Aston Martin Vantage – The Time is Now

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By Chris Pollitt

To buy an Aston Martin, you have to be living the life of a Premiership footballer, right? There is simply no way mere mortals such as ourselves could ever live the Aston life, surely? Well, as it happens, that’s not true. If you shop around, you could have an Aston Martin sat on your driveway for Mondeo money, and that’s not to be sniffed at. Of course, an Aston won’t be as good on fuel or nearly as practical as a Mondeo, but so what? James Bond is never seen doing a tip run, is he? Exactly. 

Good though Astons are, the reality is high-ends sports cars suffer painfully when it comes to residual values. There is no ignoring the fact they’re expensive to run, they’re not practical and they are almost always superseded by newer, prettier models, which further drives the price of older models down. But the fall from grace opens up the ownership window for us, and when we’re talking about cars as pure, as exciting and as beautiful as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, that’s a thrilling prospect. 

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The trick with a car like this is to go into it with your eyes open. It may indeed be ‘cheap’ to buy, but it’s still going to take Aston money to maintain it. So think, can you afford to run one? Online forums are a great source of information on this subject. Do you know a specialist who can do the work to a quality standard, but without charging Aston dealer prices? Can you live with the thirst and the impractical nature of it? If you can, then the V8 Vantage is well worth considering. It’s pretty much at the bottom of the depreciation curve, meaning there has never been a better time to buy one. And then just think, you’ll be able to tell people that you drive an Aston Martin. 

An Introduction to the V8 Vantage

When the V8 Vantage arrived in 2006, it offered buyers a more agile, lightweight and overall more focused car than the DB9. Make no mistake, the DB9 was and still is an outstanding car, however, when stacked against the smaller Vantage, its GT status becomes more apparent. 

The Vantage is over a foot shorter, it’s 60mm lower slung and the design embodies a ‘wheel at each corner’ aesthetic. This is of course for handling reasons. However, it also serves to make the Vantage look muscular and purposeful. And of course, being so much smaller, it is only a two-seater. 

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Early, pre-2008 cars (which are what we’re looking at here) were powered by a 4.3 Aston Martin quad-cam, 32-valve V8 with an impressive 380bhp and 302lb ft. It was an important engine for Aston, as the dry-sump system, block, heads, crank, pistons and cams were all designed in-house. Furthermore, it was assembled by German engineers at Aston’s Cologne facility, which further added to the quality. The Germans know how to build an engine. 

Power was sent to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. In the real world, this is a car that should be enjoyed with three pedals. The automatic transmission on the early cars can be incredibly heavy on clutches, and it’s an expensive affair to replace them. The clutch on a manual should, if treated properly, last for around 40,000 miles. 

In 2008, the Vantage was upgraded, the biggest change being an increase to 4.7 litres and 420bhp. However, the 380bhp in the early cars isn’t to be sniffed at, and also, these early cars are the ones to pounce on, as the later cars can be upwards of ten grand more expensive. 

If you’re shopping for a V8 Vantage, there are things you need to look for. First and foremost, you want a comprehensive service history. These cars need to be maintained by trained hands. Don’t worry if the history dips into specialist rather than main dealer territory – as long as it’s a reputable specialist, you should be fine. The car should be free of errors and warnings, though if a DSC warning flashes up, it could be something as simple as a brake pedal switch, so don’t panic. 

Interiors are pretty hard-wearing, but of course you need to make sure there is no obvious damage or neglect. Being a low-slung sports car, there can be a lot of wear on the driver seat due to clambering in and out. Same for the kick plates and lower edges of the door cards. 

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Corrosion is something you need to look for, too. Nothing structural though, thankfully. We spoke to an owner who advised that Aston never really figured out how to paint aluminium properly. As such, the mirror bases, door handles, keyhole and door edges are all prone to damage and flaking paint. He also said that if possible, go for the upgraded Alpine audio system because, and we quote, “the standard one is a bit naff.”

Oh, and don’t forget about fuse 22. This fuse controls the function of the electronic exhaust, which keeps it quiet on startup and under 4,000rpm. Remove it – yep, simple as that – and you’ll have a very shouty Aston. If it’s too much, just pop the fuse back in. 

What Are Prices Like?

Right at the bottom of the curve at the moment. If you want an early Vantage, you can pick one up for as little as £20,000, though we would perhaps advise that the cheapest cars are given a slightly wider berth. Aim for the mid 20s and you’ll be in the territory of lots of choice, and most importantly, that choice will be of cars that have been cared for and boast full service history. 

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If you go to £30,000, you’re going to be in the territory of the very best of the early cars. We’re talking full history, high specification, low mileage and minimal owners. There will be temptation to start looking at the 420bhp 4.7 cars at this money, but be cautious. Those cars are equivalent to the £20,000 4.3 cars. 

Unless you’re Jeremy Clarkson, the 380bhp 4.3 will be more than enough. Pair it with the manual six-speed transmission and you will have a car that never fails to make you smile. That’s the joy of owning an Aston. 

Why Should I Buy One? 

Why? Because it’s an Aston Martin, and who doesn’t want to see that on their key ring? It’s not just about the status of owning an Aston though. It’s about owning an exceptional car that prior to this article, you may have thought was out of budget. 

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The Vantage is, for many, the perfect modern classic as well as being the perfect Aston. It’s small, agile, powerful and utterly glorious to drive. It is achingly beautiful thanks to the amazing design by Henrik Fisker. It’s also a car without ego or image. Something that an old Porsche or Italian supercar can’t boast. It’s a classy, sophisticated and wonderfully British car. And on that note, it’s a reminder that when it comes to making engaging, captivating sports cars, there are few better than the Brits.

How Long Until I See A Return? 

It’s a tricky one to say. Honestly, we would suggest you buy a Vantage for the sake of the car and the joy it will bring rather than for any financial gain. That said, if you do buy one, keep it serviced correctly, try not to pile the miles on it and address any cosmetic issues it might have, you will at the very least keep your money safe. 

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Over the next five years the cheap, bargain basement cars will vanish and values will start to climb. The V8 Vantage of this era is a bit of an unappreciated gem at the moment, but that is slowly changing. Now the ‘poor’ condition cars are being snapped up by specialists and brought back to a desirable standard and condition. Once all these cars have been snapped up, the prices will start to rise dramatically. An early Vantage V8 could easily be worth £30,000 minimum in a few years. 

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