|Vehicle:||2000 Aston Martin Vantage V600 Le Mans Coupe|
|Original List Price:||£232,950 ($386,000)|
|Tune Up Cost:||How long’s a piece of string?|
|Chassis Number Location:||On top of left inner wing|
|Engine Number Location:||On flat landing near front of vee|
|Club Info:||Aston Martin Owners Club|
|Alternatives:||1967/68 Chevrolet Yenko or COPO Camaro, 1996–2002 Dodge Viper GTS ACR, Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black|
This car, Lot 215, sold for $654,859, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ annual Aston Martin Works sale in Newport Pagnell, U.K., on May 21, 2016.
Count ’em. Not one but two — yes, two Eaton superchargers — one mounted on each side of the mighty V8 cylinder banks. That was what the V600 was all about. Stonk.
You thought the Dodge Viper had some poke. This will out-pull it, with 600 ft-lb of twist backing up the claim of 600 bhp (which is only torque times revs anyway).
This is Aston Martin’s last dinosaur — an old-tech marvel of brute force powering two tons of the finest British hand-craftsmanship. It’s not particularly good at anything and, even if it won’t go as fast as Aston said it would, it’s still much too fast enough.
Hype to match the power
As with all Newport Pagnell-era cars, you had to take the power and top speed claims with a pinch of hype. In a 1999 road test, for example, John Barker of Evo magazine couldn’t match the factory claim of 3.95 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. Barker settled for a best of 4.6 seconds for 0–60 mph and 11 seconds to 100 mph, leading him to wonder whether a few of the 600 horses had bolted before the stable door was shut. Barker did find it would go from 100 mph to 150 mph in 13.4 seconds, less than a half-second slower than a 661-bhp Mercedes SL65 AMG.
Well, 600 is such a nice, round, number, isn’t it? With even 520-plus bhp available from the current factory Ford Mustang — and 670 from Roush, also supercharged (with 740 promised for next model year) — perhaps it doesn’t sound quite so Godzilla-like now.
England’s Viper — with more stonk
But almost two decades ago it whupped even the mighty Dodge Viper, which started with 400 bhp and finished up with 460 bhp and 500 ft-lb in its first iteration. Both were simply excessive stonk stuffed in basic, analog chassis.
Modern muscle machines require all manner of traction and stability controls to save us from ourselves, but, like the original Viper, the Aston boys didn’t piddle about with silly nanny devices (another reason why I love the American Car Collector Viper so dearly), and a V600 would light up its back tires in third and fourth gears on a damp road.
You had to be in front of this 4,400-pound car — although some of them, this one included, had traction control added. Spoilsports….
When it appeared in 1998, the Virage — a desperately needed new model developed thanks to an injection of Ford money (it took a 75% stake in Aston Martin in 1987 and in 1994 bought the company outright) — it was considered a bit of a duffer.
Road testers of the time criticized the weak A-frame location of the rear axle, a De Dion unit like the older V8s. Even I noted in print that it “couldn’t do any more than a 2.8i Capri could,” which seems a bit harsh now. But when it appeared in 1992, the 550-bhp, twin-supercharged Vantage was completely re-engineered, and if you wanted the V600 package, that added £43,000 to the price of the standard car.
The last Aston Martin hot rod
This is a blown V8 stuffed into an old-style coupe; a last gasp of hot-rodding before new European emission and safety regulations arrived to make such environmentally questionable acts impossible.
This car’s been described as one of the last “vintage” cars ever made. It’s a big old shaggy dog that doesn’t do anything particularly well. Engineering progress came later, when the bonded-aluminum chassis V12 Vanquish rolled out in 2001, ditching stodgy old brutality for some real handling finesse.
So the old dinosaur has become a near-mythical beast, and a collectible one from new, evidenced by this car’s very low mileage (though there might be more to it than that: These are hellishly expensive to run and look after).
Bespoke features and true rarity
Vantage Le Mans were built only to commission, carrying a plate with the owner’s name in the door-shut. The keyholder was in sterling silver, and included in the delivery documents was a map from Newport Pagnell to Le Mans.
This car is unique, with its elmwood veneer and gear lever knob instead of aluminum finish and, with minimal mileage and a recent big service at AM Works, it remains practically new.
The 40 Le Mans coupe cars were always collectible by their very exclusivity, but, short of one of the nine Vantage Volantes, all different, than Aston built, this one-owner car is probably the most collectible of them all.
They’ve always been very expensive, and the price paid for this, one of the last hand-built Newport Pagnell cars and one of the most powerful Aston Martin has ever produced, was in line with the curve plotted by the rare sales over the past few years.
A V600 has its head and broad shoulders above such day-to-day trifles as Brexit, governments in disarray or volatile exchange rates, and the everyday worries of ordinary mortals are hardly going to dent this behemoth off course. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)