the engine has been converted to run on unleaded petrol, in which case, the standard cast iron valve guides should have been changed to phosphor bronze.

Having an engine with matching numbers is a desirable feature and helps to justify a higher price tag, but this isn’t so easy on these engines. The engine number is only stamped on to the timing case, which means there’s no way of confirming the identity of the engine because the case can easily be swapped on to another engine.

Rebuilding an engine may in theory be affordable, especially when anexhaust manifold gasket costs less than £24, but with a set of pistons at around £3,000, don’t expect much change out of £20,000 after adding in machining, bearings, a timing chain kit and gaskets. A professional rebuild will generally cost at least 100 hours of labour.


David Brown’s own four-speed manual gearbox was used throughout production of the DB2 and DB2/4 Mk I and II. Expect to pay around £4,000 for a used one. Rebuilding a gearbox can be difficult because parts availability is very scarce in some cases, so components may need to be fabricated.

The gearbox is regarded as robust, but needs an element of mechanical sympathy. There’s no synchromesh in first gear, so only select it when the car is stationary and carefully ease it in. When changing down gears, it can help to match the engine rpm to avoid crunching, but if the synchromesh rings are worn, you may still struggle.

Check around the gearbox for oil leaks. There’s a rear oil seal that can leak and if oil is covering the back of the engine and the bellhousing, it could be caused by the crankshaft seal, but also a seal for the gearbox.

Test the operation of the clutch, ensuring gears can be selected and there’s a sufficient biting point. Under acceleration, listen and feel for the engine over-revving, which could indicate a worn and slipping clutch. A standard clutch kit costs around £420 and Four Ashes Garage charges roughly £720 of labour to fit one, which includes balancing.

A Salisbury 3 HA or 4 HA live axle was fitted to these models. The later 4 HA is easier to recondition and was used in a number of Aston Martins and other vehicles such as the Reliant Scimitar. Listen for noise, although Tim Stamper warns these axles were noisy when new and he has seen several build sheets where the car has been returned to the factory to have a new axle fitted.

Check around the casing for signs of oil leaks, which may mean the seals have blown, but can also be caused by a blocked breather hole on the top of the casing.

“Leaks and noises are the main thing,” remarks Ben Thomson at Simply Performance concerning the rear axle. “Often, halfshaft bearings are not set up correctly — people fiddling with them over the years. Hubs can be problematic to remove to change seals and often require pullers or a further stripdown of the axle.”

Simply Performance can strip and inspect a 4 HA axle and overhaul it (prices start at £1,050), or even supply the parts (standard and upgrades). “Salisbury axles is now part of GKN/Dana,” says Ben. “With no OEM support we offer Aston Martin owners an OEM level of service, using Timken bearings and modern lipped seals. And we have remanufactured most of the 4 HA range of parts so if there is any damage then we can always sort it out.”


With an aluminium exterior, look for corrosion underneath the paintwork, which often looks like bubbles under the surface. If the paint has lifted, the only solution is to rub it down along with any aluminium oxide, then respray the area. This can mean a small patch of corrosion around the headlight, for instance, can result in the entire wing being painted to help blend in the repair.

The DB2 has steel sills and A-posts (and a wooden B-post), so check them carefully for corrosion, tapping them lightly with the rubber handle of a hammer to listen for the dull thud of filler or rust. Expect to pay around £360 for a replacement steel sill. The DB2/4’s sills and posts (A and B) are made from aluminium.

The aluminium bodywork is bolted to the steel chassis (rubber mounts are fitted in several places), which inevitably results in corrosion between the two metals. And there are a few areas where more steel and aluminium meet, such as the rear inner wings, which are steel.

Make sure the large forward-hinging bonnet can be opened and closed easily. The hinges can weaken or corrode and are over £200 each to replace on the DB2. And the mounting brackets for the hinges can get stressed and corrode. Check the condition of the windscreen, looking for cracks and damage. A new one is reasonably priced at around £360 (heated windscreens are also available).

Check the condition of the front grille, which is slatted and can become corroded and damaged through road debris. It may be possible to repair a damaged front grille, but if it needs to be replaced or is missing, budget for around £4,000 for a new one.

