Home » And They Don’t Even Have Air Conditioning: 1961 Aston Martin DB4 vs 1961 Ferrari 250PF

And They Don’t Even Have Air Conditioning: 1961 Aston Martin DB4 vs 1961 Ferrari 250PF

Sbsd 3 32 2024
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Good morning, and happy March 32nd to all those who celebrate! Today, I’m once again inflicting crappy old British and Italian sports cars upon you, and I make no apologies. But I know in the past some of you have complained that my selections are overpriced, and I think, just maybe, today you might be right.

But before we get to those, let’s finish up with Friday’s foursome. As expected, the little Civic took home the prize, with the Mini coming in a respectable second. The Probe got a few honorable mentions, but not enough votes, and the poor old Chevy truck came in dead last. Sure, you hate it now, but when you need someone to help you pick up that new sofa you bought because you’re too cheap to pay for delivery, you’ll all love the old crappy truck.

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Seriously, though that Civic probably is the right choice here. It’s an appreciating classic, but not one so nice that you have to treat it with kid gloves, and it’s reliable enough to enjoy without having a tow truck follow you around all the time. A good scruffy classic is a fun car to have.

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Which leads me to today’s choices. If you want to drive an old classic sports car on the weekends, obviously you’re going to have to sacrifice some things. You’ll have to be willing and able to drive a manual, for starters. And don’t expect any power assist for steering or brakes, either. Power mirrors? Forget it. CarPlay? Dream on. And of course there’s no air conditioning; better get those arm muscles in shape to roll down the windows – using manual cranks.

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And for either of today’s choices, you’ll have to put in some work before you can even think of those Sunday drives. Which one is worth the trouble? Let’s take a look and see.

1961 Aston Martin DB4 – $325,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.7-liter dual overhead cam inline 6, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Astoria, NY

Odometer reading: 39,000 miles

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Operational status: Engine runs, has not been driven since 1970

Typically, if an automaker fields a factory racing team, the goal is not to win races, but rather to promote its production cars. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” and all that. But plenty of marques, especially early on, have started out with race cars, with roadgoing cars coming later. Such was the case with Aston Martin, which has a rich racing history dating all the way back to 1913. That racing heritage is alive and well today, even after numerous financial disasters, bankruptcies, buyouts, and revivals.

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This car, the DB4, dates from what might be called Aston’s “golden era.” Sir David Brown combined Aston Martin and British marque Lagonda, went racing again, and created a decade-plus-long line of beautiful roadgoing GT coupes, all with a powerful twin-cam inline six, a development of a Lagonda design, under the hood. One later version of this car, the DB5, became famous for having some extra options installed. This one has no machine guns or ejector seat; sorry.

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This DB4 hasn’t been on the road in a while; more than fifty years, actually. The last known registration was in Florida in 1969. The engine has been started recently, however, which is step one. As someone who has brought a British sports car back to life after a long time off the road, I can tell you that there are a great many steps to go. But the sight of asphalt disappearing under that long bonnet, even in its rough state, will absolutely be worth it.

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With a car like this, the question is always: To restore or not to restore? Do you keep all that hard-won original patina, sixty-three-year-old leather and wool, and dull chrome, and concentrate on the mechanicals, or disassemble it and spend years returning it to its original glory? If not for the primer paint on the right front corner, I would lean heavily in favor of preserving the patina. But as it sits? Maybe a restoration is the way to go.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Pinin Farina – $1,295,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0-liter overhead cam V12, five-speed manual, RWD

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Location: Newport Beach, CA

Odometer reading: 40,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

Like Aston, Ferrari got its start on the race track. And Enzo Ferrari famously only grudgingly sold cars to the public to fund his racing addiction. The upshot of this is that, especially in the early pre-Fiat days, Ferrari road cars were not much more than race cars with windshield wipers and turn signals. By the time this 250 GT Series II was built, a few more comfort and convenience touches had crept in, but it still uses the same screaming three-liter V12 engine as Ferrari race cars at the time, and beautiful styling by storied designer and coachbuilder Pininfarina.

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The Ferrari “Colombo” V12 looks tiny in the engine bay; V12 engines typically use a 60-degree angle between cylinder banks instead of the 90 degrees commonly seen in V8 engines. This is a lean and mean engine anyway; it’s all aluminum and weighs about half as much as contemporary competing engines. This one runs flawlessly, according to the seller, and a video in the sale listing confirms that.

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This car is being sold mid-restoration, and it sounds like it has been in that state for some time. Mechanically, it’s ready to go, and the interior is mostly done, but the bodywork is in primer gray, and a lot of it is still disassembled. The original color was called Nocciola, Italian for “hazelnut,” a lovely metallic gold/beige – a nice change from the sea of red Ferraris typically seen. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of red cars anyway.

