A childhood infatuation defined Phil’s motoring aspirations in 1977 – and our cover feature brought it all flooding back
Back in 1977 this particular schoolboy was left awestruck by road test reports of the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Its brutally handsome grand coupé lines grabbed my attention like no Aston, or indeed no car, before. And colourful descriptions of its urgent and relentless surge all the way a top speed limited more by the bravery of the driver than engineering or aerodynamics distilled all of my motoring aspirations in an instant.
I had to wait 30 years for the chance to drive one and despite having driven many great cars in the intervening years, it still impressed. On a mixture of the fast, sweeping A-roads it was designed for, and the twiddly country lanes that should have outwitted it, this athletic heavyweight combined TVR Griffith brutality and Jaguar XJ6 refinement with surprising success.
Another decade and many more cars later, I’m still under the Aston’s spell, but now my affections are divided between the V8 Vantage and the crisp, almost delicate – by comparison – DBS. At its 1967 launch journalists loved what they described as its Italianate styling, roomy and luxurious interior and predictable handling. They seemed to work hard to find good things to say about performance from the old four-litre twin-cam, carried over from the DB6. It wasn’t slow, but nowhere near as commandingly fast as an Aston should be.
The sense of disappointment stuck to these cars for decades, consigning them to the role of parts donor. Now their performance matters rather less than their status as the beginning of a dynasty, one that would spawn the V8, Lagonda, Volante, Zagato and a host of evolutions and special variants. And the V8 Vantage that captivated that Nottinghamshire schoolboy.
The sight of seven of them stampeding through the Surrey countryside for our DBS 50th anniversary feature brought back the same feelings of excitement for me. Despite the fact that performance cars have gone on to become considerably faster and massively more powerful, the DBS and its V8 descendants have lost little of their considerable road presence.
I hope that you enjoy our special celebration and that it brings back great memories of the first time that you encountered one of these legendary beasts.
Phil realised a schoolboy dream when he drove Oselli’s thundering V8 Vantage in 2005 (right), but the DBS has more delicate charms