Aston Martin has an enormous portfolio of drop-dead gorgeous cars. In 1963, they transitioned from the DB4 to the DB5. Despite the new car, Aston Martin was having problems defeating Ferrari and their 250 GT. So they decided they needed to do something more drastic then create a race going version of the DB5 GT. They decided to build the stunning prototype sports racer, the DP214. It was a purpose-built sports racer to be used in the 1963 24 hours of Lemans.
Aston Martin shipped the chassis to Italy to have Zagato build the new design. Only two were built, and only one survives today.
In order to comply with GT regulations, the DP 214 was based on the chassis of a DB4 GT. The body was completely redesigned, utilizing many similar features from its predecessor, the DP 212, particularly in the Kamm-styled tail. The DP 214 was otherwise markedly wider and with a completely new front end versus it's predecessor.
The DP214 weighed in at just over 2100 pounds, and utilized a 3.7 liter inline six that was an overbored version of a production 3.6 liter engine, ultimately producing approximately 320 hp at 6,000 rpm. The engine was mounted 6 inches further back in the chassis from the stock location, and was mated to a 4 speed transmission.
When the car debuted at the 1963 24 Hour race it was significantly faster than planned. The original intention was for the cars to lap at approximately 4:15. During practice, the DP 214 was lapping significantly faster, at 3:59. It was hitting recorded speeds of 186 mph down the Mulsanne Straight - Incredibly fast for the time, especially for a production-based car.
Despite the blinding speed, the race did not start off well for the two cars. On the 28th lap, while leading the GT class and in 10th place overall, a piston failure forced one of the two cars to retire. The second car had to stop even earlier on to unblock one of the carburetor jets. But even with that substantial delay, that car worked back up to fifth place overall in only eight hours. By the 10th hour they were in third overall, leading the GT class, but unfortunately suffered the same piston failure that hobbled the first car.
In their rush to prepare the cars, the Aston Martin engineers ran out of time to have pistons forged, and had to rely on cast pistons that were clearly not up to the job.
The cars continued to race in other series with great success, when not retiring with mechanical failures. Later in 1963, they set a new GT lap record at Monza, averaging a speed of over 120 mph. In 1964, the DP214 broke the GT record time at Silverstone.
The DP214 was the last car Aston Martin would field at Le Mans until 2004. Although it never fully lived up to it's potential, it clearly left an indelible impression on their product lineup for years - arguably to this day.