Showpiece of the Week: Le Mans V600


By 1999, Aston Martin had been building the Virage (and its derivatives) for ten years. The model had launched around the same time that Ford took control of the firm, but it was a coach-built representative of the past, not the future. The hereafter arrived midway through its life cycle: the new DB7, made from steel and with substantial input from Jaguar, was strikingly modern and produced in unheard of volumes at Bloxham. The Virage's eventual replacement, the Vanquish, was prettier still - and kickstarted Aston's modern obsession with bonded aluminium chassis.

This made the final variant a multi-faceted sign off. By then of course, the Virage had become known as the Vantage again and had been made to look tremendous. Not sensual or supercar-ish like its successor, but rather stout and strong and brutishly handsome. It was imperfect; it had to be: every panel of its aluminium bodywork was made the old-fashioned way. It was hardly much more modern underneath, and certainly exceeded two tonnes with a driver aboard. The Vantage, though, had added twin superchargers to the venerable 5.3-litre V8 engine, delivering 550hp and the same again in torque. It was capable of 186mph - and had 14-inch brake discs to save it.


Had Aston signed off there, it probably would've have been sufficient. But 1999 marked 40 years since the marque's greatest sporting triumph: the 1-2 finish of the DBR1 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1959, having come up short in every year since 1931. And with a new European emissions standard looming (and with it, an entirely new millennium), one final throw of the 20th century dice was commissioned: the Le Mans, limited - naturally - to just 40 examples.

The runout model made its debut at Geneva, and was distinguished from the standard Vantage by the 'nostril' front grille and side vents reshaped to echo those used on the DBR1. Inside, the most notable addition was a dramatically oversized rev counter, although the Le Mans also exchanged its wood trim for a metallic finish. Completing the effect were Dymag hollow spoke magnesium alloy wheels, which hinted at some of the fettling that could be optionally specified underneath.


In 'standard' format, the Le Mans produced the same 550hp as the Vantage - unless you chose to let the Works Service Division loose on it post-build, and apply its V600 Driving Dynamics package. This improved intercooling and upped the boost pressure, which, together with a larger Super Sport exhaust, furnished the car with 600hp. Aston also offered a conversion to a five-speed manual 'box; the main advantage of which was a change in final drive ratio that delivered 60mph in first gear - thereby accessing the national limit in 3.9 seconds - and a top speed of 200mph.

Mercifully, Works Service would see to the chassis too: upgrading the brakes to a ventilated AP Racing system with six-piston calipers at the front, and overhauling the suspension with firmer Eibach springs, adjustable Koni dampers and a stiffer anti-roll bar. You could have electronic Traction Control fitted as well, if you were feeling prudent and/or sane. Our showpiece of the week has that, as well as the original Michelin road map which Aston helpfully supplied with the route from Newport Pagnell to Le Mans highlighted for your edification.

Better still, it's the 7th of the 40 - and because it was built for the 1999 London Motor Show (with a plaque to prove it), that obviously makes it 007. We rather like the Saddle Tan hide seats with their Alcantara inserts, too - and the Aston Racing Green paint job. And the way that opening the bonnet is likely to fill you with cheer about the gargantuan way things used to be done. Only 24k has been added to the V8's clock, with four owners on the V5. Becoming the fifth will require the best part of half a million quid, but it does buy you a large, fast, loud and very lovely last hurrah.

See the original advert here

 

 

 

 

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (49) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Toma500 12 Feb 2018

    Alcantara on the seats apart that is lovely definately a six numbers up car .

  • jwwbowe 12 Feb 2018

    cloud9

    Such a cool car, twin superchargers biggrin

    £500k will be money well spent

  • Agent XXX 12 Feb 2018

    Just brutal. Lovely.

  • cib24 12 Feb 2018

    I'm sure it doesn't drive all that well by modern standards but...Wow! What a car!

  • Loyly 12 Feb 2018

    What a triumph of brutishness. I love it. That engine bay! I bet it handles like st and goes like a rocket.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment