More Than a Movie Star
This DB5 doesn't just sit in the garage, it’s driven hard. Out on a nine mile clifftop straight Chris Bland takes the ‘classics’ rule book and throws it in the face of collectors. The DB5 demands respect, but not as a celebrity - as an athlete.
The DB5 is an icon, a dream car for so many. As someone who hasn’t seen a DB5 in the flesh before - it absolutely lives up to its reputation. Get close to one and you feel it oozing sophistication and charm. Born in an era when hand-built craftsmanship was the bedrock of engineering, you realise nothing else would have made such a machine possible in 1963.
Let’s start off by levelling the field. Forget Bond, forget the price tag. This car is serious. The DB5 takes to the road like the Avro Vulcan takes to the Runway. It does so with grace, with reserve. Open the taps and it will charge towards the horizon with the same mechanical symphony that follows any modern day Aston Martin. You feel like you’re experiencing the first few chapters of the Aston Martin story. On the road it unwinds like a big sleeping cat stretching its legs. A low grumble from the exhausts and it flies, the muscular rear haunches briefly twitching as the rear wheels find their grip.
The road became a blur as I followed behind envying Tom in the passenger seat all the while unable to keep up. The pace of the DB5 left my mouth open and my palms sweaty. It was in that moment all became clear. Loving this car isn’t about what it did on the silver screen, it’s about what it can still do on the road.
Chris Bland is an important man but with a humble disposition. The nature of his ownership is based crucially upon his own engineering background. “It’s my sort of era. I did an apprenticeship at Rolls Royce in the late fifties/early sixties and it’s the sort of car I understand. I like the shape, I like the car and I know how it works.”
The metallic blue body made it’s way across the mown grass of Chris’ private airfield. Together we open the doors of his hangar to reveal a primrose yellow E-type. “I suppose without the bond connection it would be rather like that type sitting there.” Chris pulled the DB5 into the shade of the hangar and popped the bonnet for a closer look at the six cylinders with their three Weber carburetors. “I think it’s well engineered and that’s all you can say really, I mean of course they didn't make a lot of the components.” It’s got the same crown and pinion on the back axle as a London taxi!
First seen under a tarp' at a friend’s house; “I’d never thought of a DB Aston Martin but I just saw it there and I thought, nice. That’s when I said ‘well if ever you want to sell it, let me know’ and eventually he did.” Having owned the car for 25 years, Chris has invested in it. It’s been seen to by the best at Aston's engineering bunch in Derby. It’s been a sturdy source of pleasure over the years with long trips across France to an old mill at roughly two thousand miles there and back. “I like to just go down the pub now, which is great. It always goes better after than before.” I asked how people react to the car; “[people] probably think ‘thats an old ponce driving a bond car’. Some old silly old man driving an Aston.”
After a few minutes of peace a splutter of an engine could be heard high in the sky. Today was the day Chris’ Tigermoth was to return from Sandown with fresh repairs. After a quick scout of the grass runway it began its approach. The vintage bi-plane earns its name ‘moth’ on its roll-out. Its movement is… jumbly. It is pretty much a 600Kg kite. Without brakes the Tigermoth made rather worrying progress towards some bushes. A flick of the rudder spun it round and Terry (the pilot) briskly wrapped up his flight, parking neatly in front of the hangar. The informality of the landing was excellent.
After moving the Aston, we pushed the plane snug into the hangar (not without a picture of course). We began to realise how this little duo is nothing more than the purest form of aviation and motoring. The ‘moth with its simple components, but then the Aston with all the charisma of a sophisticated gent.
As far as the DB5 goes there’s one thing you have to realise. This car should not be revered because of it’s fame, but for the standard of motoring it could offer in 1963. Being much more expensive than an E-Type at £4,175, you would certainly pay for it. But this is a car that was so popular, dealers had to limit sales to ten per week so supply could keep up with demand.
So then, we arrive at our conclusion. To hold a candle to its fame the DB5 has a lot to live up to, and it certainly does. It’s not about the money or the celebrity status though, it’s a car and it’s built for driving. Chris Bland does exactly that.
Words & Photography - Tom Duke & Tom Aiton