The Road to Ronda in a 1960 Aston Martin DB4 series 1

For most people, a car is a means of getting from A to B. For some, it serves as a facilitator for their chosen lifestyle. And there are undeniably those for whom a vehicle is a status symbol. But not many cars have a truly transformative effect on you as a human being. I’m talking about a car that makes you want to be a better person… a more stylish, more sophisticated person… dare I say it, a modern day 007.

 The Aston Martin DB4 is just such a car.

 When driving the 1960 Series 1, all the old rules go out the window. All of a sudden, it’s less about where you’re going, what you’re doing when you get there or even what others think about you. It’s about how it feels to be in the car.

 And so, while such a vessel could make you feel like a secret agent even when simply doing the shopping, what it deserves is a special kind of voyage; a journey with a destination that is as understatedly impressive as the car itself. And so, along with my good friend and photographer Rollo Wade, I embarked on a journey to the historic Andalucian town of Ronda in the Southern Spanish mountains. This is our story.

20180529-DSC_0961.jpg

There she sits. I haven’t even got into the DB4 yet and already I’m struck by just how attractive she is in her original Snow Shadow Grey. She’s truly striking from every angle with her frameless windows and large air intake at the front. There’s just something about the proportions and the stance of the car that quickens the blood and focusses the mind. 

 Once inside, I’m hit with the rich smell of the red Connolly leather and 98 octane (this smell never gets old) and my breath is momentarily halted by the beautiful wooden steering wheel with the iconic DB badge in the middle.

 I put the key in the ignition that’s charmingly placed next to the clock on the dash and turn to the first position. I let the petrol pumps tick over for a few seconds and then turn the key. The engine fires into life and quickly settles into a smooth, rich idle. 

20180529-DSC_0860.jpg

 We set off from our base in Marbella. As I pull on to the main road, the car is still coming to temperature slowly but, even when cold, the gear change is smooth. The acceleration is responsive and as the revs build so does the beautiful soundtrack of the straight-six.

 It doesn’t take long for this route to deliver. Within the hour we are tearing around hairpin bends that cut through the rugged red rock of the mountainside. The scenery is awe-inspiring, to say the least with views of the glistening Mediterranean behind us and, to our right, the pristine peaks of the Sierra de Nieves. The Aston Martin makes light work of those majestic turns, arcing from left to right with ease.

 This particular DB4 has a few tasty engine improvements to give her the power she deserves; most notably, perfectly-tuned 45 Weber carburettors and a higher torque and compression ratio.

The four-speed gearbox is a pure delight going up through and back down the changes, which are smooth and precise.

20180529-DSC_0934.jpg
20180529-DSC_0902.jpg

 This is what these beautiful machines were built for.  

 One thing the car’s original designers didn’t have in mind, however, was traffic. Much less, the sort of traffic we run into. For, as we pass the tiny municipality of Parauta, we are greeted by some locals… in the form of a herd of mountain goats! Much though our new-found friends are a hospitable and inquisitive bunch, anyone looking to replicate our journey should be warned to keep a sharp eye out for these quirky creatures as you navigate those turns. They have a habit of appearing out of nowhere (with not a goat-herder in sight)!

 As we near the top of the winding A-397, the scenery begins to change and we now found ourselves on a beautiful, lush mountain plateau. To the left and right of us extend more peaks but ahead, in the distance, Ronda.

20180529-DSC_0951.jpg
Untitled-1.jpg
20180529-DSC_0966.jpg

 The town itself is pleasant enough - small but perfectly formed with a modest population of around forty thousand – but we barely stop on our way through to the city’s centre-piece, Puente Nuevo.

 The famous bridge spans the El Tajo gorge that separates the city’s 15th-century “new” town from the even older part, which dates back to Moorish rule.

 The view, once here, is quite simply jaw-dropping. Looking out, we bear witness to the deep canyon that extends across the plateau of farmland while more jagged peaks scar the skyline in the distance.

 Inspired, we take the car over the bridge, a little further into the old town to admire Puente Nuevo from a better angle and, after exploring for a while, Rollo and I settle in the famous Plaza de Toros de Ronda, the oldest bullring in Spain.

 While it would, in no way, be accurate to say that the DB4 had upstaged the vista up to this point, it was certainly true to say that some fellow car enthusiasts had been - shall we say - distracted somewhat by our arrival. After taking a moment to appreciate this wonderful piece of engineering with them as well as capture a few snaps for posterity, my travel partner and I decide it would probably be a good time for something to eat.

