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Wednesday 21st January 2009

PH Heroes: Aston Martin V8 Vantage

In 1977 Aston Martin took the fight to the Italians with the V8 Vantage. Ollie Stallwood drives a very different kind of supercar.



There was something very British about the way Aston Martin rolled out our country’s first ‘supercar’ in 1977. The V8 Vantage’s bluff aggressive snout, monster power output and limo-like opulence must have had the Italians wondering what the hell was going on.

It was the polar opposite to the lithe Latin machinery that had been the very basis for this new ‘supercar’ moniker. There was no low-slung bonnet, pop-up lights and sleek body shape here (Aston saved that for its four-door saloon, the Lagonda), this was a pumped-out leviathan of a coupe, that turned out to be as fast as anything Italy had to offer.


The V8 Vantage had initially been developed as a conversion for the existing V8, in answer to what was seen as a lack of power and torque. The modifications owed much to the development of the Thunderbirds-styled Lagonda. According to Aston’s chief engineer David Morgan the V8 was lacking power in the Lagonda because the airbox and inlet manifold had to be modified to fit into the car’s unusual shape.

To overcome this Aston was forced to create bigger valves and lower-lift camshafts, but then the engineers realised that these changes could be applied to the standard V8 to create even more power. Throw in 481DA carburettors and suddenly the company had a 5.3-litre V8 producing almost 380bhp, an incredible figure for the 1970s.

The rest of the alterations sounded old school even for that decade. The distributor was remapped, the head skimmed, better spark plugs were fitted (NGK BP6EV) and a larger airbox was bolted in. The suspension was stiffened and ride height was rumoured to have been lowered thanks to cut-down springs. Aston even went as far as to fit spacers at the rear to increase the track.

Despite the Vantage’s bulky appearance, a lot of emphasis was put on aerodynamics and perhaps the most noticeable change, and perhaps one of the car’s most identifiable features, was the blanked-out grille. This was said to be the largest gain in drag reduction and thanks to the air being fed under the bumper there was no detrimental effect on cooling.

The end result was stunning. It was the motoring-equivalent of Johnny Rotten sticking two fingers up to the establishment. With a 170mph top speed Aston had arguably created the fastest car in the world.


And you could forget lying on the floor, sweating and reversing into things like you would in the new Lamborghini Countach – the Vantage had all the comfort and luxury you had come to expect from Newport Pagnell, and it seated four. A point had officially been made.

But brute force and obscene power is one thing – being special enough to qualify among the supercar elite is another. PH decided to track down a V8 Vantage and, in the interests of science, take it for a drive.


Bramley Motors (www.bramleyweb.co.uk), the garage near Guildford that has such a fine collection of automobiles old and new it could easily qualify as a museum, seemed like a good place to start. They have a number of V8 Vantages on offer but the one that caught my eye was a Litchfield Black G-reg with the ‘X Pack’ engine.

The last bit refers to the upgraded ‘X’ specification 437bhp V8 and sports exhaust. Thanks to the dished BBS alloys and dark paint this has to be one of the best-looking Vantages around.

Slide into the dark hide seats and you first appreciate how roomy and airy the car is. The next thing you notice is the odd pivot-on-the-floor pedals, which mean your toes tend to get caught when you press them (or my huge plates of meat at least).

The adjustable steering wheel never feels quite right, but you quickly forget these details when you look out over the menacing power bulge in front of you. There is, dare I say, more than a hint of early Mustang about this car, and the muscle car feel is inescapable.

Fire up the mighty V8 and it roars into life before settling on a baritone idle. It’s a big car and threading it through rural back streets is not the easiest thing in the world, although a combination of massive low-down torque (somewhere north of 380 lb/ft) and good visibility means its not as tricky as you might expect.

It’s a humbling experience piloting the Vantage, the car is so imposing and impressive you feel more like a privileged passenger than anything else. The steering is a little light but far more direct than I expected and before long I’m feeding the Vantage down B roads as if it is a car half its size.


As expected you can ride a wave of torque without the need to change gear and thanks to a compliant suspension the big Aston soaks up mid-corner bumps admirably. Body control is decent too, and in everyday conditions the car is far less of a handful than I envisaged.

