Aston Martin: in the ‘70s, it was still synonymous with the finest motor racing history, and - thanks to (arguably) the most famous secret agent of all time and his hand-made DB5 – a manufacturer as British as our British countryside.
In 1972, the DBS laid an excellent foundation for the next generation of Aston Martins and that’s where the next chapter of its story starts. A V8 engine was installed into the DBS chassis, providing instant supercar status, with a genuine 257 km/h top speed and acceleration to match. This made the DBS V8 the fastest production car in the world.
The first Tadek Marek-designed V8 engine was tested in an Aston Martin DB5 and later went on to power the 1976 Lola Aston Martin at Le Mans.
The two-valve V8 engine production would run for 17 years and became the backbone of Aston Martin output in (largely) unchanged form. The engine would survive until October 2000 when the last hand-built Aston Martin V8 engine car left Newport Pagnell.
From April 1970 to April 1972, a total of 405 DBS V8 were produced.
In 1973 David Brown sold Aston Martin to Company Developments and the V8 model was driven forward with a number of cosmetic and mechanical changes, like single headlights, along with the Bosch fuel injection system giving over to Weber carburetors; it was renamed the AM V8.
From May 1972 to July 1973, a total of 288 Bosch fuel injection cars were produced.
From August 1973 to September 1978 a total of 967 Weber carburetor cars were produced.
In October 1978 the new V8 was launched and was hailed as the ‘Oscar India’; it was thought to have been named after the October launch date, but in fact it was a code name for the car and the Director’s Cessna 152 (G-BFOI) Golf, Bravo, Foxtrot, Oscar, India.
The car had a number of changes, the biggest being the flip tail to the rear end and wood trimming to the interior.
From October 1978 to January 1986 a total of 291 Oscar India cars were produced.
Owning to the tightening of emission laws in many countries Aston Martin reintroduced Bosch fuel injection in January 1986 but that was short-lived. The car’s styling changed, with a lower bonnet line and more appealing
wheels. The saloon continued to be called the AM V8 and recorded the lowest number produced.
From January 1986 to December 1989 a total of 61 Bosch injection cars were produced.
In 1978 Aston Martin produced the convertible V8, the V8 Volante, sharing the same wheelbase and Weber carburetor engine.
From June 1978 to January 1986 a total of 439 Weber carburetor cars were produced.
In 1986 the V8 Volante was introduced but not with the Oscar India flipped rear end, yet retaining the wood interior and modified wheels.
From January 1986 to October 1989 a total of 216 fuel injection Volantes were produced.
Aston Martin has always been renowned for introducing a high-performance model called the Vantage and the V8 model range took that one step further, earning the “first British Supercar” moniker.
The first Vantage was introduced in 1977 with a bolt-on rear spoiler which went on to the flip tail and 15-inch GKN wheels, with a blanked-off bonnet scoop.
In 1978 the Oscar India Vantage was introduced with the flip tail and a large front spoiler and the 15-inch BBS wheels.
Then the more luxurious Vantage, with the bigger 16-inch Ronal wheels, more BHP and the X-Pack engine made it into a true supercar.
From February 1977 to September 1978, a total of 38 First Weber Vantage were produced.
From October 1978 to September 1986, a total of 181 Oscar India Vantage were produced.
From October 1986 to December 1989 a total (final) number of 137 Vantage models were produced.
At the same time, in 1986, the V8 Vantage Volante was introduced: it sported a larger front spoiler blending into side skirts and rear under spoiler. The X pack engine was also used; its mean, almost brutish looks were a matter of taste.
From October 1986 to December 1989 a total number of 167 Vantage Volantes were produced.
In 1987 the Prince of Wales ordered a V8 Vantage Volante, without the large side skirts and spoilers, but with slightly flared wheel arches, smaller front spoiler and mesh front grille. It was a subtle set of changes, but it retained all of the Vantage performance. As it was being built, a small number of buyers saw the different version on the production line and liked the “Prince of Wales” specification enough to order it for themselves.
Because of that, between 1987 and 1989, 27 Prince of Wales specification cars were produced.
In 1986, Aston Martin also built 52 V8 Vantage Zagato; later, just 37 V8 Zagato Volante were added to the range, with only five being Vantage models.
Driving a real British Supercar: the Aston Martin V8 Vantage X Pack Coupé.
Driving the Aston Martin V8 Vantage X Pack 580 Coupé is something very special, even though by today’s standards it seems antiquated and heavy, a little like a truck.
This is the result of 1970s’ technology, a heavy steel chassis covered in an all-aluminum body, a luxury all-leather interior being pulled by a 5.3 litre 432 BHP V8 engine, five speed ZF dog leg gearbox and a massive Salisbury rear axle: in short, a two-ton truck.
When you slide into the driver’s seat with the Connelly leather interior and wood veneer finish, it does feel and smell like a gentleman’s club lounge.
The switchgear looks familiar (it was stolen from other manufacturers’ parts bin) but fits in well. The door closes with a heavy clunk and you feel safe in the surroundings.
Pump the throttle twice and turn the key, and the big V8 bursts into life; shivers run down your back as the thunderous rumble is quite humbling; a quick squirt on the throttle and the V8 moves the chassis on its wheels.
Concentrate on the dog-leg gearbox, flip off the quick release handbrake and check the mirrors…. the power is instant and you are looking for second gear before you know it. The gearbox is quite short and positive; clutch slightly heavy in operation as is the power steering, but it is all part of the experience.
The suspension reacts to every bump and undulation of the road talking back to you, so you know exactly what is happening ever inch of the way, the steering is very positive.
With no warning or delay, the car dishes out its raw power, the noise makes you smile and you tend to drive on the engine’s song and exhaust note and they seem both in total harmony.
On the straight, the car sits so well and cornering at first you feel the true weight of the car, but it’s still very stable; stopping a two-ton mass requires forward thinking, but the brakes do their job with a lot of work from the driver’s foot.
The Vantage just ask to be driven and driven hard, a car for all roads, a true grand tourer and one you can drive enthusiastically all day without tiring.
This is a beast that can bite back; every aspect has to be respected to earn the trust of the Vantage. A car you get never get tired of and one you will always admire. Once driven never forgotten.
A true British supercar.