In 1966 The Beatles were, as John Lennon said, bigger than Jesus. And for a star of such global influence and magnitude, only a very special car would do. A year earlier, Aston Martin had introduced the DB6 to replace the iconic and visually flawless DB5, which had been enjoying similar levels of fame as The Beatles after its star turn in 1963's Goldfinger as James Bond's passenger-ejecting, machine gun-firing company car.
In its day, the DB6 was one of the planet's most desirable cars. Anyone who was anyone wouldn't be seen dead in anything as common as an E-Type Jag, so this Aston was an exceptionally cool set of wheels. Cool enough for a Beatle.
As a solo artist, Paul McCartney has never really floated my boat if I'm honest, so the fact that his name is on the log book as the original keeper means nothing. I mean, this is the guy responsible for some of the most cringe worthy sounds of the 1980s, when my tastes in music were being formulated. Don't believe me? Check out the "Frog Chorus" or the lamentable "Say, Say, Say" he inflicted on us with Michael Jackson. It was as if the 1960s had never happened.
But while I have no time for McCartney, collectively The Beatles are another story. Everyone has a favorite Beatles song and mine happens to be "Hey Jude". Which kind of gives me goosebumps just thinking about it while sat in the DB6's black leather driver's seat. Because McCartney wrote that epic song sat in this very place. Pop history was made right here.
In 1968 John Lennon's marriage with Cynthia was in self-destruct mode, mainly due to Lennon not keeping his rampant libido in check. They had a son together (Julian) and McCartney went to visit the Lennons when the infant wasn't well. McCartney had a cassette recorder fitted underneath the DB6's dashboard with a microphone plumbed into it, just in case he was feeling artistic and needed to get a melody or lyrics onto tape.
Thinking of a suitable lullaby to make young Julian feel better, McCartney came up with "Hey Jules," And in a fleeting moment of unspeakable brilliance it eventually evolved into "Hey Jude." It was, quite rightly, The Beatles' biggest hit, selling more than seven million copies. Even today, 40 years on, its rousing chorus never fails to impress.
So how come I'm smoking around Liverpool in this most revered piece of Beatlemania? McCartney sold it to a real estate agent in 1972, who kept it until 2001 when he auctioned it off. It was in a sorry state but Aston Martin wanted it back, duly bought it and set about restoring it to its former glory-a sort of shop window, if you will, for the boundless talents of its Works Service personnel.
Works Service is the division of Aston Martin that restores and maintains privately owned vehicles, and the craftsmen and women there (still at the hallowed Newport Pagnell factory) are the best in the business. So after a year-long, painstaking ground-up restoration, Aston decided to keep it and let it out now and then to a selected few. Lucky old me, as for two whole weeks it's mine.
And what could I do but bring it to Liverpool, a city more famed for its Beatles legacy than anything else? It's often said that you should write about what you know, and the Beatles knew Liverpool so that's often what their songs were about. Penny Lane is a real street, Strawberry Fields was a real children's home now sadly a burnt-out shell. Eleanor Rigby was a woman whose headstone stands in the cemetery at the church where McCartney and Lennon first met and where they used to hang out.
As I pilot this elegant sports car around some rough areas of the city in search of our first landmark, I'm not at all surprised McCartney up and left for London as soon as he could. Decades of social decay have scarred this urban landscape forever. Many parts look like war zones and in fact are when it comes to law and order.
I'm looking for Menlove Avenue, which you'd be forgiven for assuming was a street full of gay bars. In fact, it's a busy tree-lined road where Lennon grew up and his old house is now open to the public. My sat-nav eventually helps find the house and a couple of rotund American Beatles fanatics are being given a guided tour. I refrain from going in because, well, it's just a house when all's said and done. It's not hallowed ground for everyone.
Just around the corner is the entrance to Strawberry Fields, name-checked on one of the group's most psychedelic hits. I park up the DB6 in front of its graffiti-covered gateway and gawp at the Aston's lovely lines. We've not been here long before a huge coach pulls up and ejects its dozens of occupants onto the busy road. More tourists.
Once they find out whose car it was, the Aston becomes superstar for a few minutes and rightly so. It might be a little lumpy at the rear end when compared to the DB5, but this was to allow four adults enough headroom to enjoy this finest of GT cars. Inside, it's a treat of supple black leather, a beautiful black-and-chrome dashboard with an instrument binnacle that evokes the iconic shape of its front radiator grille. The big wooden wheel is simply evocative and the controls dainty and beautiful to the touch.
Unfortunately, in Aston's quest to take the DB6 back to the condition it was in when McCartney took delivery of it, the tape recorder has been removed and the leather, instead of being restored, has been totally renewed. There are improvements over the original specification though, and again this goes back to the shop-window analogy. Adjustable power steering makes it more driveable, especially in urban conditions, and the speaker behind the gear shifter is now a hinged flap that conceals a new CD player.
It's still not an easy car to drive. It feels heavy and cumbersome at times, wallowing through tight corners, and its brakes feel wooden. But these thoughts are banished every time I open it up and hear the meshing of the 4.0-liter straight six. It builds up speed more rapidly than you'd expect, but a new MINI would leave it for dead. Which is missing the point, I know.
We spend the day seeking out more Beatles landmarks, including McCartney's old house where even more Americans descend. I see Eleanor Rigby's headstone and shivers go down my spine. We park up in Penny Lane, which, name aside, has no appeal whatsoever. Liverpool is slowly picking itself up but the city is still a mess. Unemployment, hard drugs and crime-they've all taken their toll, so I'm happy to leave it all behind and head for home behind the wheel of such a glamorous piece of British engineering.
There's only one song suitable for the CD player though, and all the way home I'm shouting along to it: "Laah, la, la, la la laaah. La la la laaaah. Hey Jude..."
1966 Aston Martin DB6
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter inline six, dohc, 12-valve
Peak Power: 282 hp @ 5500 rpmPeak Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm0-60 mph: 8.4 sec.Top Speed: 148 mph
Price Tag (1966): $15,400