The beating pulse of Aston Martin motorcars has always been a subject of great conversation and interest to the technical-minded of us all and focusing on the horsepower and torque means so much when understanding the power output of any sports car.
The V12 Vantage engine has always been a major part of Aston Martin motorcars since first fitted in the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage in March 1999, which made its debut at the Geneva Motorshow.
But was this the first time we have seen a V12 in an Aston Martin? Back in 1955 a new racing car code named DP166 was fitted with the Lagonda V12 engine, but this was also unsuccessful; however, its chassis went on to great success when used as the backbone of the DBR2.
It was used to compete with other great 1950s Le Mans Sports Cars, such as the D Type Jaguar, Lancia D24, Ferrari 375 Plus, Mercedes 300 SLR and Maserati 450S. Two V12s Lagonda’s were built, but owning to the poor results they were not used any further.
In later years, when under the ownership of The Ford Motor Company, Aston Martin produced another Lagonda called the Lagonda Vignale, this was built on a Lincoln Town Car chassis and a body designed by Moray Callum, working for Ghia at the time. The V6 engine fitted to the Lincoln was not deemed to be right for the car, so Ford looked around to find the right beating heat for the car.
They came up with a 5.9-liter power plant, which was first seen in the Ford Indigo concept car. The Indigo was equipped with an all-new V-12 engine developed by the Core & Advanced Powertrain Engineering team within Ford's Advanced Vehicle Technology group, the organisation responsible for generating new technologies for future production vehicles.
The engine used in the Ford Indigo used the parts and specifications from Ford’s Duratec V6 engine and the word went around it was two V6 engines bolted together.
Only three Lagonda Vignales were built and the model was launched at the 1993 Geneva motor show, next to the all-new Aston Martin DB7. The Lagonda Vignale didn’t set the order book on fire, compared with the DB7, so no further plans for the Lagonda were foreseen in the future.
This left the engine in a limbo, until Aston Martin were being criticised for the underpowered Aston Martin DB7 I6 with its single supercharged engine, against its more powerful rivals at that time.
The V12 Engine was brought out of hibernation and shoehorned in a DB7 chassis at Newport Pagnell’s engineering plant in 1998. The plans went so well and results were surprisingly very good.
In 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage with its V12 6.0 litre 420 bhp engine was unveiled. The engine was built by Cosworth in Northampton and shipped to the Aston Martin Plant in Bloxham on a daily basis.
The total build of Aston Martin DB7 Vantages was in excess of 4,400 units.
During this busy time for Aston Martin, plans were on the table to replace the big hand-built cars at Newport Pagnell. It was Ian Callum, designer for DB7, who had just the car. In 2000 the Aston Martin Vanquish was launch to the world. Powered by the V12 powerplant from the DB7 Vantage, it had 450 bhp to power the aluminium chassis car to a top speed of 190 mph.
By this time the engine had been used with a manual six-speed gearbox, a five-speed switchable, and now with the six-speed paddle shift in the Vanquish.
By the end of production in 2007, a run of 2578 cars had been built.
During this time, work had started on the new factory at Gaydon in Warwickshire to build the new modern day production line and for the all-new Aston Martin to take to the roads. The production line started in 2004 with the first cars rolling off the line in 2005 with the Aston Martin DB9.
The smooth superformed aluminum body was initially designed by Ian Callum but had also been significantly influenced by the next Aston Martin design director, Hendrik Fisker.
The engine build program was taken from Cosworth and placed with the Ford Engine plant in Cologne in Germany, brought in on a daily basis using the just-in-time process.
The DB9 was to be powered by a third generation version of the now-familiar 6.0 litre V12 engine, with a top speed of 186mph and still with an output of 450 bhp.
Also, in 2004 Aston Martin Racing along with David Richards of Prodrive were working on the Aston Martin DBR9 to compete in GT racing and at the 2005 Le Mans. Prodrive managed to achieve 600bhp and 500 lbs of torque from the V12 engine. This was shortly followed by the Aston Martin-produced DBRS9 to run in FIA European GT3 and British championships. However, these cars were only producing 550 bhp.
The ever-so-reliable V12 engine was being used to its max in new models, the Lagonda Rapide, and DBS (Bond Car).
But it was in the summer of 2008 when Aston Martin released a single image of the Aston Martin One-77, with a few limited details to get pulses racing.This was to be a 7.3-liter V12 super car with carbon fibre chassis, with a top speed of in excess of 220 mph and with a price tag of £1 million plus taxes.
Chief engineer Chris Porritt explained.
"Our brief to the engine team was for them to take the 6.0-litre V12 as far as it could go, both in terms of output and weight reduction. The targets were a power output of no less than 700bhp with a 10 per cent reduction in engine mass. Incredibly, the Aston Martin and Cosworth engineers achieved a mass reduction of some 25 per cent, and although we've yet to complete the final engine calibration work, I'm confident we'll see in excess of 700bhp. It's an awesome accomplishment, but one that's typical of the One-77 project, for it has consistently brought out the very best in everyone involved."
With a few more models using the engine, it has now been shoehorned into the Vantage with a 550bhp unit and in excess of 190 mph.
With the build contract ending with Ford to produce engines from the Cologne plant in 2016 and negotiations with Mercedes Benz to take over the program, could we see the demise of the long running faithful V12 engine?