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Thursday 15th December 2005

Buying a DB7

The DB7 is the most successful Aston of all, but does it make a good used buy? Andrew Noakes reports.


Aston Martin DB7 i6
Aston Martin DB7 i6

If you can’t justify spending the £106,850 it will cost you for an Aston DB9, or even the £79,995 a new V8 Vantage will set you back, a tidy pre-owned DB7 might seem an attractive idea. But how do you choose between the early six-cylinder models and the later V12s, or between the coupés and the drophead Volantes, autos or manuals – and where are the pitfalls for the unwary?

To find out, we consulted DB7 evangelist Derek Campbell, of Chiltern Aston, located near Hemel Hempstead.

Showroom condition
Showroom condition
AM Works Service is best
AM Works Service is best
Neiman Marcus Volante
Neiman Marcus Volante
Volante Hood
Volante Hood
Uneven tyre wear
Uneven tyre wear
Accident damage
Accident damage
One for £30k
One for £30k
The straight six
The straight six
You can drive them too...
You can drive them too...
Chiltern Aston
Chiltern Aston

Let’s deal with coupés and Volantes first. Volantes offer fresh air and optimum pose value, but the hood steals rear seat space. But the decision isn’t simply about how much interior space or headroom you want: Volantes are heavier and their bodyshells more flexible, too, so coupés are the driver’s choice.

“The six-cylinder is very strong, very lazy, very much within the capabilities of the chassis,” says Derek. “You can get in a six-cylinder, thrash it within an inch of its life, and still be safe.” The rarer manual gearbox is preferable, partly because it allows you to rely on the mountain of mid-range torque and partly because the six’s auto gearboxes are not particularly impressive.

V12 Vantage

The V12s have a sharper throttle response, and are more about revs and power than high gears and torque. The V12 cars also provide the better soundtrack, and because they are later cars they benefit from several years further development in everything switchgear to body stiffness. But there are drawbacks to the V12.

The V12s’ styling is more aggressive, but arguably less cohesive. The car’s designer – Ian Callum, then working for TWR but now Director of Design at Jaguar – prefers the purity of the earlier model, and Derek Campbell agrees. But that’s purely subjective: a bigger demerit for the V12 is its running costs: fuel consumption is at least a third greater and servicing is more expensive.

As a result, values of V12 are still dropping while six-cylinder cars have now levelled out at £30,000 or so for good early models, up to around £45,000 for the last ones. V12s start around the same level, and head up to £70,000 or more for late cars. The rare Zagato models go for even more, but special edition versions of the standard car are a different story. “They’re a colour scheme and a bit of embossing on the seats,” says Derek. “On the basis that they built so few DB7s anyway, they’re all limited editions.” But Driving Dynamics and GTS kits, which include suspension and brake upgrades, do add to a car’s value, and are worth a premium of about £3,000.

What can go wrong?

Pre-purchase inspection is an essential, says Derek, because a superficially tidy DB7 can hide problems underneath. Jacking points, radius arm mountings and the front bulkhead are the areas where rust will show up first, but major rust troubles are, so far, very rare. Sometimes the front wings will have what look like rust bubbles under the paint – but the wings are composite. The bubbles are caused by poor repair work, and the only lasting cure is to replace the wings.

Front-end impacts tend to deform the chassis rails under the engine or distort the subframe carrying the engine and suspension mountings, leading to poor handling and uneven tyre wear. On all cars, the wide alloy wheels are strong at the outer rim but less well supported on the inside, and spirited driving over speed bumps can distort the inner rim causing vibrations which can be felt through the steering. Brake discs can also distort, reducing brake efficiency and causing vibrations through the pedal.

Weeping air conditioning gaskets and seals are common, a combination of old technology equipment and the irregular use that is common with DB7s. The worst news is failure of the evaporator unit, which takes two days to replace because most of the interior has to come out.

On Volantes, the hoods are generally well made and reliable, but it’s worth checking the rear quarters of the hood for wear. The hood irons are provided with rubber covers which sometimes go missing, leaving sharp edges which can rub holes in the hood cover. The only possible repair is to cut out the affected area and let in new material, a specialist job. It’s also important to check that the hood cover, which helps keep the headlining clean when the hood is folded, is present and that all the catches work.

The plastic catches which allow the seat backs to tip forward often break, and if they are broken it tells you something important about the owner. If that owner has been careless enough to break the catches, and then lazy enough to leave them like that, where else has maintenance and repair been skimped or missed entirely?

Service history

A full service history is absolutely essential, and it’s equally important that the car has been looked after by a qualified specialist. Stamps in the book from Aston Martin Works Service at Newport Pagnell are about as good as it gets, but equally effective care will be provided by an approved Aston specialist like Chiltern Aston Centre. Gaps in the history should sound warning bells, particularly if they occur at the same time as a change in ownership, and make sure bills for parts match the recommended schedule – it’s easy to fill the service book with oil changes but never do the more expensive maintenance jobs. The factory recommends that all DB7s are serviced every 7500 miles or six months, though an annual service is probably reasonable for cars which cover only low mileages. The biggest service bills come at 30,000 miles for six-cylinder cars and 45,000 miles for the V12s.

