A child­hood in­fat­u­a­tion de­fined Phil’s mo­tor­ing as­pi­ra­tions in 1977 – and our cover fea­ture brought it all flood­ing back

Classic Cars (UK) - - News - Phil Bell, ed­i­tor

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

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