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It includes a removable hardtop, if for some reason you don’t want to feel the wind in your hair and listen to that glorious V12 exhaust note echoing off the hillsides. A soft top is also included, among the boxes and boxes of parts that come with this car. What I don’t see in the photos is the rear window for the hardtop – but I’m sure any competent auto glass company has one in stock. Right?

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Okay, sure; neither you nor I nor most mere mortals will ever get within drooling distance of cars like these, even in this condition. Rarity alone makes such an encounter unlikely; the Aston is one of 349, and the Ferrari one of about 200. Most of us will have to get our British and Italian sports car fixes from MGs and Triumphs and Fiats and Alfas. But what’s cool about those cars is that while the power and exclusivity are not there, the feel and the heritage is the same. But for today, let’s imagine that you do have the opportunity to acquire one of these fine classic projects. Which one will it be?

(Image credits: Hemmings sellers)

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Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
18 days ago

Definitely the Ferrari- when else can I vote for a million dollar plus car on Showdown? (Definitely not a shitbox)
What other way to celebrate 2 years?!
Congratulations! I love The Autopian
I’m drooling staring at that big old V12 beast…also all those weed, I mean parts baggies. I’ll take a bunch of dime bags of 10mm. Great Showdown Mark! I’ve never been a fan of red either…one of the only cars I’d be ok w/ it would be a Ferrari Testarossa which of course is a dream car but I would be one of those who would actually want a blue one

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
18 days ago

Aston. I looked at prices, realized neither are affordable, and went for my love of Astons over my love of Ferraris.

Not only that, but the idea of spending 1.3 million on a mid-restoration car is… Mind-boggling to me.

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
18 days ago

Since it’s play money, it’s gotta be the 250.

Cabriolet? Check
Colombo V12? Orgasmic sound.
Nocciola Metallizzato? Stunning. My new favorite Ferrari color.

Even after a factory restoration, you’ll make money on it.

Motorhead Mike
Motorhead Mike
18 days ago

It has to be the Aston Martin. I’m not even going to try to apply any sort of logic to it other than, I could see myself as ‘That Guy Who Drives the Ratty-Looking Aston’, a lot easier than I could see myself in the Ferrari. Get the Aston running and driving, and do something more constructive with the rest of the (roughly) $1M difference.

Roofless
Roofless
18 days ago

I mean an open-top Ferrari with a V12 and one of the most beautiful bodies ever penned, and presumably in this fantasy world I’ve got enough money to actually keep it on the road? Absolute no-brainer. I love me a vintage Aston, but there’s levels to this shit.

Mike F.
Mike F.
18 days ago

Well, for the purposes of this exercise, I have to assume that I have a ridiculous amount of money to spend on any sort of car I want, along with all of the assorted parts, maintenance, etc. issues. And if that’s the case and I’m going with an old sports car that’s going to take a lot of effort to maintain, then I’m going with a Ferrari. The Aston is very cool, but my Italian heritage requires that I not pass up the prancing horse.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
19 days ago

I was waffling between the two until I saw regular FRAM oil filters on the Ferrari.

Seriously, wtf.

Couldn’t even be bothered for a few dollars more for a Purolator, Wix, Mann, Mahle, Mobil, etc. on a car trying to command 7 figures for?

So! Aston Martin it is. Yes, despite Ferris Bueller’s recommendation about the 250 (if one broadens his statement slightly).

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
19 days ago

I can’t afford either one, but I will take the Aston Martin, I have never been a huge Ferrari fan.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
19 days ago

For these kinds of prices I expect Carplay, cupholders, lane keep, seven seats…

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
19 days ago

Ferrari for me.
But if that don’t work out, (bank loan), the the Aston also works.
I am not to good to cut the roof and install my own machine guns, or ejector seat.

Black Peter
Black Peter
19 days ago

As Racecar_Steve points out the DB 5 was recently auctioned for $274K, so this is likely top dollar, meanwhile I looks like even with a MACCO (is that still a thing) paint job the 250GT is worth every dollar of $1.3m (I can’t believe I typed that). So I went for the primer GT, as it’s the better investment. I’d love to drive it as is, but good lord that original paint color is beautiful..

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
19 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

The Ferrari has Fram engine oil filters on it. While they’re not bad, per se, I’m very alarmed at other ways the owner has likely been pinching pennies.

You don’t do that with a car like this.

Heck, I don’t even do that with my project cars nor daily drivers (but that’s me).

