Vul­can bombed

NZ Autocar - - In The Field -

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.

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