It doesn't take long for Gordon Murray to convince us of something. And so forthright has the British design wizard been about the significance of both a manual 'box and a free-revving V12 to the forthcoming T.50 that we've all been staring out of the window, day dreaming about what we're missing in a market almost totally sold on the fiendish charms of multi-clutch paddle-shift transmissions - and the laggardly turbocharged engines twinned with them.
Of course, this is PH, so we don't have to use our imaginations for long. The classifieds provide ample opportunities to turn your frown upside down. Also, have an argument about which hard-to-find-niche-filler is actually best. So we've done that, too. Behold...
Realistically, and with hat duly tipped to the lone manual 850 CSI in the classifieds, you either go English or Italian with this challenge. And like a Bond girl striding up the beach, you'd be advised to choose English every time. Aston Martin's 5.9-litre V12 hardly needs further introduction, but before Matt starts using words like 'thoroughbred' or 'pedigree' it's worth remembering that the hand assembled unit enjoyed nearly two decades of development after persuading Ford on the merits of merging two Duratec V6s into one.
By the time Aston applied the AM11 to the DB9, it was already very good. And when it migrated to the Vantage in 2009 it had 517hp, which was quite the riposte to anyone who thought the V8 a bit underwhelming. The manufacturer went on to do even better with the V12 Vantage S, overhauling the engine to such an extent that it earned a different internal code (AM28) and 55 additional horsepower. Of course that model was initially sullied by the Sportshift III, but in time Aston fixed that too, introducing the seven-speed dog-leg manual in 2016.
It would be a stretch to call that model perfect - any car that requires decades of muscle memory to be reset is not intrinsically onto a winner - but the manual V12 Vantage emphasised the connection between man and machine to the point of exaggeration. Better yet, it accentuated the absurdly burly thing Aston already had going on with the Vantage; the car didn't aspire to daintiness or subtlety - it was square of jaw and ashamedly old school. Think paratrooper turned prison guard.
Its undisguised charisma ensures fairly punchy used prices. You can have an early-ish manual from around £60k - or commit middling six figures to low volume specials like the GT12 or runout V600. The sweet spot though is arguably somewhere between the two: personally I'm rather taken by the Spitfire 80 Edition, currently advertised for £189,950. Hardly bargain territory, admittedly - but then it doesn't seem worth scrimping when you're investing in 12 cylinders and an Aston badge. Plus there are only eight of them and they come in Duxford Green with Kestrel Tan leather. For England, James. NC
Is this bending the rules a bit? Maybe. Problem is that asking for a V12 manual sports car in the mould of anything close to resembling Murray's T.50 is a mighty difficult task; put simply and bluntly, very few people want that sort of supercar anymore. Ferrari has abandoned it, Lamborghini too - having once been defined by the configurastion, arguably - so it's really only Aston Martin left flying the flag for DIY gearboxes and a dozen cylinders. And I obviously couldn't do one of those. And I've bored plenty of people to tears already about the greatness of Ferraris from the 1990s. Time to look further back...
Now, this Jaguar XJ13 recreation is nearly half a million pounds, I know. Which is a lot more than a V12 Vantage. But there are Zagato Astons for sale at much more than this, so it's not entirely silly - and it's not £3m, either. Crucially, moreover, if the GMA has awakened a desire for pared-back, mid-engined, manual V12 automotive hedonism, then what better? The XJ13 is Jaguar's most beautiful car ever (no arguments, please), and the V12 its best sounding engine (see previous) and the promise of fulfilling the '13's enormous potential - or even something close to it - is enough to make you giddy. We're all aware of the XJ13 story, so there's no need to worry about explaining its status - everyone who needs to know will be aware it isn't original. But who cares? All you need worry about is driving it; and, really, it's hard to think of any better four-wheeled experience out there. Except, perhaps, that amazing new T.50... MB
1 / 7