The thing I love about classic Aston Martins is that they are so very British. While many classic car enthusiasts and speculators have been getting all emotional about the Italian marques with their sexy looks and mainly diminutive stature, classic Aston Martin ownership offers an entirely different experience. Forgive me for the hackneyed metaphor (but it is appropriate), while the DB5 will always be seen as the Bond car, the V8 of the ’70s and ’80s offers a more contemporary Bond experience. It’s predecessor, the 6-cylinder DBS, was very Roger Moore – it looked the part but lacked real oomph – while the V8 Vantage was a bit more Daniel Craig mixing muscular charm (so Mrs Legge tells me) with brooding power and latent aggression packaged in the automotive equivalent of a Savile Row suit and like Craig’s Bond, it was complex.
The production of the Aston Martin V8 accounts for around 20 per cent of Aston Martin’s 100-plus years of history and, during that time, it went through a series of changes and variants that in some cases were so subtle I must confess they are beyond my comprehension. To try to understand them a little better, I turned to Aston Martin Heritage dealer Nicholas Mee for expert help. To summarise, the V8 engine was briefly installed in the DBS which was re-styled and updated to become the AMV8 which eventually evolved into the hallowed and more powerful V8 Vantage as well as spawning convertible and Zagato bodied versions. At the time it was one of, if not the, fastest and most luxurious cars ever built – Victor Gauntlett’s iron fist in a velvet glove. Production numbers were very small, with only around 400 V8 Vantages being built – less than half the number of DB5s made.
Bond and the V8 were also relics and survivors of a previous age and both M and Nicholas Mee agree on this. The Aston Martin V8 was a truly hand-built car at a time when other cars were mass produced. Somehow the V8 managed to survive a fuel crisis, recession, US emissions regulation and even being part of the British motor industry. How? Because, as Nick Mee explains, it was an establishment car, bought by plutocrats, captains of industry and the cognoscenti who truly appreciated a handbuilt car – after all, how many other manufacturers have a ‘Prince of Wales’ specification.
Somehow the V8 managed to survive a fuel crisis, recession, US emissions regulation and even being part of the British motor industry. How? Because it was an establishment car
Hairdressers and pools winners could go and buy a Ferrari 400 if they wanted 2+2 motoring. The V8 Vantage was the ultimate and final expression of the V8 line and you only have to see one on the prowl to appreciate the handsome, muscular frame which looks every bit of its 400bhp but at the same time has the elegance and exclusivity of a Savile Row suit – and, as Mr Mee points out, it takes a certain type of person to appreciate that. Manufacturers are increasingly offering bespoke customisation programs for their customers but they will never be able to deliver the true exclusivity that a hand-built car offered.
Values of the V8s have doubled and in some cases tripled in the last five years. A good AMV8 was £50-55,000 back in 2010 and you will pay double for one now. A good X-pack Vantage will be heading through the £200,000 mark and prices for the fabled POW specification will almost certainly start with a five. The model line-up is complex so, if you are thinking about buying, make sure you take advice from someone who really knows what they are talking about. The global market is strong particularly in the Middle East, US and Germany, and LHD models are scarce
The Aston Martin V8 represents something very special and British from a bygone era. Not everyone will get it, but owners can bask in the inner glow of knowing they have something that transcends fashion and whose like we will not see again. No wonder Bond drove one.
Edward Legge is Director of Commercial Development at Classic & Sports Finance