Carefully inspect the doors, making sure the steel framework and aluminium exterior haven’t corroded. Check the doors close easily and don’t sag, which could be caused by worn hinges. If the exterior door handle is missing on the passenger side, these are very hard to find. This handle has the only external lock – the driver’s door is only locked from inside, even when closing it from the outside so cannot be unlocked from the exterior.


Lengths of steel box section form the semi-space frame chassis of the DB2 and DB2/4, which incorporate a bulkhead between the engine and interior.

The condition of the chassis can be partly inspected from inside the engine bay to look for corrosion in the bulkhead and around to where the suspension and engine are secured to the chassis rails. This will also help to look for evidence of accident damage where the bonnet may have been replaced, but the chassis rails underneath are distorted.

From underneath the vehicle, ideally with it on a ramp or over an inspection pit, check the condition of the chassis to look for corrosion and damage. With the chassis being quite simple in design, corrosion can be cut out and replaced with fabricated repairs in most cases, and access to most components is straightforward.

Tim Stamper recommends inspecting the chassis rails where the brake and fuel lines are routed through them. The holes for these lines can let dirt and water inside resulting in corrosion. On the plus side, he does say that if the engine or gearbox (or both) are leaking oil, this will inevitably rust-proof parts of the chassis.


A meticulous inspection of the interior is essential because if anything is missing or damaged, it will probably be expensive or impossible to replace. A damaged seat base, for instance, may not be difficult to repair by fitting a new one, but sourcing a colourmatched replacement could be the biggest challenge. Similarly, missing instruments and switches are not readily available.


Aston Martin owner David Brown had bought Lagonda in 1949, so had access to their 2,580cc straight-six double-overhead camshaft engine that had been designed by William Watson and W.O. Bentley. This was used in the DB2 from the very start.

With a peak power output of 105bhp at 5,000rpm and 125lb ft (170Nm) of torque at a lower 3,100rpm, a 1,207kg (2,662lbs) DB2 was tested by Autocar and the results, in its November 17 1950 issue, showed that it could hit 60mph from stationary in 12.4 seconds and was capable of reaching a top speed of 110mph.

A 125bhp Vantage-spec engine was introduced in 1952, which featured a higher compression ratio for the same 2.6-litre engine along with SU HV6 carburettors to achieve the extra 20bhp. When the DB2/4 was introduced in 1953, the Vantage-spec 2,580cc straight-six was fitted and Autocar tested one in October that year achieving a 0-60mph time of 12.6 seconds and a top speed of 120mph (the test car weighed 1,257kg or 2,772lbs).

In 1954, the DB2/4 engine’s displacement was increased to 2,922cc, resulting in 140bhp at the flywheel. Motor magazine, in its August 1954 issue, measured a 0-60mph time of 10.5 seconds with a top speed of 120mph. The 140bhp 2,922cc engine was continued in the DB2/4 Mk II, although there was an optional Special Series engine with 165bhp, courtesy of high-lift camshafts and larger valves. Additional performance options included replacing the SU carbs for Webers, raising the engine’s compression ratio, adding an oil cooler and fitting twin exhausts.


The DB2 is the smallest of the models we’re looking at in this buying guide, with a length of 4128mm or 162.5in (13ft 6.5in) and a width of 1,651mm or 65in (5ft 5in), making it comparable to the latest Ford Fiesta. The DB2/4 is almost 20cm longer at 4,305mm or 169in (14ft 1in), but the same width and despite a higher roofline at the rear, it has the same maximum height at 1,359mm or 53.5in (4ft 5.5in). The DB2/4 Mk II gained an extra 5cm in length (two inches).


With 411 DB2 models having been produced and almost twice as many of the DB2/4 in Mk I and II guises, the earlier DB2 is rarer, but prices appear to be cheaper at around £200,000 for a saloon, whereas most DB2/4 saloons start at around £250,000. Expect to pay upwards of£300,000 for a drophead coupe. Coachbuilt examples can be more expensive, the cheapest being Tickfords at similar prices to standard saloons, whereas at the time of writing, the only surviving DB2/4 by Vignale was for sale at Aston Workshop for £3.6m.


