What the road testers said at the time

VANTAGE - - Buying Guide Vantage V550/v600 -

was built on the clas­sic V8 plat­form, specif­i­cally a short­ened ver­sion of the ’80s Lagonda. ‘The tri­an­gu­lated chassis sec­tions un­der the sill pods tend to trap wa­ter,’ says Tim. ‘Wa­ter also gets in the B-pil­lar, so you get rust in­side the door­shuts. You can also find it bub­bling up on the lead­ing edge of the front wing.

‘Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the chin spoiler be­cause if it needs to come off it means re­mov­ing the in­ter­cool­ers and oil cool­ers and all the pipes that go with them, so it’s a re­ally big job.

‘We see quite a few cars where the spoiler has been bashed be­cause the front springs sag and the car is very nose-down. Even if the miles are very low – and that ap­plies to most of them – springs, dampers and bushes de­grade over time and need re­plac­ing. With all the weight, bushes get a hard time gen­er­ally, as do the gear­box and dif­fer­en­tial mount­ings with all the torque.

‘Look for oil weep­ing from the head gas­kets and also the oil sup­ply pipe at the back of the en­gine; it’s enor­mously dif­fi­cult to get to be­cause it’s right up against bulk­head, so it’s prob­a­bly some­thing you’d live with un­til you needed to pull the en­gine for­ward or re­move a cylin­der head for other work.’

The good news is that the en­gine it­self and both man­ual gear­boxes are gen­er­ally ro­bust and give few prob­lems. The rare auto is less suited to the mas­sive torque. ‘ We have had a cou­ple dis­in­te­grate,’ says Tim. He’s never per­son­ally seen any is­sues with the su­per­charg­ers, though belts and pul­lies do wear – a whistling sound is the clue here. The wa­ter pump is a weak­point, as it takes the strain of all the auxiliary belts. Tim uses a stetho­scope to de­tect a worn bear­ing.

And make sure all the electrics work. Some of the lit­tle black boxes are fiendishly dif­fi­cult to get hold of. ‘The last time I checked, a wiper de­lay unit was about £3500,’ he cau­tions.

Ser­vic­ing re­quire­ments are es­sen­tially the same as any other V8-en­gined Aston of the ’80s and ’90s. Tim reck­ons on bud­get­ing £1800-2000 for rou­tine ser­vic­ing, with another £1500 a year for non-ser­vice items that will in­evitably need re­plac­ing. Tyres, for ex­am­ple, are £500 a cor­ner.

Fuel thirst is al­most com­i­cally ex­treme: when Au­to­car tested a V550, they recorded anaver­age of 11.6mpg. But then no-one buys a Van­tage for its fuel econ­omy. It’s the last of the old-school hand­built As­tons, a di­nosaur in some ways, but def­i­nitely T Rex. With twin su­per­charg­ers. ‘THE VAN­TAGE IS ONE OF the fastest, most flex­i­ble road cars we have ever tested. Get both the get­away and the first-to-sec­ond gearchange (just be­fore 50mph) spot on and the Van­tage thun­ders to 60mph in a Fer­rari 512Tr-de­stroy­ing 4.6sec and from 30-70mph in an equally pro­found 3.6sec. It de­vours the ton in a pul­veris­ing 10.1sec and takes the stand­ing kilo­me­tre tape just 13sec later with the speedome­ter read­ing close to 150mph. By that time even a Viper is his­tory, while ri­vals such as the Fer­rari 456GT, Mercedes 600SL and Porsche 928 GTS are al­ready be­gin­ning to re­sem­ble dots in the rear-view mir­ror.

As­sume the Aston han­dles like an or­di­nary car and you’re in for a shock at the first se­ri­ous cor­ner. It needs re­spect – per­haps more than any other big, rear-wheel-drive car be­fore it. But em­ploy the age-old ‘slow in, very fast out’ method and it can be per­suaded through bends at as­ton­ish­ing speeds. Its trac­tion out of dry sec­ond- and third-gear cor­ners is, in fact, ex­tremely good, the rear end squat­ting dra­mat­i­cally. In the wet it’s very dif­fer­ent. More than mere cir­cum­spec­tion is re­quired to keep that beau­ti­ful nose point­ing down the road. Hav­ing said that, when the rear Goodyears do lose their grip, it hap­pens pro­gres­sively.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: the Van­tage is no nim­ble, ag­ile sports car that can be flicked del­i­cately from one di­rec­tion to another. It’s a big bruiser in tra­di­tional Aston style, with heavy ped­als, meaty power steer­ing and lots of in­er­tia that builds up rapidly if you get things wrong. Make use of its at­tributes – the huge torque, im­mense grip, friendly (if a touch vague) power steer­ing and that ex­traor­di­nar­ily well-lo­cated rear end – and few cars flow through a se­ries of bends with more style or grace than the Aston, even if there are oth­ers that, ul­ti­mately, will cor­ner faster.

It’s a real Aston Martin: a big, very beau­ti­ful, very fast, al­beit ex­pen­sive GT with so much ap­peal and pur­pose be­hind it that it is more an ex­pe­ri­ence than it is mere trans­port; a su­per­car not with­out faults but one with suf­fi­cient flashes of ge­nius to make those faults seem sec­ondary in any over­all reck­on­ing’ – Au­to­car, Au­gust 25, 1993

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