PH Carpool: Aston Martin Vanquish

Charlie Walker
2002 Aston Martin Vanquish V12, factory fitted manual conversion
Owned since:
Bought July 2011, shipped to Australia August 2011, arrived September 2011, licence disqualified December 2011.
Previously owned:
Bikes: Puch Maxi step-through scooter, Garelli Tiger Cross 50cc, Suzuki TS125 Stinger, MZ TS 125, MZ ETZ 250, Kawasaki ZXR 400L2, MZ Baghira 660cc Supermoto.
Cars: VW Golf Mk1 diesel, Peugeot 205 1.9 diesel van, Citroen ZX, 1968 Porsche 912 (imported from US), Porsche 911 (993), Range Rover Vogue Classic 2.5D

Didn't take long for the authorities to take interest...
Didn't take long for the authorities to take interest...
Why I bought it:
"I bought it because it was the best car on the list of permitted post 1989 imports in to Australia. By 'best' I mean it was the best combination of very fast, 2+2 (for the kids) and beautiful enough for my wife to consent to deployment of significant household funds. I had always thought the Vanquish was the best looking of the new era Astons. My dad had a DB6 and warned me that unless there had been a miracle since he owned one, Astons could be pricey to maintain. What would he know.

"I found it through a trade contact of my dad's - thanks Tony! I had the AM factory guys give it a check and do some repairs and the manual conversion before shipping it to Oz.

"I got it converted to manual by the factory in England as the clutch had gone and it seemed an efficient (ish) way to make the car more interesting, get a new clutch and do away with the need to master the paddleshift when a gear stick is more desirable to me. Albeit a very expensive gear stick."

What I wish I'd known:
"I wish I'd known the clutch was on its way out, or how to tell the clutch is in its way out. I heard they go at around 30,000 miles, but assumed the symptom would be clutch slip. But given the car's paddleshift-250psi-hydraulic-gearbox-thingy, in fact what happens is the clutch only slips under load at the top of the rev range, and actually completely lets go of the drive when it does slip, causing the engine to rev its knackers off, normally in an inconvenient situation. So I only found out the clutch was worn after I had bought it and had put the car through its paces, entertaining my nephews.

"I also wish I'd known the air conditioning fault was the compressor and not a hose or a joint. Would have saved me three trips to various garages and considerable time and money.

"I have also heard that a well driven Vanquish would be less likely to have niggling problems than a stored one. Given most Astons are stored by their wealthy owners in their garage/museum/dining room in their Monte Carlo/Verbier/Long Island fourth homes, this gives the car's various perishable parts ample chance to dehydrate and deteriorate. We all look for low-mileage but in the case of the Vanquish I would say that rule doesn't necessarily hold true."

Genuine 2+2 with room for the kids
Genuine 2+2 with room for the kids
Things I love:
"I love everything, OK, nearly everything, about this car. (See 'things I hate'...) The performance, the soundtrack, the looks, the popularity. The engine is so muscular but so refined. Pulls effortlessly from 1,000 rpm in top all the way. I love drag races with kids in supercharged Honda Civics. Australia's great for that. I also love the way all kinds of people - OAPs, mums, dads, school kids, tradesmen - literally stop you in the street to ask questions and admire the car. It seems there's a petrolhead in everyone as long as it's an Aston.

"The engine note is amazing, I am told Aston spent good time and money tuning the engine note. Well it was worth it. Apparently there is a valve which can tone it down when in town, and my one is broken, but one of the AM engineers who did the pre-purchase check mentioned I might not want to get it fixed. GREAT advice.

"Everything about the exhaust note is pure music to my ears. The gruff roar upon cold start up, the burble upon tickover (makes the famed "V8 rumble" seems like a "V8 tinkle"), the overrun and the F1-like "wahh" when opening the taps.

"I also love the fact that in the Vanquish people don't immediately assume you're a wanker, as they did with the 911. I love the fact it is a 2+2 and that I can comfortably transport 3 kids plus their accessories around in it with the use of Trunki child seats (great product BTW). In fact the 2+2 seats are well designed for gnomes so I have no safety concerns with respect to the offspring.

"I love the looks of the car from any angle except the rear, due to the Raleigh Grifter/Chopper reflectors."

That's one expensive gear stick...
That's one expensive gear stick...
Things I hate:
"Having said I love almost everything about the Vanquish, here are some minor complaints. I hate the driver assist electronics. They seem unnecessary and it feels as though the car has been designed so 18-year-old internet entrepreneurs/premiership football players with new licenses can get away with owning one. That's what the paddleshift-250psi-hydraulic-gearbox-thingy must have been for originally. They are not difficult to use, as Clarkson asserts, but just superfluous for such a purist car.

