The 1970s – the era of disco, pet rocks and platform shoes – were not kind to many British car makers. For Aston Martin, to borrow from Charles Dickens, “It was the worst of times.” The company that made arguably the best-known grand touring cars in the world since 1913 was forced to close its doors in 1974, due to financial setbacks that forced it into receivership. Production resumed in 1976 and the following year Aston Martin introduced the V8 Vantage, the car that would resurrect the company’s mojo – it was the first British Supercar!
Aston Martin V8 Vantage – the First British Supercar
The V8 Vantage was based on the Aston Martin V8 introduced in 1976. The Vantage name was used by Aston Martin starting in 1951 to indicate models with higher performance than their regular street models and the 1977 V8 Vantage was no exception – it could match the performance of any Grand Touring car in the world. With a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.3 seconds, a standing quarter mile time of 13.7 seconds, and a top speed of 170 mph, the V8 Vantage was equal to, or faster than the contemporary Ferrari 512 BB, Lamborghini Countach, Maserati Bora, and Porsche 911 Turbo – pretty fast company.
The Vantage V8 engine had a high-performance cam, increased compression ratio, larger intake valves, bigger carburetors, and a revised intake manifold compared to the standard Aston Martin 5.3 liter V8. Early V8 Vantages were rated at 375 horsepower at 5,800 rpm with later versions bumped up to 390 horsepower. A five-speed ZF manual gearbox transmitted the power to the rear wheels supported on the unitized body structure by a deDion-type rear suspension. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage featured a body-colored grille blockoff plate, a deep chin spoiler, a ducktail trunk lid spoiler, and a closed-off hood bulge to increase the top speed and the overall stability at high speeds. The V8 Vantage was Aston Martin’s halo car to let everyone, potential customers and competitors alike, know that they were serious about restoring the fame and glory that once belonged to Aston Martin.
Aston Martin’s history of racing glory
Aston Martin cars have been intimately associated with competition since the very beginning in 1913 – indeed, the original name of Bamford & Martin was changed to Aston Martin in 1914 following founder Lionel Martin’s successful runs at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England. Their international racing competition began in 1922 at the French Grand Prix with two Aston Martins completing the race, and 1928 saw an Aston Martin entering the now famous Le Mans 24 hour race for the first time.
But it was not until industrialist David Brown assumed ownership of the company in 1947, that Aston Martin found the road to racing’s pinnacle. Beginning in 1951 and continuing through the fifties, Aston Martin models, such as the DB2, DB3, DB3S, DBR1, and DBR2 tallied 78 wins and 153 podium finishes in races throughout the world, culminating in a 1-2 finish at Le Mans and the World Sports Car Championship in 1959.
A chance movie appearance Makes Aston Martin an icon
It was a chance appearance in a movie that took Aston Martin from the top of the rather insular world of international sports car racing to a world-wide cultural icon. As the story goes, a movie production company approached Jaguar in the early 1960s about using their hot new XK-E as their movie hero’s transportation. Now, manufacturers letting filmmakers use their vehicles free of charge in return for the vast movie publicity is fairly common, but Jaguar wanted payment to allow their beloved XK-E to appear in the movie. The movie company declined Jaguar’s demand and made a call to Aston Martin with the same request. Aston Martin had the good sense to say “yes” and the Aston Martin DB5 made its movie debut, as James Bond’s faithful steed in the blockbuster 1964 movie “Goldfinger”.
Bond’s Aston Martin was loaded with special gadgets to help 007 escape the clutches of evildoers seeking to take over the world, including built-in machine guns, oil dispensers to slick down the road behind, a passenger ejection seat to quickly get rid of anyone foolish enough to gain entry into the DB5, and sideways-extending tire slashers to cut the tires of pursuers who managed to get alongside 007.
Aston Martin escapes a financial abyss
Certainly Bond has proven himself over the years to be indestructible, but not so Aston Martin. Facing financial hardship in the late 1960s, Aston Martin withdrew from further James Bond movies after 1968 to work full time on saving their leaking ship. Aston Martin was forced into receivership and all production ceased in 1974 and 1975. New owners and an influx of investor money allowed Aston Martin to resume production in 1976 with a new V8 model and introduce the new V8 Vantage in 1977. After a series of new owners and investors, Aston Martin slowly made its way back into the automotive market.
After an extended hiatus, Aston Martin again became a screen hero when a V8 Vantage Volante was selected as James Bond’s personal vehicle in the 1987 film The Living Daylights. Picking up right where they left off, Q-Branch equipped 007’s V8 Vantage with Stinger missiles, a rear rocket propulsion system, and outrigger skis, giving Bond more traction and stability when driving on snow and ice. The boys in Q-Branch once again proved prescient – the outrigger skis saved Bond’s bacon when his tires were shot out while driving across a frozen lake.
V8 Vantage value
If you’re in the market for a collectible car that will take you anywhere at a rapid pace in the lap of luxury, the V8 Vantage with its roomy cabin and 2+2 seating would be a good choice. Be aware, however, that Aston Martins have always resided in the upper echelons of automotive pricing, and despite being produced for thirteen years, only 534 V8 Vantages were ever made – 342 coupes and 192 Volantes (convertibles). So be prepared to dig deep into your piggy bank.
According to our friends at Hagerty, the average value of a 1977 V8 Vantage (coupe) is $132,000, ranging from a high of $220,000 for a Vantage in number one concours condition to a low of $98,700 for one in number four fair condition.
Should you be lucky enough to find an Aston Martin V8 Vantage that interests you, please be careful when examining the cabin interior. Just in case you found one of James Bond’s actual cars, we wouldn’t want you accidently shooting off a Stinger missile or activating the rocket propulsion system in the seller’s garage.
Classic & Performance Car – http://www.classicandperformancecar.com/aston-martin/v8
Aston Martin Racing – http://www.astonmartin.com/racing/history
Racing Sports Cars – http://www.racingsportscars.com/championship/World%20Championship.html