The current Aston Martin DBS is a V12 supercoupe of terrifying speed. Indeed, it is a twin-turbo V12 rocketsled with over 700 horsepower. And it is nothing next to this Aston Martin Vantage from the early ‘90s, complete with a fantastic backstory and 2,800 horsepower.
Today’s Aston Martins really are wonderful cars. They’re perfectly tame at any kind of normal speed, with emissions-compliant V8s and V12s, and leather-lined interiors trimmed by, presumably, a person who had only ever previously made brogues.
They are handsome and refined, as one would hope and expect.
But we should not let the wonder of our current Astons dim the star of the greatest period in Aston’s history: the Stupid Era, when the company was designing cars on mahogany bucks and twin-supercharging ancient engines into the most powerful cars on sale. The good days. The ‘90s.
I’ve written a bit about Aston’s silly years before, detailing its wonderful Le Mans program cut short by Jaguar and Ford, as well as the Vantage project, its crown jewel of incomprehensible design choices.
Even I was not aware of one spectacularly headstrong project of the era: the factory-supported Aston Martin drag racing program. The car is still around, and Jonny Smith got to interview the current owner and drive the thing. It’s now up to the aforementioned 2,800 HP and has gotten into the sixes in the quarter-mile. That’s at over 200 mph. And it’s street-legal, turn signals, license plates and all.
Here’s the origin story, as recounted by owner Mark Todd:
In the early ‘90s, ‘93 I think it was, a chap called Al O’Connor, who’s quite a famous drag racer, he was dating a lady from Aston Martin at the time.
The deal that came about was to build a drag car to demonstrate the latest powerful V8 Aston Martin engine, and this car at that time was a prototype body in the factory.
So Aston Martin agreed to this, they shipped the body to a company caller Hauser Racing. Then basically Geof Hauser built the chassis.
While this was being built, unfortunately, I believe Al O’Connor and his girlfriend at the time, they went their separate ways, and the project never came to fruition.
The pictures that go along with the story are a sight to behold. Nothing brings me quite as much instant, visceral joy as an Aston Martin prototype on a jig in front of a big DIRECT CONNECTION poster proudly behind it. It’s a little bit country, a little bit British countryside.
I’ll include just that one, but watch the video for the rest.
A friend of Todd bought up the project, took it to another company and had it finished up, raced it for many years and retired it to his living room. There it resided until Todd bought it up, reworked the car to be lighter and yet faster, and now it continues racing today, right up at the top of its street-legal class.
Much of the original Aston Martin body remains on the car, though much else has been replaced and tweaked, with a composite front end replacing the prototype’s aluminum. Todd went so far as to re-wire the car in thinner gauge, all to get the thing down to about what a Ford Fiesta clocks in as.
The car rules, clearly, and it scoots ferociously with one gigantic turbo. No need for twins, the one big one is enough.
It’s a spectacular story, and it tracks with everything else Aston was up to at the time. It was doing everything it could with what little it had. I’m not surprised it grabbed on to the little glimmer of nonsensical hope of betting on drag racing success with a guy in a Motorhead shirt. I would expect nothing less, I would hope for nothing more.