The cars we loved.
I clearly remember the first time I had seen a picture of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. I thought at first that I was looking at some kind of modified Camaro from the rear, or a Mustang from the front. I get laughed at when pointing out the similarities and no doubt an English car buff would scoff at me, but more than a few 70’s era critics agreed that the cars styling resembled a more refined version of the 60’s Mustang. Like that iconic American muscle car, the V8 Vantage featured powerful V8 engine and came in hardtop or convertible versions (Volante).
The V8 Vantage was an off shoot of the standard straight-6 powered Vantage. An attractive car with classic proportions, it was introduced in 1972 and produced in very limited numbers until 1973. There had been steady demand for a V8 powered Vantage for years, so after a dropping V8s in a few DBS cars (called Aston Martin V8s), Aston released a true V8 powered Vantage. The Vantage V8 became the top of the Aston Martin line and soon became a source of national pride for the English, even being featured as James Bond’s car on one occasion. Finally the English had a car that could run with Ferrari’s mighty Daytona.
The V8 Vantage was a highly tuned version of the regular AM V8. It was England’s first real supercar, capable of a top speed of 170 mph with its 375 hp 5.3 litre V8. The Aston Martin developed powerplant featured a ZF 5-speed all synchromesh manual transmission. For those wanting automatic shifting, a version of Chrysler’s smooth Torquefite 3 speed was used. The use of American automatic transmissions was not an unusual practice in Europe considering that Chrysler had plenty of experience in taming powerful HEMI and Magnum engines. To control all that power, Vantage had disc brakes all around, De Dion rear end and adjustable Koni dampers with a stiff roll bar up front. Rather conventional by European sport car standards, if not a little old school even during the 70’s.
As a grand tourer, the Vantage was fast, comfortable and well appointed. The vinyl trim from the V6 Vantage were replaced with wood, otherwise everything was much the same. The only thing the Vantage was not was reliable. As was expected with finicky English cars, the charms of owning a Aston Martin often outweigh any small maintaince hassles. Demand was consistently strong, as the long period of production would suggest. Slightly more than 1,000 cars were produced over a 13 year period with small refinements over the years. The biggest visual change came in the mid to late 80’s with the addition of aerodynamic enhancements in the form of a deep chin spoiler and subtle ground effects. The ultimate expression of the styling direction of the AM V8 Vantage came with the Italian designed V8 Zagato, a futuristic limited production version of with styling cues from the Vantage. The Virage, the replacement for the Vantage was already on the drawing boards by the late 80’s and was released in 1989, the last year of the V8 Vantage. It featured a similar more updated look with considerably more refinement.