While the 2001 Geneva motor show will seem a jolly long time ago now (largely because it was), it remains a significant point in the history of Aston Martin. Because it was 18 and a bit years ago that the production Vanquish was shown to the world, faithful to the stunning concept of a few years previously; bristling with a new, assertive, assured 21st century confidence that would define Aston for more than a decade, it wasn't far off a revolution.
If the DB7 saved Aston Martin in the 1990s, then the Vanquish is the car that kicked off the renaissance that's brought us to the present day. While it was the last car built at Newport Pagnell, the Vanquish represented a more modern, slick, contemporary Aston Martin, introducing the VH architecture most notably, and promoting the cars to a whole new level of desirability. The Vanquish effectively replaced the Virage-based Vantage, as big a step change as it's almost possible to imagine while still keeping the engine in the front, the power to the back and a wheel at each corner. Traditional, slightly stuffy Aston was replaced with sharp, suave, unabashed Aston, and look where it's come from there.
The Vanquish wasn't perfect, however - nobody could deny that. Lots of those issues, some relating to the dynamics, some with the performance on the DB9's arrival and the qualms with the gearbox, were largely sorted with the 520hp Vanquish S, which are now very desirable cars - the very last Ultimate versions command up to £250k.
So why suggest spending any money on the original Vanquish, if it was so flawed? Well, beyond it being perhaps the best looking of the 21st century Astons, and a third the price of an Ultimate, this particular Vanquish has been retrofitted with the Aston Works six-speed manual gearbox; seldom seen even on Vanquish S models, it's an extremely rare find on the 460hp version, despite favourable reviews. Why? Many buyers might have seen the Vanquish's automated gearbox more in keeping with its GT remit, and unwilling to tamper with a car that substantially. There's also the small matter of the cost, Aston Works charging £23,000 for the gearbox swap. With the cars now worth less than they were - this one is for sale at £75k, and automated manual cars are less - that's a chunk to spend on work that may well reduce desirability to a lot of buyers.
But what a thing it looks for those committed to the cause. When it's the manual gearbox now being introduced as a special edition, the appeal of a V12, manual Aston Martin is surely never going to wane. Especially so given it's pretty unlikely to happen again. It looks fantastic in AML Racing Green, the selling dealer has sold it previously and the service history is thorough - though it might want another freshen up now, given the time that's passed (and miniscule mileage) since the last going over.
Even allowing for that, and the expense that will come with a V12 Aston Martin approaching 20 years old, it seems like a superb opportunity - it's a Vanquish with its biggest bugbear sorted at the factory, in a good spec, with sufficient mileage under its wheels that you need not fear adding a few more. And while the odd DB9 manual will emerge for less money than this, it doesn't have the flagship allure of a Vanquish. As for alternatives outside Aston, good luck finding a manual Ferrari 575M for less than six figures. There aren't Jaguar GTs of this performance with a manual gearbox, and the V12 Mercedes will be automatic only as well.
So while the manual Vanquish possesses far from the best gearbox in the whole wide world, it's infinitely preferable to the paddles; that appreciation will surely only increase as the years pass and automatic technology improves, making the old tech seem even more rudimentary than it does now. But three pedals and a stick, with a V12 to control and wrapped up in this shape, will never not be covetable. The next Vanquish is going to be a very different car from those which preceded it, perhaps as big a leap as was ushered in from 90s Vantage to 2000s Vanquish, and that will be fascinating to watch develop as Aston goes supercar hunting. As one of the most enticing packages from Aston Martin's First Century, though, and for not truly absurd money, this particular Vanquish will take some surpassing.
SPECIFICATION - ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH
Engine: 5,935cc V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 466@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 400@5,000rpm
MPG: 17. Ish
CO2: 400g/km. Give or take
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 58,300
Price new: £164,349
Yours for: £75,000