"I hate the fact that for all of AM's engineering and design prowess, some peripheral things on my car have been terrible. By peripheral I mean things like the trim or the engine ancillaries. To have an air-con compressor AND a starter motor break seems easily avoidable to me, but it cost me north of AUS$5,000. I bet this does not happen on 10-year-old Toyota Corollas. And the trim. Carpets seem to move around the footwells on their own, the lovely suede is unsticking from the suit hanger in the cabin, the air vents don't quite fit the gorgeous carbon fibre console (which was custom fitted by AM), the warning triangle mounted under the rear boot lid falls off so frequently I just leave it floating round the boot and thereby irritates me every time I open the boot, etc, etc, etc. Hrmpphh. I wish I didn't have to write to the bits I hate; makes me feel churlish.

"Just seems so unnecessary for an engineering based company like AM who create such beautiful well tuned machines to have a lack of attention to detail on the peripherals. After all, aren't engineers famed for their attention to detail?"

"There's a topic for an Aston. It turns out a miracle didn't happen since my Dad owned his DB6. OK, here goes......

  • Purchase cost: £45K
  • Removing paddleshift-250psi-hydraulic-gearbox-thingy and replacing with old-school gear stick, new, Massey Ferguson clutch and clutch pedal: c. £11,500 +VAT ([Yes, pricey for a gear stick.)
  • Refurbishing gearbox (apparently the paddleshift-250psi-hydraulic-gearbox-thingy can, and did, mash the gearbox...): £2,250 +VAT
  • Minor service before buying: £750 + VAT
  • Parts purchased after import, including front and rear shocks: AUS$2,500
  • First air-con repair: replacement of valve plus dye: £100
  • Second air-con repair: dismantling, plus hose repair: AUS$1,100 + VAT
  • Third air-con repair: dismantle engine to access air-con system, buy and fit new compressor: AUS$1,421 + VAT
  • Starter motor diagnosis + replacement: AUS$3,500 +VAT
  • Last service: AUS$990 + VAT

"The parts seem to be available direct from the factory and, along with the services, aren't overly costly compared with the reputation. However, the expensive part has been the installation. It seems as though installing anything in the Vanquish engine bay needs an engine removal/strip down. I have found this out from having both an air-con compressor installed as well as a new starter motor. I also know that, for example, replacing the sump gasket involves simply "removing engine from engine bay" according to the workshop manual. In theory installing my new starter motor requires removal of the engine from engine bay, but the guys at Sunshine Aston Martin (Martin and Darral - good on yer) on the Gold Coast were able to do it without engine removal. Apparently it simply needed plenty of swearing and knuckle skin.

"Fuel consumption isn't real flash at 16 to 18mpg in slow traffic, with 24mpg on A-road equivalents, but is really what you would expect from a car designed around a bomber engine. Insurance was a breeze as I have full no-claims bonus and I think being in my 40s I am statistically in one of the safest old gits, I mean age brackets."

Broken air-con not ideal in Australian heat
Broken air-con not ideal in Australian heat
Where I've been:
"My most memorable trip was driving the car the 600 miles through the Aussie countryside from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia. It was memorable not only because it was a brilliant drive, but also because the air-con was broken (see above derogatory comments about AM non core parts) which made the trip very hot and dusty. That engine produces a lot of heat..."

What next?
"My wife and I have discussed selling the car but she is not keen. In fact she totally loves the car. Unusual that. It is a lot of money to have in the garage, and I didn't expect her to be taking such a view, but the car isn't going anywhere for the immediate future. The only issue is I get a lot of speeding tickets as it is difficult to drive it slowly, and the Queensland police seems to make it a priority of theirs to catch me doing 11km/h over the speed limit. Having lost my licence once here (just after taking delivery), it would be amateur to lose it again. With this in mind I sometimes think it would be nice to go the other way and get a Series 1 Land Rover, 2CV or a Willys Jeep so I am incapable of exceeding the speed limit.

"I would like to adapt it to accept input from an iPod/Pad/Phone. I also daydream about installing a fat supercharger and running the Vanquish on LPG, but I am not sure my technical skills are up to the job, although I am sure the boys on the Gold Coast would give it a go. Plus I am guessing I might hit some reliability issues. Also the Queensland police would be upgrading their Christmas party plans with all the extra revenue they could expect to receive from me and my Vanquish."



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Comments (62) Join the discussion on the forum

  • squirdle 28 Jan 2013

    By 'eck, that's what I call a real enthusiast!

  • X5TUU 28 Jan 2013

    great write up .. and while AM's for some odd reason dont really do it for me, I do love to read about owners real trials and tribulations and also real world usage

    some massive expenses there and I applaud you for the manual conversion but thats comically expensive, I would have lived with the paddle's haha

  • Erwin1978 28 Jan 2013

    nice write up mate, great car and top marks for the manual conversion. This is basically my perfect choice for an everyday supercar. Can fully understand the missus for not wanting to get rid!

  • Otispunkmeyer 28 Jan 2013

    beautiful car. No thanks to a 12 grand gearbox swap though!

    I particularly like "arrived in September" "disqualified from driving in December". hehe

  • aussieinlondon 28 Jan 2013

    That is one thing I do not miss about home, the bloody over the top highway patrol/traffic cop.... grumpy

    Enjoyed the read and nice car, almost perfect conditions to get the most out ofdriving

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