Why you’d want an Aston Martin V8/Vantage
Engineer Tadek Marek’s all-aluminium, quad-cam, fuel-injected V8 and the William Towns-designed DBS that had been created to house it were both superb, but extremely costly to build, forcing David Brown to sell Aston Martin in 1972.
New owner Company Developments relaunched the model as the Aston Martin V8 with a neat front-end restyle, again by Towns, that lifted the DBS shape into the 1980s.
Sound and heat insulation were improved, Lucas Opus electronic ignition (shared with the V12 E-type) was adopted, air conditioning was standard and a leather steering wheel replaced wood.
Like Jaguar, Aston couldn’t meet US emissions regs with fuel injection, so changed to carburettors – four Webers with a larger bonnet bulge.
Underfunded Aston Martin went into receivership at the end of 1974, but was revived and incoming MD Alan Curtis put the company back on its feet with new performance options on the V8, including the V8 Vantage in 1977.
Victor Gauntlett took control in 1981 and Aston was backed by Greek shipping magnates in the ’80s, though still had financial worries at times.
The Aston V8 is a big, heavy car but fine handling helps it to shrink around the driver and it rarely feels as large as it really is.
It’s a genuine four-seater, albeit cramped in the back, with heady performance – especially the Vantage. It’s thirsty, but you don’t buy an Aston for economy.
A very competent DiY mechanic can maintain an Aston V8, though parts are expensive and you’ll need plenty of time.
If that’s not you, budget for significant running costs and bear in mind that a good marque specialist will fix it properly in a quarter of the time it’ll take a non-specialist to mess it up and try to resolve it.
A handful of V8 saloons were turned into convertibles by Banham: although it’s a good conversion, they are worth about the same as hardtop V8s, not as much as genuine Volantes.
A sound but little-used example will cost £50-100,000 to refresh for use; a full rebuild can easily hit £200k for a standard V8, more for a Vantage X-Pack or Volante, let alone a Zagato.
Bear this – and their restored values – in mind when buying; it may be better to get a lesser model that has recently been restored than a tired example of a more desirable model. Both standard V8s and Zagatos currently look great value compared to X-Pack Vantages.
Images: James Mann
Aston Martin V8/Vantage: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
The four-cam V8 engine is magnificent, even bearing the name of the individual who built it, but it does need to be carefully maintained without penny-pinching.
Overheating and failed head gaskets mean major bills, as do low oil pressure, excessive oil consumption, rattles and thumps. Check the history for work done.
Chassis rot behind the front wheel is common and costly to fix: brake and fuel lines run through the outrigger so have to be removed before welding.
Check the cooling system for signs of ‘mayonnaise’ (water/oil mixing) and overheating; coolant should be fresh and the radiator free from decay.
The auto gearbox is reliable: check for smooth changes and kickdown, and look out for black oil. Manuals suffer worn bearings, synchros and clutch.
There’s no wood in early V8 interiors, making them relatively inexpensive to restore (it came in ’78). This car has some extra gauges, added in period.
Aston Martin V8/Vantage: on the road
Test drive any Aston V8 with an ear tuned for untoward noises from the engine, transmission and suspension.
Lacklustre performance may be carbs that need a rebuild (if set up correctly, they should not need re-tuning) or failing electronic ignition, but if it’s linked with engine wear you will need deep pockets for the rebuild.
Timing chains rattle when stretched; a worn water pump can chatter, too. Seals fail due to block corrosion at the bottom of the rear wet liners, leading to the oil and water mixing; head gaskets fail from overheating or neglect of corrosion-inhibitors. Crank bungs drop out on early V8s (look for very low oil pressure).
A well-maintained and frequently used Aston is a happy Aston – the engine can do 150,000 miles between rebuilds. Most failures are from lack of use and neglect.
Don’t expect the rare ZF five-speed gearbox to have a slick change – it never did, and the synchromesh could be beaten even when new.
But beware of noisy layshaft bearings and synchros that crunch even with care, and check the clutch doesn’t slip if you floor it in top gear. Replacement is very labour-intensive.
The brakes, ventilated discs all round with big twin servos, should be superb and fade-free; infrequent use can wreak havoc with servos and bring a £2000 bill for two new ones every few years.
The Adwest power steering was similar to that used by Jaguar, but much better weighted with good feel and precision; any wooliness in the steering or suspension means wear, hopefully in inexpensive joints, bushes and bearings.