20180529-DSC_1045.jpg

 We pick what looks like the best spot in town, a traditional-looking restaurant opposite the bullring. We open our menus and, battling with our best Spanish, manage to order a hearty selection of tapas and bravas, all of which are delicious.

 And to wash it all down with? Well, it has to be a vodka martini… shaken not stirred, of course.

 Click here to discover more about the 1960 Aston Martin DB4 series 1 featured in this article which is available to buy now.

20180529-DSC_0988-2.jpg
Edward Wood
Summer Vibes in a 1963 Mercedes Benz 300SL

The road to Istán... 

Friday evening mid-August 2018, my good friend and photographer Rollo Wade and I had the pleasure of driving a stunning 1963 Mercedes Benz 300 SL from Marbella to Istán, not for any reason other than to enjoy the open road, mountain scenery and the pure thrill of being behind the wheel of one of most iconic supercars ever made. 

 

20180810-DSC_6859.jpg

 

The Car 

1963 was the final year of production and this car was one of the last 25 to roll off the production line, being one of the last built, it had improved modifications from the factory including disc brakes and a light alloy crankcase. 

The moment I got to know the car it felt like everything had been designed for style and function, as you would expect from a Mercedes, everything worked as it should. The indicator wheel mounted on the steering wheel is also the horn, the wing mirror with the outside temperature reading is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, the perfectly designed luggage boot and the door handle stalks that folds into the car are to just name a few of the great design features of the 300 SL. 

Then there’s the colour, finished in this breathtaking canary yellow with biscuit interior - it really did stop passers by in their tracks... As we drove past a group of Spanish cyclists we heard them say....... "Puto resfriado!!!" (Fuck that’s cool!).

 

20180810-DSC_6919.jpg

 

Driving through those winding roads up to Istán the steering felt precise and responsive while the four-wheel independent suspension allowed for a smooth ride and great handling,  the car felt perfectly balanced. I loved the gear change on the 300 SL, it simply clicks in and you know you're planted but I did find myself looking for a 5th gear on the main road. The engine note was low and responded well when pushed. This is a car that wants to be driven. 

 

20180810-DSC_6955.jpg
20180810-DSC_6957.jpg
20180810-DSC_6959.jpg

 

Key facts about the 300 SL

• The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W198) was the fastest street legal car of its day

• The first production car to have a fuel injection system

• Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show

• Built by Daimler-Benz between 1954 - 1963

 

 

The Journey

The drive from Marbella town to Istan can only be described as a pleasure. With a seemingly endless supply of immaculate cliff top corners, beautiful hidden villas and views of Gibraltar and the North African Coast, this route was looking pretty hard to beat. The route itself covers around 19km of some of the most enjoyable corners anyone could ask for. Long arching turns, hairpins, lefts, rights, even a straight here and there, it’s got it all. Just do be wary of cyclists with questionable sanity peddling furiously uphill for miles on end…

While the sun set behind the hills across from the reservoir below, we made our way up to Istán with smiles firmly plastered on our faces. 

The village of Istán is tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca. 

The whitewashed houses stand out beautifully from the orange and green of the surrounding mountain range. It’s one of a few Moorish towns in this area to have survived the Christian reconquest of the peninsula in the 15th century. While it’s not as impressive as its neighbour Ronda, it’s still a lovely spot for a bite to eat and a canna or two.

We decided to pull up just outside of town, to give the 300SL (and ourselves) a bit of a breather, (it’s still a clammy 32 degrees here at 9pm don’t forget!) and as we sat looking out over our view we couldn’t help but notice how Californian our little spot looked, not surprising when we later discovered it shares a similar longitude and may have explained the unusually long and golden sunset. 

Views admired and car cooled, we took a moment to take a few photographs and were joined by a group of girls that couldn’t resist a photo opportunity, and of course, we obliged. It’s very hard to look at this car and not enjoy it, it doesn’t matter who you are or the day you’ve had it’s a pleasure to be around and a joy to drive and on a evening like this, one couldn’t ask for more.

As the last of the light began to fade and our new friends had gone on their way we started the drive back to Marbella with thoughts of an ice cold beer, the evening in the mountains and the next “Road to ….

 

AVAILABLE

Edward Wood