As far as outright speed goes, this no longer feels like it was once one of the fastest cars in the world. Acceleration is linear and the noise that accompanies it is incredible, but 0-60mph in the mid-5s seems optimistic. That said these cars are apparently designed to rev to almost 7,000rpm and that is certainly not something I’m prepared to do in a 34,000-mile pristine example on greasy roads (not with the chap from the garage sitting next to me at least).


Slow it is not however, and when you take into account the noise, the practicality, and the general presence of the thing, the only conclusion to be made is that Aston created almost the impossible. There are no compromises, just everything you could want from a car rolled into one.

The Aston V8 Vantage is a shining example of how a bit of British know-how, some pencils behind ears, a decent cup of tea and a bit of ballsy ambition can take on the world. 

Oli S
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Author Discussion

190E Matt

Original Poster:

5,745 posts

101 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
My favorite Aston cloud9

V8 engine up front, rear wheel drive, manual transmission and no poncy electronics.

All that wrapped in the shell of one of the best looking coupes ever. Just perfect.



Edited by 190E Matt on Wednesday 21st January 12:21

williamp

12,580 posts

160 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Yeah! fantastic.

matt uk

9,571 posts

87 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
That is my lottery-win car.

ewenm

27,006 posts

132 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
One of these definitely sits on my dream garage list. cloud9

Fetchez la vache

4,431 posts

101 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all


Something about that view makes me go all wobbly...
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dinkel

22,629 posts

145 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
ewenm said:
One of these definitely sits on my dream garage list. cloud9
2nd, I'll post pics thursday eve.

190E Matt

Original Poster:

5,745 posts

101 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Anyone else think this is a proper mans car? As in the sort of man who go down their local to have real ale with twigs and mud in it.

6th Gear

1,932 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Stunning Car. One of my favourites of all time. That would definitely be in the dream garage. Proper muscle car.

6th Gear

1,932 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
190E Matt said:
Anyone else think this is a proper mans car? As in the sort of man who go down their local to have real ale with twigs and mud in it.
Perfectly said Matt

Edited by 6th Gear on Wednesday 21st January 12:30

RobCrezz

7,854 posts

95 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
British Muscle!

wadgebeast

3,856 posts

98 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Forgotten how much I used to love these.... time to rejig the lottery list to accommodate it. Does this mean I'll have to bin the quattroporte?

clanger

1,084 posts

145 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Fan bloody tastic motor, a very worthy PH Hero..

LuS1fer

31,784 posts

132 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
6th Gear said:
Stunning Car. One of my favourites of all time. That would definitely be in the dream garage. Proper muscle car.
Completely agree. One of the few cars in the world with no baggage in terms of image or negativity. Don't know antyone who doesn't love them.

Alfanatic

6,663 posts

106 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
190E Matt said:
My favorite Aston cloud9

V8 engine up front, rear wheel drive, manual transmission and no poncy electronics.

All that wrapped in the shell of one of the best looking coupes ever. Just perfect.



Edited by 190E Matt on Wednesday 21st January 12:21
Same. The Aston I'd most want to own. One day when I'm big. I love that big, bluff nose and that power bulge. Makes the car look like it's all about the engine. Mean, muscular, big but still beautiful and classy. What a British Mad Max might have driven.

matt uk

9,571 posts

87 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
I see this car as an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Like a heavyweight boxer in a perfectly cut Savile Row suit.

Charming, but with more than a hint of menace.

Mr Will

12,894 posts

93 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
Troy Queef said:
I see this car as an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Like a heavyweight boxer in a perfectly cut Savile Row suit.

Charming, but with more than a hint of menace.

The Aston V8 Vantage is a bh, and I spanked it.
EFA wink

I can't believe i'm posting an EFA, I need help!

londonbabe

779 posts

79 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
To me that is the finest car ever made, and if I could only have one car it would be one of these.

If we are being specific, it would be this one
http://www.bramleyweb.co.uk/carsales/details/Aston...


Syd knee

459 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
That is a different car and also a bit of a fake.

6th Gear

1,932 posts

81 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all

tim2100

6,183 posts

144 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st January 2009 quote quote all
drrroroooolllll


What a beast of a car. proper British Supercar, giving an up-yours to the rest of the world.

Years ago my fathers MD had one, let us borrow it just after we finished building the Westfield.

mmmmmmmm
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