Spending $4.3 million on a car is the perfect scenario for buyer’s remorse. Because even if it does feel like the proverbial ‘million dollars’, you’ll still technically be $3.3 million out of pocket. So it was with a hint of trepidation that I approached Tony Quinn after his first shakedown laps in his new Aston Martin Vulcan. But I needn’t have worried as the Scot was grinning in an even more mischievous manner than usual.
“Well that’s it. When I arrive upstairs and tell the big fella what I’ve been up to, he’ll be very impressed…I’ll get in straight away no matter what.”
Thirty-six hours earlier however, it was more like hell on earth in the Highland’s Park pits. There were no grins just some rather stern words down the phone with Aston Martin Headquarters in Gaydon. New Zealand’s most expensive new car was not living up to the hype during the secret shakedown that we had been invited to attend. Quinn tried three times to get the Vulcan up to speed, and three times it simply shut down after less than a kilometre on the track.
You have to hand it to Aston Martin though. Within a couple of hours, it had one of its technician en route to central Otago with a replacement ECU. His private jet landed early Saturday morning, and he had the car running with just an hour to spare before the public launch began. It could well be the world’s most epic breakdown call out; 18,500km to repair the damage caused by a drained battery leading to a power surge on start-up which then fried a transistor in the ECU.
But even when it wasn’t running, the Vulcan stunned. An example of only 24 built, it’s the sole example to find a home in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s nearly impossible not to dwell on how much this car costs, but there are other numbers worthy too. Top of the list is the power available from the 7.0-litre V12, which in the slicks-only-full-noisemode will produce 611kW at 7400rpm.
Combined with up to 1300kg of down force created by a huge diffuser and a wing with a span to rival the one on the tail of the Cessna Citation which was used in the rescue mission, the Vulcan is an utterly serious car. It even has air-jacks. We never saw these in action, nor did we experience the full 611kW. A curious decision to run road-legal rubber meant Quinn was only ‘permitted’ to use the less aggressive 484kW setting.
An easydoes-it 370kW is available, but it was never considered. Aston Martin also created another engine map which is quite literally fire breathing. Designed to look the part on camera for a British magazine photoshoot, the flames exiting the side-pipes started to destroy the Vulcan’s composite panels. It won’t be available on any other cars.
Calling 484kW less aggressive is like describing Quinn as merely welloff. The Michelins were screaming surrender after the first lap, but were shown no mercy. The first passenger climbed out with steamed-up glasses and Quinn was only just getting started.
When I jumped in, the first words uttered as we left pitlane were, “The tyres are f**ked.”
Great, but I thought to myself that surely he wouldn’t risk binning something worth this much. It turned out there was no need to worry, the Vulcan (at medium heat anyway) is a beautifully resolved car. Yes, traction was limited, but it never felt overwhelming. Quinn is a successful GT racer, but the car also played a starring role. The tremendous power is handled with absolute refinement; it’s not remotely boring, there is too much speed for it to be anything other than WOW! Or at least ‘wow’ until they fit some slicks and turn it up to 611kW.