Of course, Project Vantage signifies the beginning of the Ford overlord era. While the money was pouring in, so too were the uncomfortable reminders of this car’s parentage. While the beginnings of the excellent and versatile VH architecture and a version of the long-serving and spectacular-sounding V12 were present, so too were control surfaces and dials straight out of the blue oval’s parts bin.
It’s 95% Vanquish although bonnet vents, less awkward mirrors, (slightly) less Ford-heavy controls and a finished rear end took the production car in the right direction. The shapes in the cabin of the prototype resemble the sleek sloping dash that later Astons would receive, but that was too expensive to re-design and implement in the Vanquish production car. In its place, something of a crude and button-heavy plastic slab. “But it’s just so charming!… it’s got the X-factor!” reviewers would gush…
The truth of the matter is that the looks and the charm of Project Vantage were likely the saving grace of Aston, giving parent Ford’s penny pinchers the faith that they could come good on the investment. Without Callum’s vision for the ultimate Aston, a generation of British dream cars may not have come to be, or, at the very least, may have looked very different. Funny to think that Aston owes some portion of the last fifteen years of success to a somewhat janky prototype with Ford KA switchgear – a car they spent a million to conceive and sold off for £100,000.
As of this being published, impressions of Aston’s latest Vantage are out for all to see, including ours. The overall conclusion is that it’s an absolute home run. From borrowing Detroit show stand space from Jaguar to class-leading profit-turning sportscar manufacturer in twenty years. There's probably something poetic about both Aston and the Vantage's ascension over that time. The old jokes pertaining to Aston and profit were perhaps as relevant in 1998 as they are irrelevant in 2018.
Photography courtesy of Bonhams