‘the carb-fed v8 was almost half a second quicker to 60mph than the injected car’
As DBS V8 morphed into AM V8, the decision to ditch the tricky-to-service Bosch fuel injection for a quartet of twin-choke Weber carburettors certainly didn’t harm the performance: in fact Motor’s 0-60mph time of 5.7sec for a carb-fed AM V8 was almost half a second quicker than they’d achieved with the injected car, thanks to the new model’s keener initial pick-up and torquier delivery. Even if top speed was 5mph down at 155mph, it was still one of the world’s quickest GT cars.
The Webers, they concluded, gave a ‘worthwhile improvement in low-speed running and tractability. When combined with the Aston’s very high cornering powers, this makes the V8 one of the most satisfying road cars we have driven for some time.’
Today, compared with the DB4, 5 and 6, the V8 still looks good value. But its stock is rising fast. Aston Martin Works recently sold an admittedly pristine DBS V8 for £175,000, and while the four-headlight car seems to attract a premium, the AM V8 isn’t too far behind, with the very best now commanding £150,000. It is, however, still possible to pick up a perfectly presentable and eminently useable example for £100,000-125,000. The key is finding a car that’s fundamentally sound and that won’t require major work. So, what to look out for?
First, it’s good to know which model you’re looking at, so a brief history. The DBS V8 with its four headlights and Bosch injection ran from 1969 until it was replaced by the AM V8 with its two headlights and plainer grille in April 1972. There was a run of 288 fuel-injected AM V8s while engine stocks were used up (chassis numbers 501-789), but from July 1973 all had Weber carbs, these cars distinguished by a much bigger air-scoop on the bonnet.
Just to muddy the waters, in 1972 Company Developments also introduced an ‘entry level’ version of the new Aston with the old 4-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. Ignoring decades of Aston tradition, they called this lowerpowered model, which had wire wheels in place of the V8’s alloys, the ‘Vantage’. Doh.
But back to the V8s, and in 1978 came the ‘Oscar India’ (aviation code for OI or October Introduction) model: still carb-fed, so retaining the big bonnet-scoop, but with a host of detail improvements, subtle body changes including a neat, integrated tail-spoiler and, inside, a more sumptuous feel with lashings of glossy wood veneer on the dash and door cappings.
The final version ran from 1985-1989 and featured Weber-marelli electronic fuel injection, these ‘Efi’s distinguished visually by their BBS wheels and virtually flat bonnets.
There were, of course, souped-up Vantage and rag-top Volante variations on the basic recipe (there’s a full guide to the latter in Vantage issue 4), but the values of those have long since escaped into the stratosphere, so it’s the regular V8 coupé (or ‘ saloon’ in Aston parlance) that we’re focusing on here.
According to Nigel Woodward, manager of Heritage Operations at Works, it doesn’t matter which variant you’re looking at – DBS V8, early AM V8, post-1978 ‘Oscar India’, or the final run of Weber-marelli injected cars – they’reallfundamentallythesameunderneath, which means that the biggest concern (and I suspect you may be one step ahead of me here) is corrosion.
All the V8s had the same conventional steel box-section chassis with a steel superstructure clad in alloy panels. All of it was made and assembled by hand at Newport Pagnell, but while the skills of the craftsmen were never in doubt, rust prevention measures were very much of the time (i.e. fairly perfunctory by modern standards).
‘Corrosion of the sills is the biggest single issue with V8s,’ says Woodward. ‘And as with any Aston that’s not a small job to put right properly. Basically it involves cutting off the front and rear wing bottoms to gain access to the structure of the car, removing the sills, repairing the floors and making up new sill sections and putting them back in. And then of course you’ve got to fill, prepare and paint both sides of the car. It’s a major undertaking by anybody’s standards.’
And the cost to repair/replace the sills to Works standard? ‘ You wouldn’t walk away with much change from £20,000,’ says Nigel.
Was there much difference in the build quality over the years? ‘We’ve restored V8s from all the different eras, and really there’s not much to choose between any of them.
‘Mechanically, though, they’re generally sound,’ continues Nigel, ‘but bear in mind that they can be up to 40 years old now.’
The engine, aside from the switch from fuel injection to carburettors and then back to fuel injection, was essentially unchanged from the