The V8 Astons: a spotter’s guide
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.