Bolstered by the on-screen exploits of Sean Connery in the box-office hit “Goldfinger,” every man, woman, and child with a pulse yearned to own an Aston Martin DB5 in the mid-1960s. But it didn’t take long before the English marque’s premier grand tourer — and the remarkably similar DB6 that replaced it in 1965 — began to appear somewhat long in the tooth. The task of modernizing Aston’s flagship model fell to William Towns, who penned a strikingly modern interpretation of the marque’s trademark look — one that borrowed as much from the transatlantic success of the Ford Mustang as it did its DB predecessors — to create the handsome and purposeful DBS in 1967.
The new car initially inherited the DB6’s Vantage-spec inline-6-cylinder engine, finally being married with its new 5.3-liter Tadek Marek-designed V8 in 1969, after which it was dubbed the DBS V8. With the demise of the aging inline-6, the grand tourer became known simply as the Aston Martin V8 in 1972.
The ever-popular model began its life with a leading role in the television series “The Persuaders!” and would go on to perpetuate the marque’s long association with 007 by starring alongside Timothy Dalton’s James Bond in “The Living Daylights.”
There can be no greater testament to the modernity and enduring appeal of the model than the length of its production run, which carried on for two decades before eventually coming to a conclusion in 1989. In fitting style, the model went out not with a whimper, but with a bang.
In January 1986 at the New York International Auto Show, the Aston Martin V8 entered its fifth iteration, headlined by the transition from carburetors to a more-compact Weber fuel-injection system.
A notable exception was the top-of-the-range Vantage, which was unveiled in Birmingham in the same year and featured the powerful “580 X” engine that made its debut in the fearsome V8 Vantage Zagato. These highly desirable variants became known as the “X-Pack” cars, benefiting from high-compression Cosworth pistons, four dual-barrel Weber carburetors, and high-lift camshafts. In addition, styling improvements included a boot spoiler and slim bumpers with no overriders. In top tune, the “X-Pack” produced 432 horsepower and was capable of outsprinting almost every open sports car on the road — with the added benefit of two rear seats.
Chassis 15702 is a particularly special vehicle, being one of a small number of Vantage Volantes configured in left-hand drive and optioned with the desirable ZF 5-speed manual gearbox. Specified in the eye-catching shade of Suffolk Red over tan leather interior, with complementary beige carpet and luxurious Wilton overmats, the car was delivered new to Achilli Motors in Milan, Italy, before being registered for road use on October 7, 1988. Having lived a cosseted existence since, the car was serviced by Aston Martin Monaco in September 2021, when the odometer reading was 1,713 km. At the time of cataloging, this Vantage Volante had covered just 1,769 km, presenting today in a condition commensurate with its low mileage.
Offering the perfect blend of practicality, performance and road presence, the Aston Martin Vantage Volante “X-Pack” is a true gentleman’s express — a 4-seat open grand tourer that marries luxury appointments with supercar-baiting pace.
|Vehicle:||1988 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante “X-Pack”|
|Number Produced:||167 (includes 58 fuel-injected “cosmetic” Vantage Volantes for the U.S. market plus 27 “Prince of Wales” versions)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Right wheelhouse in engine compartment|
|Engine Number Location:||Front of block, between cylinder banks|
|Club Info:||Aston Martin Owners Club of North America|
|Alternatives:||1986–89 Mercedes 560SL 1985–89 Ferrari 328 GTS 1985–89 Porsche 930 Turbo cabriolet|
This car, Lot 142, sold for $706,180 (€680,000), including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Monaco sale on May 14, 2022.
For fans of Bond cars — in fact, for fans of James Bond films generally — “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and the Aston Martin DBS seen in it likely don’t rank high on their list of favorites. In contrast to the gadget-filled DB5 in “Goldfinger,” the DBS was starkly simple by comparison. (And of course, George Lazenby is even more forgettable.) With that out of the way…
The late V8
As is often the case with small, bespoke manufacturers, the DBS had a tumultuous birth. The last car conceived under paterfamilias David Brown’s aegis, it was intended to carry Aston’s all-new (and overdue) V8. Though development of the production-car program lagged, Aston went ahead with an announcement of its new engine at the London Racing Car Show in January 1967. It was promoted as part of the Aston-powered Lola T70 Mark III targeted to compete at the Nürburgring and Le Mans that year. In an inauspicious debut, each outing was marred by early engine failures.
Meanwhile, the DBS coupe for which the V8 was originally intended finally appeared at Blenheim Palace that September, though with the carryover 4.0-liter inline-6. The production car succeeded two Touring-built 2-seat prototypes that were developed with Aston’s involvement but never produced, in part because of Aston’s desire to focus on the 4-seat DBS, styled in-house by William Towns (who would notably go on to design the angular Lagonda sedan). Touring’s unfortunate collapse in 1966 did not help matters.
The long-awaited V8 appeared in the DBS in 1969, named simply DBS V8 and produced concurrently for a period with the 6-cylinder DBS, as well as the DB6 Mark II and Volante. With 320 hp from its 5.3-liter, DOHC 16-valve V8, this put Aston into an altogether different league. This sexy, American-influenced coupe was reputedly the fastest 4-seater in the world at the time. The highly anticipated Vantage variant, uprated to 375 horsepower, appeared in 1977 and was unsubtly distinguished by its deep front air dam, rear decklid spoiler and power-bulge hood.
Making a statement
While the Vantage continued to evolve through multiple iterations, the convertible Vantage Volante didn’t appear until nearly a decade after the Vantage coupe. Its even wider fender flares, covering 16-inch 225/50 Goodyear Eagle tires, further communicated the “gentleman’s express” image.
So did the added sill extensions, which began with a customer request. “One particular owner of a Volante wanted his car to have side sills,” Kingsley Riding-Felce, Aston’s director of Works Service and Parts Operations, told author David Dowsey. “Mind you, this was back in the ’80s, and what might make you cringe today was very popular then. So we put side sills on the car to extend it out and make it look different.”
Though some may find the muscular Volante add-ons a bit extreme or aesthetically challenging, there’s no debating that, with 430 ponies on tap, this car offers extraordinary performance.
For customers seeking a tamer appearance — most notably HRH the Prince of Wales — Aston created a limited number of decidedly less-dramatic versions without a chin spoiler, rear spoiler or fender flares. These are known as the “Prince of Wales” specification. Five were delivered to the North American market, making them even rarer than an LHD Vantage Volante, though they missed out on the Vantage engine upgrade.
With its price topping $700,000, our 1,100-mile subject car is near the high-water mark for the classic Aston V8. (Bonhams did sell a Prince of Wales Vantage Volante for $822k in December 2016, SCM# 6816837.) This sale underlines the premium being paid for both low-mileage and low-production classics, a trend that has recently coursed through the market, especially online.
It will be interesting to see whether the sale of this special Aston might also tug at the prices of standard V8s, which languish at or near the $100,000 mark. These are a real temptation for buyers seduced by the Aston mystique, though a deserved reputation for unreliability has largely depressed values.
We see few “X-Pack” cars — coupes or convertibles — come to market. When they do, sales have tended to fall in the $400k–$500k range. A near-identical model with just 13,000 miles (though fitted with an automatic transmission) is currently on offer from the Aston Martin Works for around $400,000. At just over half the price, it’s certainly far more than half the car, indicating that our Monegasque example was well sold. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)