Looking for a chunk of brute force? The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the classic car for you...
Could the Aston Martin V8 Vantage be the UK’s first supercar? It certainly has supercar credentials; a high price tag, blistering performance, exclusivity and a pedigree as strong as any other. But it’s a supercar done the British way, by getting a normal car and making it blindingly quick. As such, it’s got a decent amount of space, a boot, a well laid-out dashboard and all those things that Italian contemporaries sacrificed in the pursuit of sheer driving pleasure.
Engine – 5343cc, V8, OHV
Power – "Adequate"
Torque – "Adequate"
Top Speed – 168 mph
0-60mph – 5.2 seconds
Economy - 11mpg
Gearbox – 5 speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
There were few changes made to the V8 saloon in order to create the shell of the Vantage. The bonnet vent and grille were both blanked off, with a second pair of lamps mounted above the bumper. The front chin spoiler was considerably revised, while the bootlid and rear wings saw the introduction of a duck-tail spoiler. Later cars were rather more toned down in their approach (barring the standard Vantage Volante!), with the Prince of Wales Volante specification being favoured by many. Most V8s will have been well cared for, garaged, and water will rarely have been allowed to gather – so rust shouldn’t be an issue. Beware though that sills and suspensions mountings have been known to vanish, so check under the stainless sill covers to make sure they aren’t hiding any horrors. The bodies on these were aluminium, so beware of a reaction between the panels and the steel substructure. Beware also that while light, aluminium is hard to weld and panels such as the front wings are welded on – restoration is not for the home mechanic!
The Tadek Marek-designed 5.3-litre V8 is an understressed unit, even in Vantage form. And it is important to consider the standard spec, for Vantages sent to America never received anything more potent than the standard American low-compression unit; vital for emissions legislation. These cars are known as "cosmetic" Vantages, and some have found their way back across the Atlantic. UK-spec Vantages had rather more power, but the principles remain the same – while reliable in service, these are handbuilt cars with handbuilt engines (bearing the name of the man who built them, no less!), so if anything does go wrong it will need specialist attention to put it right. Cylinder heads need a rebuild every 60000 miles with new exhaust valves and guides, but the bottom end is good for up to 150000 miles.
Check that the diff has had regular oil changes and doesn’t leak between them. Vantages used Chrysler automatic gearboxes or, more commonly, a ZF five-speed manual. Neither of these poses any trouble to the would-be owner, and the brakes and suspension are reliable too. In terms of running gear, there’s little to alarm, but as with the engine and bodywork anything that may need doing will need to be done by a specialist.
Pre-1978, the Vantage’s interior was classic Aston Martin fayre; a black dashboard, lots of leather and a sporting ambience. The Series 4, launched in October 1978 (October introduction led to the phonetic name of Oscar India), did something the Juglans trees never managed; it sprouted sufficient walnut for the door cappings and dashboard overnight. The leather in all cars will be expensive to retrim – especially so, for Astons should only receive the best of hides – Oscar India cars with a leather headlining are reputed to contain the skins of nine cows in total. The wood can’t be refurbished on the cheap either. Buy the best interior you can afford if you want to save money later on.
Who doesn’t secretly want an Aston? Leaving aside the 007 connection, they’re British, slightly brutish, and in the best possible taste. They’ve been likened to the Ford Capri, but if this is the case then they’re the Capri Bryan Ferry might own – more subtle, more restrained, less of a loudmouth, and less likely to scream their own abilities from the rooftops. On top of that, it’s an old Aston – and they can only appreciate. They aren’t cheap now but they won’t get cheaper.