With a design so glorious it makes angels weep, and a drivetrain sufficiently powerful to shift the Earth slightly off its axis, the V8 Coupe is among the last of the truly hand-built Aston Martins. Assembled with pride in Newport Pagnell, the limited edition model was introduced to A-M’s line-up in 1996, the range already including Vantage and Volante variants. Those two – respectively a twin-supercharged widebody goliath and a drop-top tourer – each had their charms, but the V8 Coupe represented something more demure: with its slimmer hips but still carrying over elements of the Vantage styling (such as the twin tail lights), it was arguably more classically pretty than its stablemates. But of course there was still plenty of blood-and-thunder beneath the skin; while this sumptuously appointed coupe is the consummate grand tourer, it also boasts some excellent Top Trumps numbers – the naturally-aspirated 5,340cc quad-cam 32-valve V8 kicks out a mighty 350bhp, backed up by a stump-ripping 369lb.ft of torque. This is good enough for a sub-six-second dash to 62mph, and a top end beyond 155mph, all with a sonorous soundtrack and the visual drama that befits a hand-built Aston of the old school. The production run lasted until 1999, during which time a total of just 101 of these cars were built. A rare thing indeed, then. But as we’re about to discover, this one is a whole lot rarer than most…
The most noteworthy and exciting thing about this car – build no.60 – is the fact that it has a manual gearbox. A truly head-turning detail for marque aficionados, because the V8 Coupe was officially only ever offered with an automatic transmission. The conversion was carried out in 2006 by respected specialists Goldsmith & Young, using the robust 5-speed ZF manual gearbox, and this has recently been supplemented by the addition of a Vantage-spec 3.54:1 limited-slip differential. A recent appraisal of the car’s value notes that if this gearbox conversion were to be carried out today, it would cost somewhere in the region of £40,000-50,000 plus VAT to complete to this standard.
The current owner has had this car in his possession for around three years. Having owned numerous Aston Martins before, he knew what he was looking for and was keen to buy the very best example he could; the condition and history of this particular car were very attractive and, of course, the quality conversion to manual transmission was the clincher. In the time he’s owned it, the car has been used just as a grand tourer should, with trouble-free trips down through France and up to Scotland enjoyed in superlative comfort. He assures us that it’s been a thoroughly pleasurable ownership, and the reason for sale now is a purely practical one: having recently moved house, unfortunately the V8 Coupe is proving to be a tight fit in his new garage!
The paperwork accompanying this car is pleasingly detailed and comprehensive. As well as the original Owner’s Guide and V8 Family Technical Guide (which are amusingly weighty tomes in themselves), we find a thorough and granular history of all of the work that’s been carried out through the Aston’s life – totalling up the expenditure, there are bills for work in excess of £64,000.
The service book is full of stamps from specialists (fourteen stamps in all), the most recent having been done in April of this year, with the bill coming to over £9,100: as well as the servicing and MOT, this invoice also details such work as replacing both distributors, remedial work to the braking and steering systems, and carrying out rust repairs to the driver’s footwell. An invoice from 2017 shows well over £5,000 being spent on ball-joints and drop-links, vacuum hoses, pedal adjustments, and even £200 to fix the ashtray mechanism. Perhaps most importantly, the documentation also includes a valuation certificate from 2018, which confirms the car’s value at that time to be £150,000-175,000.
It’s impossible to have a bad time in an Aston – the quality of the interior alone is enough to elevate you to a higher conscious level of pleasure. The V8 Coupe is no different, and this particular one really is sublime inside. Resplendent in its all-original Light Grey leather, the seats are presented in faultless condition, all just as supportive as they should be and with the fronts reclining correctly to allow access to the unmarked rear. The black seat piping is all present and correct, and the blue Wilton carpets are in excellent condition. The wood trim on the dash and door inserts is beautifully presented with no sign of any fading or lacquer peel, and all of the switchgear and instrumentation reportedly works exactly as it should do. Inside the boot, the carpets are excellent and the original first aid kit is in place, with a fire extinguisher mounted on the opposite side. Within the hideaway compartment are the cans of tyre foam along with the original jack, and the correct Aston Martin toolkit is also present and complete. The spec is geared to relaxed grand touring, with heated electric seats, climate control, and cruise control, all of which is in perfect working order.
The Buckingham Green metallic paint suits the shape of this sylph-like coupe perfectly, and it’s presented with a deep lustre – evidence of a car that’s lived a pampered life in garages and always been kept clean. The panel gaps are spot-on, the windows operate correctly, and the doors close with a reassuring thunk. The original OZ Saturn alloy wheels are all in very good condition, with just a few very minor scuffs around the rims – something a professional refurbisher would find extremely easy to remedy – and they wear quality Pirelli tyres with decent tread. All of the grilles and lights are present, and in impeccable condition save for a minor crack on the nearside tail light lens.
Aside from a very small scuff on the edge of the nearside door mirror and another on the edge of the driver door near to the lock/handle, the paintwork is in outstanding order throughout. A truly impressive machine, with its fabulous condition neatly masking its years.
This is a car which has always been maintained with a no-expense-spared approach, and this is evident in the current condition and the eager manner in which it drives. The up-and-at-’em drivetrain is just as effervescent as you’d hope it to be, and the smart transmission conversion adds an extra element of driver engagement missing from other V8 Coupes.
The engine and transmission are in perfect working order, and the owner reports no issues whatsoever with the steering, suspension or braking systems. Recent work carried out earlier this year included replacing the rear callipers with reconditioned units, adjusting the handbrake, and replacing the steering rack gaiters. The Watt’s linkage was removed and re-bushed, the distributors and rotor arms/caps replaced, corroded fuel pipes renewed, and the gearbox oil changed.
Leafing through the paperwork, we find work of this level and depth being carried out throughout its history – the Aston has wanted for nothing, and this is clear today: this is a car ready for immediate use and enjoyment.
This era of Aston Martin’s history represents a truly desirable proposition whichever model you’re looking at: the Virage, Vantage, Volante and V8 Coupe variants each have their endearing details, and they represent the last in a long line of Astons hand-built at Newport Pagnell. For connoisseurs who value delicacy and tactility over brute force, the narrow-body V8 Coupe serves up a tasteful counterpoint to the shouty Vantage, and the truly arresting hook here is the presence of the manual gearbox. A unique creation, a bona fide one-off, with the conversion work carried out to manufacturer-quality standard; this is a car which fuses extraordinary comfort with effortless performance, along with discreet exclusivity and increasing collectability. A 1990s Aston that ticks every box? You’re looking at it.
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