The entire range of straight-six engines fitted to the DB2 and DB2/4 consists of a cast iron engine block and cylinder head (new blocks and heads are available along with aluminium cylinder heads). Routine maintenance with annual oil changes and two-yearly coolant changes is essential. Serviceable parts are in some cases incredibly cheap for such a high-value classic car. An oil filter for a 2.6-litre, for instance, costs almost £22 from Aston Parts (, and a set of HT leads are £85.


All the models we’re covering in this buying guide feature a front suspension set up consisting of an axle with trailing arms, a single anti-roll bar, lever arm dampers and coil springs (the front axle also houses some steering components).

Tim Stamper says that the front axle can leak where the lower trailing arm is connected to it (or it may be a leak from the lever arm damper). New lever arm dampers are not available, but Vintage and Classic Shock Absorbers says that the rears are much easier to recondition than the fronts and some are identical to the ones fitted to the Ford Pilot. Expect to pay upwards of £150 to have one overhauled.

The front lever arm dampers take a greater load and VCSA has found that internal wear can mean a customer’s unit is rendered scrap, even if it looks okay from the outside. If another used front lever arm damper can be found, expect to pay around £800 for it, but with no guarantee it’s in good working order. VCSA charge upwards of £200 to overhaul one of them. At the rear, the suspension consists of a Salisbury live axle secured with trailing arms, upper links, coil springs, lever arm dampers and a Panhard rod.

From what can be seen of the front suspension within the engine bay, visually inspect the condition of the coil springs and the aluminium towers that support the top of each one. Look for fractures in the springs and the towers. Whilst a replacement spring costs around £150, a new tower is almost £460.


The DB2 and DB2/4 are arguably an expensive classic cars, but when compared to rivals of their era, such as the Ferrari 195 S and 250 GT, they are quite a bargain. However, they can easily become an expensive money pit unless you keep on top of maintenance and are made aware of any problems, so if you are keen to buy one, choose wisely and find a specialist to help.

Thanks to: Aston Parts 01207 268928

Aston Services Dorset 01202 574727

Aston Workshop 01207 233525

Four Ashes Garage 01789 266851

Simply Performance 01306 711134

Stamper Aston Martin 01768 899505

Vintage and Classic Shock Absorbers 020 8651 5347


submitted byRichard Owen
typeSeries Production Car
production years1950 – 1953
released at1950 New York Motor Show
built atFeltham, England
body stylistFrank Freeley
coachbuilderTickford Coachbuilding
engineersTed Cutting
price £/td>£1,915
engineWater Cooled, Cast Iron, Inline-6
positionFront Longitudinal
valvetrainDOHC 2 Valves / Cyl
fuel feedTwin SU Carburettors
displacement2580 cc / 157.4 in³
bore78 mm / 3.07 in
stroke90 mm / 3.54 in
power93.2 kw / 105 bhp @ 5000 rpm
specific output40.7 bhp per litre
bhp/weight92.59 bhp per tonne
torque169.48 nm / 125.0 ft lbs @ 3100 rpm
body / frameAluminum over Tubular Steel Spaceframe Chassis
driven wheelsFront Engine / RWD
front tires5.75×16
rear tires6.00×16
front brakesGirling Hydrualic Drums
rear brakesGirling Hydrualic Drums
steeringWorm & Roller
f suspensionTrailing Arms w/Shock Absorbers, Coil Springs, Anti-roll Bar
r suspensionLive Axle w/Coil Springs, Radius Arms, Panhard Rod.
curb weight1134 kg / 2500 lbs
wheelbase2515 mm / 99.0 in
front track1372 mm / 54.0 in
rear track1372 mm / 54.0 in
length4299 mm / 169.3 in
width1651 mm / 65.0 in
height1359 mm / 53.5 in
transmissionDavid Brown 4-Speed Manual
gear ratios2.92:1, 1.98:1, 1.33:1, 1.00:1
final drive3.77:1
top speed~177.0 kph / 110.0 mph
0 – 60 mph~11.0 seconds
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