Nick Hall explains how BBR makes the AM DB7 fly...
The Aston Martin DB9 has the rich, the famous and the motoring press collectively salivating like Pavlov’s Dog in a bell factory, and rightly so. But we already know it has less power than the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Mercedes E55 AMG and even the new M5, and losing out in the inevitable game of boardroom top trumps is likely to annoy a man who has just shelled out £103,000.
Brackley-based BBR is based just down the road from Aston Martin’s base in Newport Pagnell, but the first contact director Dave Brodie had with the 6-cylinder DB7 was when he jumped into a customer’s car to head to a meeting. He returned within five minutes, declaring it the slowest pile of overpriced scrap he had ever had the misfortune of driving. Most would have walked away, muttering under their breath, but Dave never backs away from a challenge.
DB7 horses liberated!
He took the engine out and found it wasn’t running close to the 337bhp claimed, but, with a little imagination, he managed to modify the supercharger, remap the ECU and liberate 400bhp and 438lb/ft of torque for just £2,995 + VAT.
BBR’s modifications give the straight six another push high up the rev range as the 3.9-litre engine homes in on the 7,000rpm limit. Bury the throttle in the lush carpet and this car will yield rewards, but getting there is still a painful experience and I thought for a moment I’d pulled away with the handbrake jammed on.
The claimed 0-60mph speed of 5.4 seconds for the factory version sounded like pure fantasy from behind the wheel of the modified car that I drove, which is still poor at low revs. BBR’s cheap fix was only designed to make a bad car bearable, though. You can’t get a revolution at that price and you could easily add brake upgrades and any number of other additions to the mod list before this car feels like a tourer, let alone a Grand Tourer.
Still, the six can be obtained much cheaper secondhand now, so this car is for those that desperately want a part of the James Bond myth. Of course it isn’t just about pure speed, this is as much about show as go after all, but this car was truly awful. Even the manufacturer eventually acknowledged it, removing it from the market shortly after the V12 came along.
The V12 is an altogether different proposition and was greeted like a centrefold in a prison when it came on the scene. This was a machine worthy of the legendary wings, and James Bond behind the wheel, and a car that took the fight to Ferrari’s 550 Maranello. Of course the tatty Ford switchgear wasn’t great, nor the chassis that was based on the same Jaguar XJS technology that stretched back to 1975, but this machine was beautifully finished in swathes of shagpile and leather, looked fantastic from the outside and had that almighty engine.
This particular example is a unique 2003 Volante, retrospectively fitted with the GT kit that was only available on the Coupés in the brochure. This boosted the power to 435bhp and dropped the ride height by 3mm, together with some clever additional bracing to make the most of the 355mm front and 330mm rear Brembo brake discs.
Handling wise the DB7 is mightily impressive, considering its Jaguar roots. Of course the six-litre tended towards understeer, but with a nose only marginally lighter than a 747, that was always going to be the case.
And it's heavy -- 1,863Kg in the case of the drop-top -- but there is a grace about the DB7 that defies its bulk. With the GT pack firmly ensconced, the steering is precise, too, with the wheel sending a gilt-edge advice slip when the tyres start to lose the fight for grip. It’s easy to drive, too, as one would expect from a car company that still shies away from outright performance.
But the car is merely beautifully made leather and aluminium wrapping for that engine. Eight-five per cent of the torque is available from just 1,500 revs, making this armchair on wheels a serious sporting proposition. While the V6 spluttered down the road like a beached whale making one last lunge for the sea, the V12 bolts like a horse from a gate. And the baritone roar is immense, immense in the way that only a V12 can be.
In standard form this car completes the 0-60mph dash in five seconds flat and can reach somewhere in the region of 180mph. It also produces 410lb-ft of torque, which is impressive stuff indeed. In fact the unit is so good that the V12 has enjoyed only minor revisions before finding a home in the engine bay of the DB9. And here is the point.
BBR hiked this DB7s power up to 547bhp and the torque up to 496lb/ft, which gives it more ponies than the Scaglietti. Now a vehicle that is not far shy of two tonnes is never going to transform into a sub-four second supercar, and as it was Aston did a good job with the 0-60mph time, so it was pointless expending the effort in this area.
Instead BBR has concentrated on strengthening the acceleration throughout the range and this car will leave the standard car behind when it comes to mid-range acceleration. On the plus side for those in it, they¹ll get to soak up the awesome exhaust note as this machine disappears into the distance.
And there’s no reason at all why it should not cannot happen to the DB9. All Dave needs is a willing owner prepared to leave his car at the shop long enough to master the new engine. You can even crate up a DB7 engine, send the £20,000 cheque wait for the power hike.
You don’t need to work too hard to liberate horses from a six-litre and even Aston’s Chief Engineer, Jeremy Main, believes 600bhp is perfectly possible with this engine. Fear not, as soon as a customer brings their car in and asks, BBR will do it for him.Nick Hall