Why buy one?

So, does a pre-owned DB7 make sense? Well, no, not really. “It’s not the most efficient car in the world, it’s not the quickest car in the world, it’s not the best built car in the world,” says Campbell. But that’s not the point. If a DB7 is what you’ve set your heart on, little else will do. “It’s passion, desire, aspiration. You’re buying it because you want it.” And, Campbell adds, “it’s the prettiest car that was ever designed…”

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Copyright © Andrew Noakes 2005

Andrew Noakes
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Author Discussion

r988

Original Poster:

7,494 posts

114 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
[quote]“it’s the prettiest car that was ever designed…”[/quote]

I agree.

silver993tt

8,511 posts

124 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
I don't

jeremyc

11,925 posts

169 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
Another key difference to remember with the Vantage (V12) models is that the Volante and automatic versions have their top speed limited to 165mph: the manual coupe tops out at about 185mph (and accelerates faster than the Volante or auto).

The DB7 GT and Zagato versions have slightly more power than the earlier Vantage as well as improved suspension and brakes. They also boast bigger wheels and other trim variations.

I can recommend www.astonmartins.com as a comprehensive reference guide for all DB7s (and other Aston Martin models).

granville

18,764 posts

146 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
silver993tt said:
I don't


Dear God, this is the kind of ignorance that cost us the empire.

Holding profoundly silly views like this makes it difficult for anyone to sustain a justifiable retort when men brandishing antique weaponary hunt you down.

A DB7 is so sensuous that not only should ownership be mandatory but carnal union too, seems inevitable.

I hail the DB7.

Dinod

1,853 posts

106 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
derestrictor said:
silver993tt said:
I don't


Dear God, this is the kind of ignorance that cost us the empire.

Holding profoundly silly views like this makes it difficult for anyone to sustain a justifiable retort when men brandishing antique weaponary hunt you down.

A DB7 is so sensuous that not only should ownership be mandatory but carnal union too, seems inevitable.

I hail the DB7.


So you buying then??
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bunglist

545 posts

115 months

[news] 
Thursday 15th December 2005 quote quote all
If you like cars such as these, (and I love Astons pretty much all of them look Superb except the laganda) then why would you be bothered about fuel economy or services costs.

If you want one, just go and get one, even if the misses says no, you'll only regret not getting one.

Superb cars Aston Martin please keep doing what you are doing. Also I do not know many cars that look better, or that have so much pinnache!!!!!

naumanf1

48 posts

117 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
Good insight into the DB7 Andrew, good job.
I spent a weekend with a 2001 DB7 Vantage Volante earliar this year, and while I know it is not the quickest, or the fastest, or the best sounding or the best handling, and wind-buffeting on the highway is pretty bad with the roof down, it just is so loveable.
I felt good sitting inside it, I loved the looks, and it put a smile on my face everytime I walked upto it.
Would I buy one if I could? Yes, absolutely, despite knowing all the drawbacks. Hope to spend time with one of these again

Dinod

1,853 posts

106 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
naumanf1 said:
Good insight into the DB7 Andrew, good job.
I spent a weekend with a 2001 DB7 Vantage Volante earliar this year, and while I know it is not the quickest, or the fastest, or the best sounding or the best handling, and wind-buffeting on the highway is pretty bad with the roof down, it just is so loveable.
I felt good sitting inside it, I loved the looks, and it put a smile on my face everytime I walked upto it.
Would I buy one if I could? Yes, absolutely, despite knowing all the drawbacks. Hope to spend time with one of these again


That captures what a good car is all about. It seems today (and maybe rightly so) that all the emphasis is on technical brilliance and raw data. Aston produce cars that are not the fastest, best handling etc. They produce cars that have the style, character, to sound a little corny, the 'X' factor

Now if only they could make cheaper, everyday cars that give you the same feeling....

sherrow

27 posts

143 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
Had my 2003 DB7 Vantage Volante for a year now and agree with all that's been said. Except wind buffeting with the hood down. Even without the wind deflector fitted it's calm and quiet at three figure speeds(on private roads of course). You are absolutely right, it's not about performance figures on paper. It's the whole driving experience - the wonderful look of the car, the huge amount of torque, the smell of all that leather, the fantastic (with sports exhausts) sound of that V12, the hand built feel of the car, the (surprisingly) good six speed manual box and light clutch etc.etc. Even the courtesy you are shown by other drivers. Now I'm getting wistful, I'm off to the garage!

dinkel

22,368 posts

143 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
r988 said:
[quote]“The DB7 the prettiest car that was ever designed…”


I agree.[/quote]



Nice

The 70s Astons are my favs but I must say everytime any Aston passes by or comes in sight time stops a few secs . . . The bloodline is almost without any flaw. The 6pot for me please . . .

williamp

12,381 posts

158 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
Great article Andrew. Your website mentions a new book about the DB7. care to elaborate???