Aston Martin V8/Vantage price guide
- V8: £30,000/60,000/150,000
- Volante: £50,000/125,000/200,000
- Vantage: £75,000/150,000/350,000
- Vantage Volante, X-Pack and Zagato: £150,000/300,000/400,000
Prices correct at date of original publication
Aston Martin V8/Vantage history
1972 May AM V8 (S2) launched: single headlights, Bosch fuel injection, c300bhp
1973 Aug S3: four Weber 42DCNF carbs, bigger bonnet bulge, rear lip, revised interior
1977 Feb V8 Vantage: blanked grille, air dam, boot spoiler, Perspex headlamp covers, four Weber 48IDAs, c380bhp, stiffer suspension
1978 Jun V8 Volante: wood dash/door tops, bonnet intake closed, rear chassis stiffening
1978 Oct S4 V8 ‘Oscar India’: boot spoiler
1986 Jan S5 (Volante S2): Weber/Marelli injection, no bonnet bulge; Vantage S2 (carbs)
1986 Oct Vantage S3: 400bhp (X-Pack 432bhp); 186mph Vantage Zagato added
1987 May Volante Zagato launched
1987 Oct Vantage Volante added
1989 Dec Last V8 built, replaced by Virage
The owner’s view
Renowned architect Patrick Gwynne bought this V8 new in 1974, replacing a DBS.
When he collected it, he took with him friend and neighbour Raymond Menzies, who would later buy the car from him and has kept it in his family to this day.
After a substantial refurb by RS Williams, Raymond’s son Stefan has now taken on the car, and will pass it to his own son in time.
“I hated driving it before RS Williams had it,” says Raymond. “You never knew if it was going to stop or not! It’s so much better now.”
“I love driving it,” adds Stefan. “I was in awe of it at first, but it’s actually really easy to drive and it’s got so much grunt – floor it and it just takes off!
“RS Williams did a brilliant job: it had only done 45,000 miles, but they sorted corrosion on the body edges, repainted it, overhauled the brakes and re-Connollised the interior.”
With 6.3- then 7.2-litre Chrysler V8s and 255-330bhp, the Touring-styled Interceptor topped 135mph with acceleration to match an Aston. Almost all were built before 1976; rot is their nemesis.
Sold 1966-’93 • No. built 6977 • Price now £15-75,000*
The same price as an Aston at launch (but later much cheaper), with dramatic Gandini styling, a 4.9-litre four-cam V8 and Citroën powered steering and brakes, but almost unusable rear seats.
Sold 1974-’82 • No. built 435 • Price now £60-140,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Aston Martin V8/Vantage: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
Now fully accepted as a true classic Aston Martin, the V8 meets all the criteria: stunning looks, shattering performance and serious running costs, but values now justify spending the money.
Be wary of cars that were bodged in the days when they weren’t worth repairing properly.
Continuous history with lots of recent expenditure is usually best: these thoroughbreds don’t like sitting around unused. Get a professional check-up and buy wisely.
- The AM V8 has massive presence and mighty performance for a 10th of the price of some DB Astons
- It is much more usable than most DBs, too
- Excellent specialist and club support
- The complex steel/aluminium bodyshell and four-cam V8 engine can be extremely expensive to put right if neglected or poorly repaired
Aston Martin V8/Vantage specifications
- Sold/number built 1972-’89/2951
- Construction steel chassis/superstructure, aluminium panels
- Engine all-alloy, dohc per-bank 5340cc V8, with Bosch or Weber/Marelli injection, or four Weber carbs
- Max power 280bhp @ 5000rpm to 432bhp @ 6000rpm
- Max torque 320lb ft @ 4000rpm to 395lb ft @ 5100rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual or three-speed auto, RWD
- Suspension: front wishbones, anti-roll bar rear de Dion axle, parallel links, Watt linkage; telescopic dampers, coil springs f/r
- Steering power-assisted rack and pinion
- Brakes vented discs, with servo
- Length 15ft ¾in (4648-4674mm)
- Width 6ft (1830mm)
- Height 4ft 4¼-6in (1327-1372mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 6¾in (2610mm)
- Weight 3800-4009lb (1727-1822kg)
- 0-60mph 5.2-7.2 secs
- Top speed 145-168mph
- Mpg 14-15
- Price new £40,000 (V8, 1983)