The prototype for the DB2 appeared as one of three Aston Martins at the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car was based on Claude Hill's tube-frame chassis, created for the 2-Litre Sports "DB1", with a closed coupé body design by Frank Feeley. The straight-6 engine was derived from Lagonda, which Aston Martin owner, David Brown, purchased for this reason. This engine was designed by W. O. Bentley, namesake of the Bentley motorcar company, and engineer William (Willie) Watson also of the pre-war Invicta, collaborating designer of the pre-war V12 Lagonda & designer of the short-lived post-war V12.
The production DB2 debuted at the New York Auto Show in April 1950. Although demand was high, the second, third, and fourth DB2 models to be produced competed at Le Mans in 1950. They achieved first and second in class that year; all three continued competing through 1951. The 21st example was raced by American sportsman Briggs Cunningham in the first Sebring race, December 1950 attaining second in class. Success brought fame to David Brown's resurgent company, convincing the company to begin a series of purpose-built racing models, starting with the DB3.
In total 411 DB2s were produced from their 1950 introduction through 1953. The first 49 cars used a square three-part grille in front with large rectangular side vents. This was soon updated with the more familiar integrated, rounded Aston Martin grille with horizontal slats. The three racing models were similarly upgraded establishing the company's new face. Among these 49 cars: two "Vantage spec" models. The first Vantage was LML 50/21 delivered in 1950 to racing driver Briggs Cunningham.
The car was a fixed-head coupé (FHC) with a tiny top-hinged boot in back containing a spare wheel. Luggage space was behind the front seats, accessed somewhat inconveniently from inside the car. A large single-piece bonnet was hinged at the front.
Later in 1950, a Drophead Coupé (DHC) variant was introduced. At least 102 were built. In January, 1951, an optional engine with larger carburettors, inlet camshaft the same as the exhaust (increased duration) & higher compression ratio pistons (8.16:1) was available as Aston Martin's first Vantage upgrade. This was a power-only upgrade, with 125 hp (93 kW) available. Many cars went back to Aston Martin to have later 3 ltr engines fitted, many more have been converted since.
The name "Vantage" was chosen after leafing through a thesaurus looking for suitable tags for higher performance variants of the then current model. In the same tradition were later the names Volante for a convertible and Virage for a model in the 90s created.
A saloon tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1950 had a top speed of 116.4 mph (187.3 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 20 miles per imperial gallon (14 L/100 km; 17 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1914 including taxes.
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