The V8 As­tons: a spot­ter’s guide

VANTAGE - - Twin Test | V8 Evoluton - Andrew English

COM­ING AT A TIME when, even by As­ton Martin stan­dards, the com­pany fi­nances were in a par­tic­u­lalry bad way, the V8s have an in­ter­est­ing – and oc­ca­sion­ally con­fus­ing – his­tory.

De­signed by Wil­liam Towns and launched in 1967, the DBS was built wider, longer and heav­ier than the DB6 to ac­cept Tadek Marek's new 5.3-litre V8, but it wasn't ready, so ini­tially the DB6’S straight-six was pressed into ser­vice. Two years later, in 1969, the V8 en­tered pro­duc­tion in the DBS V8, pro­duc­ing about 340bhp with Bosch me­chan­i­cal fuel in­jec­tion. Trans­mis­sion choice was a ZF five-speed man­ual or a Chrysler three-speed au­to­matic. The top speed was over 160mph with 0-60mph in less than six sec­onds and be­tween 1970 and 1972 As­ton built 399 ex­am­ples. Th­ese four-head­lamp mod­els were the last to be made un­der David Brown's own­er­ship and have since be­come known as Se­ries 1.

The first non-david Brown V8 was mar­keted sim­ply as the AM V8 and in­tro­duced in April 1972. Con­fus­ingly, the first 19 cars ac­tu­ally had DBS badg­ing un­til the old badges were used up. With two quartz io­dine head­lamps and a more tra­di­tional As­ton grille fit­ted in be­tween the lamps, it bore a re­sem­blance to an ex­per­i­men­tal Towns project known as MP231. Still on Bosch fuel in­jec­tion, th­ese ‘Se­ries 2’ cars were un­doubt­edly pow­er­ful, but also trou­ble­some and just 288 were built. They can be iden­ti­fied by hav­ing a lower bon­net scoop than the We­ber car­bu­ret­tor-equipped cars that fol­lowed and a lou­vred panel un­der the rear win­dow.

There was also a non-v8 anom­aly, the AM Van­tage. Th­ese six-cylin­der cars were an up­date of the orig­i­nal DBS, own­ers Com­pany De­vel­op­ments ea­ger to boost sales and rev­enue. Strictly a mis­use of the Van­tage name, th­ese cars were pro­duced be­tween May 1972 and July of the fol­low­ing year and just 70 were made.

Fi­nally As­ton Martin threw its toys – or at least the Bosch fuel in­jec­tion – out of the pram, and in 1973 the V8 was put on quad 42mm We­bers, which re­quired a longer and taller bulge in the bon­net, com­plete with gap­ing air in­take (as mod­elled by the car fea­tured in th­ese pages, and in the orig­i­nal sales brochure, above). De­spite a drop in horse­power – 310bhp is the fig­ure usu­ally quoted – per­for­mance was largely un­af­fected, though emis­sions reg­u­la­tion equip­ment even­tu­ally re­duced the power to 280bhp.

It was dur­ing the life of this ‘Se­ries 3’ model that the fac­tory went into ad­min­is­tra­tion and closed for over a year be­tween De­cem­ber 1974 and spring 1976. Re­opened un­der new man­age­ment and boosted by the re­sponse to Towns’s new Lagonda sa­loon, As­ton also worked hard at gin­ger­ing-up the V8 model by fit­ting a 375bhp en­gine with 48mm We­ber carbs and high-lift cams. The re­sult­ing V8 Van­tage was re­leased in 1977 and, with its 170mph top speed, was for a while the world's fastest pro­duc­tion car.

All the while the man­age­ment team were putting a load of love into the cook­ing V8, which came to fruition in Oc­to­ber 1978 with the launch of the ‘Oscar In­dia’ model, ‘Oscar In­dia’ be­ing NATO pho­netic for Oc­to­ber In­tro­duc­tion (OI). Vis­ually, th­ese had a built-in rear spoiler, ap­par­ently su­per­vised by Towns him­self, and a lower bon­net bulge that was closed to out­side air, even though the en­gine was still on carbs. Most of the 352 built were equipped with three-speed Chrysler au­to­matic trans­mis­sions.

Pro­duc­tion of the Oscar In­dia model ceased in 1986 and it was re­placed by the V8’s last blast, the We­ber/marelli in­jected cars, distin­guished by their al­most flat bon­nets. Th­ese were some of the most use­able V8s and As­ton sold 405 in the three years be­fore pro­duc­tion ceased in 1989.

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