Driving the Unknown Aston Martin

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By Chris Pollitt

Having Car & Classic at our disposal is a wonderful thing. It means we can scour the adverts and look for interesting cars on which we can craft what we hope will be interesting and engaging stories. It was during one of our recent searches, when we were looking for something to provide some Aston Martin based content, that we stumbled upon this utterly beguiling, immaculate, one-owner V8 Coupe.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

The car is worthy of our camera lens’s attention on the mere basis that, built in 1996, it is a one-owner, 12,600 mile car that has never been restored. It is immaculate, flawless in fact. The one owner must have weighed no more than a gerbil, as the seats look to have never been sat in. The carpets are still rich and deep. The steering wheel is free of marks to suggest collisions with rings or other ‘bling’. Externally, the wheels are immaculate, and the Porsche Midnight Blue paint is so rich, so deep, you want to jump into it. This is a new car. From 1996.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

Admittedly the guys at Nicholas Mee & Co, who have this car for sale, were somewhat perplexed by our choice of feature car. With classic DBs, Zagato this and race that, the humble V8 Coupe seemed an unlikely candidate for our lens. But while the other cars on site were indeed special, we couldn’t help but be drawn to this humble (though we use that word lightly) coupe. And as we talked with Ed Barton-Hilton of Nicholas Mee & Co, we soon felt even more confident in our choice.

When people see this shape of Aston, they instantly think of the mighty Virage and Vantage, angry, 500bhp+ machines that would chew up a set of rear tyres as soon as look at you. Cars that were made famous most notably by Jeremy Clarkson’s unabashed lust for them in the ‘90s. If the tall man could wedge one into a television or video segment, he would. The V8 coupe, not so much.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

But here’s the thing. The car you’re looking at here is number nine of just 101 examples made. This is rarer than its forced-induction siblings. Of those 101, this car is probably the best – the purest if you will – example out there. And that’s what makes it special.

The other thing that makes it special is its restraint. Yes, 550bhp is nice, but come on, when are you ever going to use that? Exactly, you’re not. The 350bhp in this V8 coupe, however, you can use all of that. All 350 horses are at the gate and keen to run. And yes, the V8 in this particular model is a somewhat lazy beast, but only in comparison to other V8s. In real world terms, this is still a fast car. It’s just perhaps not as eager or wild as other Astons, but that’s fine. This is a car laden with wood, leather and that deep, luxury carpet we mentioned earlier. This is a car you cruise to the south of France in, you don’t go hunting apexes in it.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

Driving this V8 Coupe is just as much of an experience as driving any Aston Martin. The V8 burbles along with a pleasing throb – this ‘90s car is fitted with period perfect Alpine stereo, but we felt no need to use it – and it motors along at more than respectable pace. And it’s not a shy car, either. You might look at this and think, because it’s not a LM or some such, that it would be soft, or lazy. It’s not. The driving experience is still involving, still captivating. The steering is perfectly weighted and delivers ample feedback. The brakes are direct and reassuring, which is important when you’re driving a car so big it has its own moons.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

Press on in the V8 Coupe and it shifts. The four-speed Torqueflite is perhaps a tad recalcitrant, but it still kicks down with pleasing eagerness and it shifts through the gears without fuss or complaint. Had this car been built to be more hard-nosed, this transmission would be a little off target, but given this car is for cruising along at a pleasing pace, it’s just fine.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

As we push on through the country lanes, we can’t help but be impressed by the big Aston’s composure. The suspension is soft and supple, but in the bends, there are no dramas. In fact, it dives into those bends with a pleasing willingness, and while you wouldn’t want to lean on it too much, we were left with the impression that it had a lot more grip left in it. In fact, despite the tall tyre walls and the more relaxed suspension, the handling is tight and connected. You still feel a part of the driving experience, unlike in some modern cars where you feel completely detached.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

This V8 Coupe is rewarding to drive, it’s deeply pleasant and as we returned back to base, we were left wanting. This car grabs you, it cossets you, but it also engages you. It’s not intimidating like its big power siblings. It puts its arm around you and says, “come on, you’ve got this, we’ll have fun”. It doesn’t shout at you and then headbutt a wall.

Aston Martin, Aston Martin V8, V8 Coupe, V8, Virage, Vantage

Then there’s the price. This very Aston Martin can be yours for a hair under £100,000, which represents outstanding value in our book. Cars like this are only going to go up in value. 

They already are in fact. It wasn’t so long ago that cars like this could be had for £40,000. But they’re coming into their own, finding a following, finding their place in the market.

It might not be the most talked about Aston Martin, but don’t let you put you off. It might not have forced induction, it might not have Le Mans in its name, and it might not have been giddily enthused over by a curly-haired motoring journalist, but so what? This is every bit an Aston Martin, but one you can use, one you can enjoy, and you can get the most out of. And when you’re buying a car so special, those are the factors that matter.

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