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“No.40. ALL ASTONS THAT DON'T DISPLAY A SICKLY SLOGAN WHEN YOU SWITCH ON. You bought your Aston Martin because you love cars and driving. You're about to hear engine noises that will make your armhairs stand up. You know your pulse will soar when you get to a proper road. You don't need tasteless on-screen computer puff to tell you what to feel.”
Motor Sport, '100 reasons why we love Aston Martin' – October 2013
The Aston Martin DBS, launched to ultimately replace the DB4 to 6 line of GTs for which the term ‘Gentleman’s Express’ could have been coined, certainly had big boots to fill. It was hoped that the model might also fill the ever expanding hole in the Company’s bank account and the eye-wateringly expensive Superleggera construction method (and associated ‘royalty’ of £5.00 per car payable to its designers, Carrozzeria Touring) that the earlier cars were burdened with was dropped for the new generation of Aston Martin. In came a platform type chassis and semi-monocoque body suspended independently by wishbones and coils at the front and a de Dion axle with Watts linkage at the rear. That body, designed in house by William Towns, was every bit as sleek as its predecessors but thoroughly up to date with slightly more angular lines and the Kamm tail first seen on the DB6, though as a clean sheet of paper design it was rather more successfully integrated here. While the suspension and power assisted steering moved the road holding and handling game on from the beloved DB6, the slightly larger DBS boasted seats for a full four occupants and hence for the first time 2+2 did actually add up correctly. Despite the awe in which the previous DB cars were held, the Press of the time wholeheartedly approved, considering it to be an improvement in every area.
As is so often the case with smaller manufacturers, development had to be done in a slightly piecemeal fashion and the new Tadek Marek 5.3 litre, 320 brake horse power V8 wasn’t quite ready at the same time as the new car, which was hence launched in 1967 with the same designer’s venerable straight six in the nose. This was not exactly a burden when one considers its pedigree included 1959 Le Mans and World Sports Car Championship victories in a DBR1 and a parentage traceable back to titans of the British Motor industry, W.O. Bentley and Lagonda. Indeed, when the V8 finally came on stream early in 1970, there was still a strong demand for the straight six and the two engines were offered concurrently for a further three years.
David Brown, patron and owner of Aston Martin since he bought it in 1947 apparently from an advertisement in The Times newspaper, eventually grew weary of losing money; the story goes, he was once accosted at a dinner party by another guest who enquired if it was possible to purchase a current DB at ‘cost’ to which Mr Brown replied, “But of course, that will be £500 over list”. In 1972, having again refinanced Aston (to the tune of a rumoured £5 million), he sold out to Company Developments Ltd for just £101 (a measure of his passion for the company if not perhaps his head for sums in this instance) and the DB model name was, somewhat callously, dropped in favour of simply Aston Martin V8 and Aston Martin Vantage.
The Vantage tag was somewhat confusing given that it had previously been used to indicate a higher state of engine tune but in this instance a separate model, regardless of engine specification. As it was, the majority of Aston Martin Vantages built did have the more powerful ‘SVC’ engine fitted. The model was produced for just over one year before the venerable six cylinder engine was finally phased out after some twenty years of sterling service powering arguably the most evocative machines the company has ever produced.
Though the twin-headlight set up of the DBS is nice in its own way, if a little too Jensen Interceptor-esc for some, the front end redesign executed again by William Towns for the AM V8 and Vantage models saw the welcome return of the classic Aston grill and single headlights first seen on the DB3S and still a marque signature today.
Fabulous though the V8 engine is, it could be accused of being a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut and the sonorous straight six seems to suit the car remarkably well especially given that in triple Weber Vantage specification, it pumps out five more brake horse power than its replacement and the icing on this particularly palatable cake is that it puts a not inconsiderable 113 kg less weight over the front wheels.
