It seems odd to me that the Aston Martin Virage didn't hit the ground running. On its release in 1989, it delivered the classic wedge shape with just enough grace and aggression thrown in for good measure - yet just 411 found homes. Its good looks are another from the Heffernan-Greenly school of design, which also penned the Continental R I happened to single out last week, and it's a design that, if anything, has grown better with age.
Perhaps the reason for its tardy sales was a certain lack of mechanical sophistication. The de Dion and Watts linkage rear suspension was far more muscle car than supercar, and then there was the parts-bin raiding, which was very inclusive to say the least. Rather than just concentrate on one manufacturer, like today's Aston tie-up with Mercedes, the Virage grabbed everything it could from everywhere: it had Audi 100 headlights, a Vauxhall Carlton steering column and stalks, a Jaguar XJ40 climate control panel and seat switches, while select other switches and the heater vents were bagged from the Ford Granada.
But when the Virage became the Vantage in 1993, none of that seemed to matter anymore. A skilfully executed redesign by Marek Reichman enhanced the visuals and even though you still opened the doors using Jaguar XJS door handles, you no longer cared. It became all about that engine, with those two Eaton superchargers and the colossal power and torque they added. The 5.3-litre V8 produced 550hp in standard Vantage form, which already made it the most powerful production car at the time - although if you asked Aston Martin's Work Service to fiddle with it some more, they would upgrade it to V600 spec.
The V600 meant an additional £40k-odd added on to the already considerable price tag of the Vantage, which was the product of many hours of hand-built labour at Newport Pagnell. It had to be part-deconstructed to fit the numerous the V600 additions, though, which included AP brakes and better cooling to manage its huge potential. The engine produced a beautifully aligned 600hp and 600 lb ft of torque, both of which conspired to generate a top speed of 200mph. These were bewildering numbers back in the day.
This Le Mans is an even more special example of the breed. It was built to celebrate Aston Martin's 1959 victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe but also, sadly, to culminate the Vantage production after a run that went to 280 examples. Of that number, the Le Mans cars were limited to just 40 in total, of which this car is number 17. That makes it a very rare example of a very rare Aston.
And as we all know, that means it's going to be expensive. Half-a-mill expensive when you can pick up regular Vantages for near enough a fifth of that. According to the listing, it comes to its new owner in mint condition, with a full history - right up to a recent service by Aston specialists R.S. Williams. It even has a book from the factory signed by Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby, who drove the works effort to victory in 1959. It's a piece of history and a mighty thing.
SPECIFICATION | ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE V600 LE MANS
Engine: 5,341cc, V8, twin supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual (often swapped to 5-speed quick shift), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600 @ 6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 600 @ 4,400rpm
Recorded mileage: 2,000
Year registered: 2000
Price new: £233,000
Yours for: £495,000
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