And is there any chance you can write a proper book on the V8 range (DBS V8 to V8 Coupe/ Vantage Le Mans). With racing, it would be a great book and long overdue. Hints on buying and driving as well, please

(if you need a DBS V8 for photo shoots then let me know)

Andrew Noakes

914 posts

125 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
williamp said:
Your website mentions a new book about the DB7. care to elaborate???


Well since you're asking... Aston Martin DB7: The Complete Story is due to be published in April, by Crowood Press. Covers the complex Aston/TWR/Jaguar origins of the DB7, all the major variants and special editions, and the Zagato cars. If you want to know why the prototype had a twin-turbo engine, why Tom Walkinshaw's own DB7 had a quad-cam Jaguar V12, or where the door handles came from, it's all in there...

The V8 cars would make a great story - I'll have to think about that one!

williamp

12,381 posts

158 months

[news] 
Friday 16th December 2005 quote quote all
Andrew Noakes said:
williamp said:
Your website mentions a new book about the DB7. care to elaborate???


Well since you're asking... Aston Martin DB7: The Complete Story is due to be published in April, by Crowood Press. Covers the complex Aston/TWR/Jaguar origins of the DB7, all the major variants and special editions, and the Zagato cars. If you want to know why the prototype had a twin-turbo engine, why Tom Walkinshaw's own DB7 had a quad-cam Jaguar V12, or where the door handles came from, it's all in there...

The V8 cars would make a great story - I'll have to think about that one!


I can only answer that the doior handles are from a mazda 323- as are the rear lights. can't wait!

Have you got any images of the Le mand db7? It just failed to qualify in 1995, but I have never heard of it/ seen it before.

zaktoo

1,401 posts

125 months

[news] 
Saturday 17th December 2005 quote quote all


HTH

Ciao

Zak

kenyon

1,162 posts

142 months

[news] 
Saturday 17th December 2005 quote quote all
A family member has just purchased and traded his Lotus Esprit in for late 2001 DB7 Vantage with 25,000 miles on the clock one owner from new. A private sale. I have a Ferrari 348 Spider and must say the car is to die for. Just loving it. Its a special place to sit and drive just like a ferrari. The torque is amazing. What a wonderful british car. I am tempted to trade the ferrari in for one. Also the rarity of them, never seem to see them one on the road and the DB7 Vantage is still the best looking car, especially from the front. V12 noise is great with the sport exhaust.

Can you buy the 19" wheels for them and how much and where from. If anyone could help please, much appreciated.

Andrew Noakes

914 posts

125 months

[news] 
Saturday 17th December 2005 quote quote all
The Le Mans DB7 V8 is in the Manoir de l'Automobile museum in France - you can see it here. I did plan to go down there to photograph it, but sadly there wasn't enough time to get it done. There is a brief mention of it in the book, though, along with the stillborn DB7 GT race cars.

jeremyc

11,925 posts

169 months

[news] 
Saturday 17th December 2005 quote quote all
kenyon said:
Can you buy the 19" wheels for them and how much and where from. If anyone could help please, much appreciated.
You can buy them from Aston Martin themselves.

kenel

71 posts

130 months

[news] 
Sunday 18th December 2005 quote quote all
My first Aston DB7 was an auto, it wasn't until I drove the manual that I realised what I was missing. Compared to the manual the auto was like having sex with ten condoms. What is more the manual is rarer and posibly cheaper because many Aston drivers buy the car not the driving experience. Early Astons and I include all six cylinder models suffered from build problems so for what it is worth I would advise Manual Vantage, not tiptronic, that is for people who don't like sex at all and as late as you can afford.

Wacky Racer

22,045 posts

132 months

[news] 
Sunday 18th December 2005 quote quote all
"The worst news is failure of the evaporator unit, which takes two days to replace because most of the interior has to come out.".......

Desmo

144 posts

105 months

[news] 
Sunday 18th December 2005 quote quote all
The 19" wheels are not recommended for the 6 cylinder models, according to AM factory. Other cars may need bumpstops removing also, no problem but obviously not to be bolted on without checking. AC evaporators do leak occasionally, so if your buying in winter, check the AC cooling! the good news though is that Aston puts flourescent leak detecor in the AC gas and leaks can be detected with a black light, so the drain tubes under the car should show signs of this if there's a leak. Check all service history and warranty history from the dealer. Sump gaskets can leak a bit on v12 as can the sump plugs if overtightened, the sump gasket can be done in place, just drop the suspension, not a bad job really. DB7GT manual is the one to have in my opinion.
regards, Desmo
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