‘AM 6061/RA’ was registered in July 1973 at the very end of Aston Martin Vantage production and indeed its Chassis Number would indicate that it was the ninth from last machine manufactured. The Factory build sheet on file provides a wealth of useful information. The original owner was a P.W. England of EMK Properties in Ware, Hertfordshire and the SVC engine was equipped with Weber carburettors – the full Vantage state of tune. Avon radial tyres were fitted along with an MPH speedometer and Voxson 015532 wireless. Finished in ‘Tankard Grey’ with a ‘Natural’ Connolly hide interior, the Vantage was dispatched with an extensive array of non-standard equipment such as a right hand door mirror, side repeater flashers, two headrests and a centre armrest, all of which are still evident. Also listed are some six factory service invoices though unfortunately there is no way of ascertaining what work these refer to.
The extensive and comprehensive History file that accompanies the Aston confirms that it passed from EMK Properties to Cromwell Tools of Leicester in December 1976 (and was registered at their Wilberforce Road shop from where the company grew to be the 1,800 employee business it is today) who kept it for just six months before it passed on to Midland Commercial Companies and thence to Mr Trevor Power in July 1980 via Leemax Cars. The aptly named Mr Power kept the Vantage until he sold it to Mr Kelsall via Aston Martin Specialists Four Ashes Garage, in January 1988. Mr Kelsall enjoyed (presumably) the Aston until Mr Daniel Riley purchased it in September 1998 though he only kept the car until January the following year. It then moved onto a Mr More who owned the car for a further three years until 2001. Another period of longer term ownership ensued with a Mr Evans holding the keys until 2014 when the current owner acquired the Aston via specialists Runnymede Motor Company. Copies of the old registration documents held by the DVLA reveal that the Aston’s original colour was changed to green in the late 1970s and that the current hue was addopted in late 1989. The copy of the early buff logbook confirms the colour, engine/chassis numbers and the first owner as shown on the Factory build sheet along with the car’s original Registration Number of ‘RRO 4M’.
Also included are files of receipts for work carried out by a raft of well-respected Aston Martin specialists over the years. Importantly there are also two separate Inspection Reports which give independent views of the Vantage’s condition and though they were completed some time ago, both were conducted within the last 15,000 miles. In 1990, with the car having covered around 84,000 miles, renowned Aston Martin specialist Jonathan Wardle of Stoke on Trent considered the bodywork to be ‘excellent’ having undergone a bare metal repaint in Aston Martin Kentucky Blue. He described the interior as ‘original and in very good condition.’ Individually the major mechanical components were said to be in good or very good condition and knowing the car very well having looked after it for some two and a half years at that time, he described it as generally in ‘very good condition’. Moving on to 1998 another very well respected Aston guru, Tony Christie, inspected the Vantage which had by then covered some 87000 miles. He rated the interior as either ‘Good’ or ‘Exceptionally good for year’. A compression test yielded 140 to 150 psi across the board and he felt the engine and its bay were very well maintained. It was stated that a complete chassis restoration had recently been completed with new outriggers, new trailing arm mounting assemblies, sills and complete jacking point assemblies fitted and the car was well protected with Waxoyl.
A fistful of MOT certificates provide a record of use that shows the Vantage covered a healthy 74,000 miles in the first ten years of its life and since then there has been a steady, gentle build on this figure. Tax discs issued between 1988 and 2000 are also present along with the current V5C plus a couple of earlier versions. An Insurance Valuation prepared by Aston Martin Heritage approved specialists Aston Engineering in 2015 puts the Vantage in the £100,000 to £120,000 bracket and today, with the market having moved up somewhat, we would not dispute that. A DBS Factory Workshop Manual, reprinted Instruction Book and DBS Parts Catalogue in CD form accompany the Aston along with a tailored indoor cover.
