Personal site - Aston Martin DB3 Spider
09 Feb 2016
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    Aston Martin DB3 Spider

    General specifications
    Country of origin Great Britain
    Chassis number                 DB3/2 - DB3/5 - DB3/6

    Numbers built 10 (all versions)
    Produced from 1951 - 1953

    Configuration Straight 6
    Location Front, longitudinally mounted
    Construction cast-iron block, light alloy head
    Displacement 2.58 liter / 157.4 cu in
    Bore / Stroke 78.0 mm (3.1 in) / 90.0 mm (3.5 in)
    Compression 8.2:1
    Valvetrain 2 valves / cylinder, DOHC
    Fuel feed 3 Weber 36 DCF 5 Carburettors
    Aspiration Naturally Aspirated

    Chassis/body body on tubular chassis
    Front suspension trailing parallel links, coil springs, Armstrong shock absorbers
    Rear suspension DeDion axle, trailing links, transverse torsion bars, anti-roll bar
    Brakes drums, all-round
    Gearbox David Brown 4 speed Manual
    Drive Rear wheel drive

    Weight 885 kilo / 1951.1 lbs
    Length / Width / Height 4029 mm (158.6 in) / 1563 mm (61.5 in) / 1116 mm (43.9 in)
    Wheelbase / Track (fr/r) 2364 mm (93.1 in) / 1296 mm (51 in) / 1296 mm (51 in)

    Performance figures
    Power 140 bhp / 104 KW @ 5300 rpm
    BHP/Liter 54 bhp / liter
    Power to weight 0.16 bhp / kg


    Shortly after restarting production in 1947, Aston Martin returned to their racing ways. The first competition cars were closely related to the company's DB1 and DB2 road cars and were certainly not unsuccessful. Aston Martin's new owner David Brown, however, understood that winning the major races would require a purpose built machine. Making his intentions very clear he hired Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, who had previously designed the successful Auto Union Type D Gp. car. Towards the end of 1950 the development of the new 'DB3' racer commenced.

    In Von Eberhorst's design philosophy simplicity and durability were key. He came up with a conventional ladder frame chassis with substantial cross-bracing for rigidity. Suspension was by trailing links at the front and a more advanced DeDion axle at the rear.Torsion bars and Armstrong dampers were used all around. Power came from the latest version of the Lagonda sourced straight six engine, which displaced 2.6 litre and produced 133 bhp. The new racing car was covered in straightforward aluminium 'spider' body, easily recognisable by the large 'egg-crate' grill in the now familiar Aston Martin shape.

    David Brown had intended to debut the DB3 during the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans, but a mere two months before the race the car only existed on paper. Much to the disliking of Von Eberhorst, he commissioned two lightweight versions of the DB2 for Le Mans, postponing the introduction of the DB3. Using the engine built for the DB3, one of these special DB2s finished third and claimed a class victory. It would take until September of 1951 before the first DB3 would take to the track during the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod. Lance Macklin ran as high as fifth before retiring with a damaged engine due to an oil leak.

    Minor modifications were carried through over the winter as the John Wyer run Aston Martin Team prepared for an all out assault in 1952. A further three cars were built, while the prototype was equipped with a fixed head body for Le Mans. At the first race of the season, at Silverstone, the three new DB3s finished second, third and fourth behind Stirling Moss in a Jaguar C-Type. Compared to the Jaguar, the DB3 was considerably down on power and the Aston engineers quickly worked on a possible answer; a three litre version of the straight six engine.

    In the remainder of the season, the DB3 was raced with both the original and the larger three-litre engine, but with few notable results. At Le Mans all three cars retired and it would take until mid August before the Aston scored its first major victory. Peter Collins and Pat Griffith scored that win during the Goodwood 9 hours race, benefiting from all sorts of issues that threw the much faster Jaguars and Ferraris well back. Even though the DB3's results were hardly impressive, Aston Martin managed to sell five examples to customers, including two coupes.

    The larger engine still had not bridged the gap to the competition and both Wyer and Brown concluded that a lighter version of the DB3 would be the solution. This did not go down well with Von Eberhorst and he eventually left the company. His replacement, 'Willie' Watson, had already been hired and he got under way with developing the DB3 replacement, dubbed the DB3S. While the next generation racing cars was completed, Aston Martin continued to race the DB3 in the first months of 1953. A second place finish and class win at the Sebring 12 Hours more than justified persisting with the DB3.

    While the DB3S was a clear improvement over the DB3, it would take until the end of the decade before David Brown clinched his much desired overall win at Le Mans. Of the sports racing cars built by Aston Martin in the 1950s, the DB3 is certainly the least successful. It does however deserve its place in the company's history as the first purpose built post-War racing car. Without a doubt the lessons learned with the DB3 have contributed to the later success of the subsequent racers. Eventually a total of ten examples were constructed, including four Works cars, five customer cars and one road car built for David Brown and reportedly used on the road by his wife.