In fact the first convertible Aston to be thus named appeared in 1965, and was known as the Short Chassis Volante. It was a rather curious amalgam, a bitsa special, combining the chassis of the DB5 with most of the upgraded parts of the DB6, and was therefore not to be confused with the DB5 Convertible, which was just a convertible. Not a Volante. Only 37 Short Chassis cars were made, and however they might behave on the road their beauty is enough to make you weep.
You might, if you were actually in the market for such a thing, do better to seek out the first proper production Aston to wear the Volante badge, the DB6 Volante. This appeared in 1966, succeeding the Short Chassis car. A whopping 140 of these were made, of which 29 were the more powerful Vantage Volante versions, so you should find one easily enough. Buy one and you'd be in good company: that most well known of all Aston fanciers, the Prince of Wales, has one. His, it should be noted, has been converted to run on bioethanol, but yours could still put a 280hp 4.0-litre straight-six smile on your face, provided you can cope with the heft of the clutch and the steering. Browse the PH classifieds and it seems you can release your inner Duchy Originals by buying this beauty, listed at a mere £850,000.
William Towns was a gifted car designer, who cut his teeth on the Rover BRM gas turbine racing car before going on to design the handsome 1969 Aston DBS. Initially the DBS came with an upgraded version of the 4.0-litre straight-six engine familiar from the older DB Astons, but it wasn't long before AM engine designer Tadek Marek had an all-new and rather desirable V8 ready to stuff under its bonnet. The DBS then morphed into the AM V8 in 1972, but it was another six years before the first drop-top Volante version appeared, to enjoy modest acclaim, despite its massive kerbweight and heavy-jowled looks. It was, briefly, a Bond car, too, and once again Prince Charles owned one, his the more powerful Vantage version. Should you want to own one too check this out - it's a 1980 model that's covered only 11,000 miles since a total restoration, and looks in superb condition inside and out. A mere £199,000 secures....
After 20 years even that fine-looking Towns' design was beginning to look a bit old-hat, and it was time for a change. In 1989 the Virage appeared, with a bold new look that kept both the sporting and luxury themes alive, along with a new chassis, new suspension and an upgrade to the 5.3-litre V8 that saw output boosted to 330hp - think 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. In time a Vantage version would enhance its muscle car appeal and up the ante even further, to 550hp. The Volante version followed in 1992, offering some wind-in-the-hair fun for the privileged few, and the final versions before the car's demise in the year 2000 were based on the longer chassis of the renamed V8 Coupe model. One further option remained: you could specify a converted 6.3-litre version of the V8, with power upped to 500hp, and we've found one right here. It's up at the top end of what you might expect to pay for a Virage, at a whisker under £200,000, but what the heck - it's only done 679 miles from new: it's practically a bargain.
Now, there have been a number of good-looking Astons; in fact, quite a number of them - no matter how sniffy you might be about some of the marque's engineering prowess, or their dynamic behaviour, you can't deny their visual appeal - but when the DB7 appeared in 1994 it was, relative to its time, possibly the most stunning of the lot. Styled by Ian Callum and Keith Helfet, it went on to be the best-selling Aston of all time, with over 7,000 produced. It came initially with a 3.2-litre straight six, but was joined in time by a 420hp V12 Vantage version. The Volante appeared in 1996, and was immensely popular with a whole new class of Aston owner. Combine it with the Vantage V12 and you have a fast and peachy drop-top for not as much of the folding as you might suppose. We found this manual example in our classifieds for £45,000.
The 2004 DB9 continued the gorgeous looks approach of the DB7 with a new body designed by Henrik Fisker and made mostly of aluminium. It also had an all-new VH (Vertical Horizontal) platform and a 450hp 5.9-litre V12 engine borrowed from the Vanquish - think 183mph and 0 to 60mph in 4.1 seconds, and it ushered mainstream Astons into the high-performance area where previously only its Vantage models had sat. The Volante version has a stiffer chassis, and inevitably weighs more than the closed car. It's also limited to 165mph, but if you can live with that then there are worse places to spend your time - the interior is a delightfully leathery cocoon. We found this remarkable late-model 2015 car with only 13,000 miles on the clock in our classifieds. It's a Carbon Black Edition version, which adds an extravagant exhaust sounds and look-at-me paint; this one could be yours for just under £110,000.
Aston revived the DBS name in 2008, with this Marek Reichman-designed Volante version following a year later. Again, it looked like a million dollars and it went pretty well, too, courtesy of a 510hp version of the 5.9 V12 - try 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds. It was, at its launch, the most high tech and dramatic production Aston yet. Indeed, it sat on a much-improved version of the DB9-derived VH structure, and made good use of carbon fibre and aluminium in an effort to lose a little avoirdupois. Alas there were issues with chassis flex that let it all down somewhat, but it still felt commendably special - inside was a beautifully trimmed interior, even if some of the detailing bordered on the brash. We found an immaculate-looking 2011 version with only 19,000 miles in our classifieds, loaded up with every conceivable want and on for just £117,900.
'The stiffest open-top Aston yet' is the proud boast for this Vanquish Volante, which is 14 per cent more rigid than the DBS Volante it replaced, thanks in part to the extensive use of carbon fibre in the platform, and it's fast, too, as quick as its closed-top sibling - we're looking at 183mph flat out and 0 to 60mph in 4.1 seconds. It also rides and handles pretty well, if without any true supercar-like involvement, though the engine sounds epic, especially so without a roof to get in its way. The interior echoes the quality and eye-catching design of the DBS's, which, combined with the arresting looks of the exterior, nearly justifies what was a huge price differential between this and the just-gone-off sale DB9 Volante. This stunning 2015 example we found has a mere 18K on the clock and comes with 20-inch gloss Black Diamond turned alloys and a One-77 leather steering wheel - surely worth the £154,990 asking price alone?
[Words: Mark Pearson]