As mentioned the Vantage was treated to a bare metal respray in Kentucky Blue in 1989 (please see photo gallery) and this was skilfully refreshed by Runnymede when the current owner purchased the car from them and today the finish is still excellent. This is a testament to the quality of the work carried out and the care taken with the car since with just a few very minor stone chips now showing, though frankly we feel these simply reduce the fear of acquiring one or two more. The correct non David Brown Aston Martin badges are present front and rear as are nice chrome GB letters either side of the boot lock. The colour certainly suits the Vantage and it is offset nicely by the 72 spoke chrome wires which were fitted new by Runnymede in 2014. Generally the bright-work such as window frames and air vent trims, shows a very well judged level of delicate detailing and it is in excellent condition throughout with the bumpers having been re-chromed when the current owner bought the car. Said wire wheels have just been treated to a set of correct 225/70 VR 15 Avon tyres that the Aston left the Factory wearing and these have only covered just over 1000 miles.
Inside the extensive expanse of thought to be original Connolly leather is in excellent condition, being neither excessively worn or over restored. The complementary navy blue Wilton carpets, edge-bound in matching leather were new in 2014 and are still in perfect condition. The ‘natural’ coloured headlining has just a couple of marks on it and might benefit from a professional clean. A correct sized Moto-Lita wood rim steering wheel is a welcome replacement for the slightly uninspiring original item and an original ZF box gear knob is still in place. A useful auxiliary socket for powering satellite navigation systems, phones and so on has also been fitted along with a Bluetooth enabled, Pioneer CD player; a previously installed radio unit circa late 1970s comes with the car.
The capacious boot is tidy enough but could perhaps be improved with some relaying of the carpets while a fifth wire wheel is in place under the floor.
Fully committed to using the Aston Martin as the makers intended, the owner commissioned Runnymede to fit one of Aston Engineering’s excellent handling packages consisting of a set of uprated Koni telescopic shock absorbers and associated fitting kit, uprated springs all-round and a thicker anti roll bar. With no apparent loss of ride comfort on the road, as the engineers at Runnymede suggested, the kit probably just gives the Aston a less ‘USA oriented’ feel and it drove superbly on test. Certainly against a V8, the car felt light on its feet and dispatched an undulating, twisty country road in a highly competent fashion. No doubt benefitting from recent new discs and pads, the brakes were most effective pulling the car up straight and true with no signs of locking. The engine started from cold with just a few pumps on the throttle and pulled cleanly with an exhaust note that is suitably restrained at lower engine speeds but acquires a diamond-hard edge as the revolutions build. Oil pressure settled at around 100 psi when cruising, building to 120 at the owner’s self-imposed 4,500 rpm ‘everyday’ limit while the water temperature remained the right side of 85 degrees. The engine bay is tidy and original aside from air horns fitted some years ago and while it shows the expected signs of use, it is far from scruffy.
The Aston’s underside is somewhat travel stained but all the metalwork appears pin sharp and the impression is of a very solid structure. A wealth of new parts are evident and encouragingly, grease positively oozes from ball joints, ready to sully the chinos, blazer and Panama hat of an unsuspecting concours judge.
The owner has tested the Aston’s continent crossing credentials with a tour of the Ardennes in 2015 and more recently, this September, a 1,200 mile road trip to Venice. Prior to this Aston Engineering of Derby checked the car’s mechanical condition thoroughly, renewing various mechanical items as required. New brakes, bearings, belts and bushes were fitted along with an exchange power steering rack. A full service plus MOT test were also carried out for a grand total of £4,714.31. On its return from Italy, the Vantage revisited Aston Engineering for a post trip inspection plus some pampering in the form of a £300 valet and it is now absolutely ready to go.
Please note the owner will be retaining the registration number ‘29 TPJ’ though they will make it available to the purchaser of the Aston Martin by separate negotiation. There is every indication that the car’s original registration number ‘RRO 4M’ could be reunited with the Aston should a new owner so desire.
As one of just seventy Aston Martin Vantages produced, ‘6061’ is already a rare machine even by Aston Martin standards and the manual dog-leg 5 speed ZF gearbox and SVC engine specification simply add to this. Factor in that this is one of the last ten Astons to leave the factory fitted with the seminal straight six twin overhead cam engine that had powered a range of fabulous road and competition cars for the previous twenty years and you have, we feel, a very significant machine indeed. Used and enjoyed as David Brown intended, this very well sorted Aston Martin Vantage is now only reluctantly for sale to fund a future business venture.