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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.