Last edited 19 days ago by Box Rocket
Banana Stand Money
Banana Stand Money
18 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

I suspect the Fram filters are not on there for cost savings, but because many vintage Ferraris were spec’d with Fram filters from the factory. Some owners end up swapping them for Baldwin filters, which were also a supplier for certain vintage models. As you might suspect, “keeping it original” is the name of the game in the vintage Ferrari world.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
18 days ago

Oh I’m aware of how matchy-matchy old car ownership can be, but today’s Fram isn’t the same Fram as back then, and it looks like one of the lesser Fram models based off what I could see of the label.

If it were my car I’d be tempted to use the best filter I could (if a factory-brand wasn’t available) and have some cover made for them if the branding was going to cause the snobs to get their snot all over it, so to speak.

Banana Stand Money
Banana Stand Money
18 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

I totally agree. I am not fortunate enough to come close to owning a vintage Ferrari. Put me in a 275 GTB/4 if I ever truly make it. I have heard that some owners actually have a specialist paint and decal a great oil filter to match vintage Fram models. I’ve also heard the argument that these Colombo V12s end up getting pampered and rebuilt every 15-20k miles, so it doesn’t really matter. Sigh, 1% problems.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
15 days ago

Well there’s always money in the banana stand… Unless it mysteriously catches fire.

Black Peter
Black Peter
18 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Oh they are bad not just per se, but collectively very bad, also OEM apparently. They are basically old paper grocery bags and hot glue. no one should ever use them.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
15 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

It depends, and since Trico bought them a few years ago Fram’s quality has seemed to improve. Watching some online independent test videos still shows their base filters on the lower end of the name-brand options, but better than they had been.

That said for not much more one can get a better filter and not even worry about it. I run Mahle, Mann, and Purolator myself, depending on the application.

Black Peter
Black Peter
15 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Good to know, but as you say, no reason to gamble. I found out the vaunted “Subaru Blue” filter was of the exact same construction as the Frams and stopped using them on my WRX, I switched to K&N, then actually Mazda.
Now I’m in a VAG, like you it will be Mann or Mahle, once my free services run out.

Racecar_Steve
Racecar_Steve
19 days ago

I find the DB4 to be quite pretty, and the Ferrari doesn’t seem like its worth nearly a million dollars more to my mere mortal brain, so that’s the route I’d go. A quick google search, however, shows that the Aston was sold at auction exactly one month ago for $274,400, so the $50k flipper mark-up rubs me a bit the wrong way.

https://www.classic.com/veh/1961-aston-martin-db4-series-ii-db4594r-nBwrbmW/
https://www.goodingco.com/lot/1961-aston-martin-db4-series-ii-1/

Black Peter
Black Peter
19 days ago
Reply to  Racecar_Steve

Is that flipper mark up, or trying to recoup the auction fees? I found the same listing shockingly quickly.

Racecar_Steve
Racecar_Steve
19 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

I suppose auction fees could account for some part of that added cost? Assuming every bit of that additional 50k is to cover fees, that would be a little over 18% of the 274,400 sale price, which seems high? I’ve never purchased a vehicle at auction, especially something like this, so I have no clue if that’s typical, but that seems a bit steep, so I’d wager a little bit of profit has been baked into the $325k asking price.

Black Peter
Black Peter
19 days ago
Reply to  Racecar_Steve

Interesting, Gooding and Co adds 12% ($30,000) on the first $250k and 10% on the remainder. So what’s that, $32k or so? Even adding transportation and they’re looking for a little cream on top. Some $18k baked in, good estimate.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
19 days ago

I voted for the Aston since it’s vastly cheaper.

LostinTransit
LostinTransit
19 days ago

Common, When are you going to do a shitbox showdown with the transit Connect, Dodge Promaster and the NV200 micro cargo van.. just make sure you invite me and our van..

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
19 days ago

I want the Ferrari so I can finish it in Silver just like Sir Charles had in “The Pink Panther”

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
19 days ago

2JZ swapping the Aston let’s goooooo!!!!!

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
19 days ago

Can I get the Ferrari motor in the A-M?

Mike
Mike
19 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

This is the answer.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
19 days ago

As much as the prudent investor in me says “buy the Ferrari, make it just so, then maintain it meticulously andkeep it as your kids’ inheritance”, I look at that Aston and melt. Yeah, taking the Aston Martin

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
19 days ago

Oh right, April 1.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
19 days ago

In my fantasy world, I’d take the Aston Martin. Ferrari reminds me too much of gold digger Christina Ferrare who dumped John Delorean’s ass when the blow and bucks dried up. Car people gotta hang together.

EXL500
EXL500
19 days ago

The Aston is pretty. The Ferrari is one of their models that is not. So, Aston.

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