Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t.
It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.
A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!
Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to get confusing.
One needs to cast one’s mind back to the mid-1960s to grasp the circumstances under which this peculiar sports car was devised. For despite the still-engaged 007 boost, Aston Martin’s model range was hopelessly outdated: Against competing models like the Jaguar E-type, the Porsche 911 or the Lamborghini 350 GT, the DB5/DB6 GTs certainly appeared like a blast from the previous decade.
David Brown, still owner of the marque by that point, recognised the issue and had his staff work on a replacement for the DB6 GT, while also harbouring ambitions to produce a more performance-focused sports car alongside it. What with the Federico Formenti-designed DB4 and DB5 models having set the Aston design template that’s still applied today, it was only logical that Carrozzeria Touring, Formenti’s employer, would get involved.
As an in-house designer by the name of William Towns had convinced Brown to pursue his own design for the DB6 successor, Touring were entrusted with the smaller model’s design only. The result of the already financially struggling Milanese carrozzeria was the DBS eventually shown at the Paris show.
Despite the outstanding pedigree, this DBS must’ve appeared rather underwhelming to sports car enthusiasts in 1966. The peculiar graphics, particularly around the front end and headlights, as well as a whiff of Studebaker Avanti flair, could be attributed to the fads of its day, but the overall incoherence and very odd stance cannot be as easily explained.
Incidentally, there are some similarities with the Jensen Interceptor also styled at Touring at the time, particularly around the greenhouse, but overall, the Aston is a far clumsier, more outdated piece of design.
For these obvious reasons, not to mention Touring going out of business and Aston Martin falling on hard times (again), this DBS became but a footnote in either marque’s history – its main legacy being its name, which was given to the Towns-designed GT instead, upon its introduction.
For years, a handful of black & white photos were all that was left in the public domain, until the car made a reappearance, in quasi-barn-find shape, before being put up for auction in 2009, when it was sold for a comparatively (given its provenance) reasonable £ 320,500.
Almost a decade later, the car named DBS, but called DBSC made a reappearance as part of the concours d’élégance circuit, having undergone an elaborate restoration, courtesy of its new Kuwaiti owner, who’s also one of the current custodians of Aston Martin in its entirety.
Despite its obvious deficits, the Aston Martin DBS(C) unquestionably represents a peculiar piece of semi-forgotten automotive history. In the context of an event like the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza, which overwhelms with a selection of mostly overwhelmingly pretty, mostly predictable cars on show, it aroused more excitement than its compromised appearance and footnote status would suggest.
For that reason alone, it also deserves this article.
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