initially, Aston Martin was selling every Virage it could build, But it soon became evident that the new model was falling short of customer satisfaction.
The Virage had gained a reputation for being a huge step sideways for Aston Martin. The revised 32 valve V8 engine was able to meet worldwide emissions requirements, but it was thought by some that the Virage was no better that the V8 model it replaced - and in some respects worse.
Journalists complained about the unsatisfactory suspension layout, overly large turning circle, dashboard instrumentation and underwhelming performance. It became apparent that some changes had to be made to the existing car.
As part of the Customer Satisfaction Program, cars were brought into Aston Martin Works Service and 32 customer service items were dealt with in an effort to improve the Virage. The modifications were designed and incorporated into the Factory experimental car prior to the inclusion on production cars.
Newly appointed Executive Chairman, Walter Hayes, had already initiated development work on the Virage Vantage in 1990. However, it became apparent the New Vantage would require much more then just engine modifications and Aston Martin's stretched development engineers would not be able to compete the car for some time.
To bridge the gap while the Vantage was being developed, AML gave approval for an "enhanced" Virage.
Victor Gauntlett had already approved the project before he resigned and Hayes enthusiastically received it, announcing the new 6.3 litre Virage on 28 January 1992.
With the success of the 6.3 2 valve series engines, it naturally made sense to carry this information and business opportunity over to the development 4 valve engine. In the hope that a number of conversions could be carried out before the launch of the Vantage.
The used values because of the national economic recession took effect and a pre-owned Virage made a good opportunity for customers to purchase and have the conversion carried out and it would still not cost as much as purchasing a new Virage Coupe.
Development work began on the four valve engine in conjunction with Tickford Engineering in 1991 and by Christmas Eve 1991 a test bed reading of 465 BPH was achieved.
The 6.3 litre Virage also incorporated modified Weber/Alpha sequential fuel injection and re-mapped engine management system. Sports mufflers and special exhaust catalysts were added. The changes produced a 40percent increase in available power.
The engine, which boasted a plaque on its black cam covers proudly announcing "Built to 6.3 litre specifaction" was tested at 465 bhp @ 5750 rpm and 460 il/ft of torque @4400 rpm.
The decision to us 18 inch Goodyear tyres on 10 inch wide OZ Split rim wheels to house the larger brakes, rather then the standard Virage brakes. Bespoke brakes made by AP Racing to fit inside the large wheels.
Bosch designed ABS system was also fitted.
To accommodate the large wheel and tyre combination, both front and rear wings were cut and flared out-by the renown skilled body builders.
Deeper side sills, extended rear valance and larger front spoiler housing fog lamps with the option of a rear boot spoiler. The reinstatement of horizontal air vents behind the front wheel were part of the conversion.
The Virage used a triangular rear sub-frame, which, in hindsight, was a poor design, as it produced a lot of squat when accelerating.
To over come this a rubber mount was fitted and rose jointed suspension, this changes not only the smoother take up also the overall handling of the car.
With a whole new steering and suspension geometry set up to incorporate the best handling posable.
No design drawings exist for this car, the body modifications were all carried out by hand and eye.
The 6.3 litre Virage was not offered as a production option as it did not conform to Type Approval. It did not make sense as Vantage was around the corner.
Anxious to bring the conversion to the market, a chassis 50360 was used for the prototype preparation. Later to be registered J402 MNK and known as MINKY.
The detail is numerous, but basically the Works Service department took the car to the market in April and 1992 was a great success for the 6.3.
J402 MNK become very famous and was the pleasure of many customers and famous racing drivers at Goodwood track days.
Once the conversion was launched , further engine work was done to achieve the the magic 500bhp and it was fitted to J402 MNK in September 1993 and this was the final development form.
The 6.3 was used in many other cars and projects in all over 65 conversations were carried out, which boosted the Aston Martin Virage in very difficult times.
Many articles were written about the car and the conversion and all very positive.
Some of the quotes were encouraging for the car and the marque at the time.
"Some like it RAW"
TO BE CONTINUED