There are plenty of articles and videos doing the rounds from people gleefully stating they’ve bought the cheapest example of formerly silly expensive fast cars. I have not copied them.
I get the deal – own something that used to be worth $zillions for the price of a decently specced hatchback and see what happens. It’s a noble act to try and keep an old, highly strung motor and nurse it from being ‘a bit ropey’ back to health. I applaud it. I also have neither the inclination nor the skill to do the same. Tavarish and co are wonderfully insane and I wish them well.
How wonderfully incongruous, then, that I have an unreasonable horn for British sports cars with a reputation for being hugely unreliable. I ran a Lotus Elise for eight years (aside from battery failures because I didn’t drive it, it was fine on the whole), own a Morgan Three Wheeler (couple of jobs needed doing over the last three years), and recently sold the Lotus to buy the OK-est Aston Martin Vantage in the UK.
My reasoning was that as I’m freelance and do a lot of traveling around I need a comfortable car with a roof and trunk that can take more than a small squishy bag. While the Lotus could fit a weekly shop, it’s not exactly a wagon. Neither’s the Aston, but… hush. Seeing as I get off on Brit metal and am nowhere near becoming a millionaire my options were limited.
Jaguar and its F-Type tickled through my mind, but the RWD V8 R was a touch out of grasp and the V6 twins don’t sound deranged enough for my tastes. Already owning one Morgan, another would be overkill, so that’s them out. This leaves me with Land Rover (I live in the middle of London so an SUV is completely unnecessary), McLaren (£££££££££), Aston Martin, or Lotus. Now, a Lotus dealer did suggest an Evora which would have done the job just fine. Then another Lotus dealer told me that he spends more time fixing wonky Evoras than his customers would like. Hard pass. That left Aston, one of the brands that got me in to cars in the first place.
I remember the concept for the Vantage coming out when I was at school and adoring it, I remember the Vanquish in Die Another Day and coveting it, and I remember Clarkson racing a DB9 to the south of France and thinking bad thoughts about owning one in the future. I’m an Aston person through and through, but I didn’t expect it to be viable at 33 living in a bit of London that occasionally goes on fire. But, with a chunk of idiot maths, some luck, and a loan… it was.
And lo, meet Incitatus the Aston. (My mother’s a former Latin/Ancient Greek teacher and named it. Google it.) I bought it on the lower end of what cars of its age are worth, but nowhere near ‘the cheapest’. While early 4.3 liter cars are kicking around for peanuts I’m not brave enough for that. I got it from a dealer that specialises in German motors and it came with a warranty, a recent service from an Aston Martin dealer, and a dribble of fuel in the tank. I’d driven a few, read for what to look out for on the many forums full of people who’d had broken Vantages, and liked this one enough to buy it.
To quote a chum of mine, “car finance is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
It rolled out of Gaydon in January, 2012 with surprisingly few options, three pedals, and Resale Black paintwork. Under the hood is a 420 horsepower 4.7-liter V8, and above 4,400 rpm it sounds delightfully guttural. As far as the drive goes, it’s pretty sweet. Comfy on the highway (after eight years in an Elise it’s a revelation), fun in the twisty stuff, workable around town. It’s also one of the best looking cars ever built. Mechanically all seems sound, and it didn’t come with any huge warnings about bits that are about to dissolve or explode. That’s the good.
Well, within 12 hours of picking it up it threw up an emissions warning (remedied by driving it lots), the paint on the wing mirror stalks is flaking away (they all do that, sir), the driver’s seat is a little worn in all the places you’d expect, and the fuel economy is a mildly ruinous 19 mpg combined. I now measure commissions in how many tanks of fuel it’ll buy rather than actual money. The six-speed stick is a little fiddly in town, occasionally I miss a gear as it’s not hugely precise, and I’m not quite used to the intricacies of the clutch just yet. Stalling in a Vantage makes you look doubly stupid, so there’s extra shame for stalling attached.
Hm. Years of not being cleaned properly has left the paint in a swirly state so that’ll need some looking at (already got it booked in with some people). I’m waiting for the clutch to go ping and the $4000 to replace it (I don’t have a local Tavarish to wrench it for me, only spendy specialists), as well as tyres, and every other perishable thing that’ll be vastly more expensive than it should be because of Aston tax.
I have a plan for it: fix the flaky wing mirror paint, get the paint in decent nick, enjoy the shit out of it for a couple of years before moving to something a little more sensible. A 997.2 C2 S probably. That has rear seats.
I’m expecting it to go horribly wrong at least once. One mate warned me of a friend of his who bought one and shifted it after a few months because it kept breaking. A former motorsports writer got in touch to tell me hers was in the shop for more than half of her time with one. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been a flurry of congratulatory messages peppered with warnings or tales of woe. I have the fear.
But you only live once, and for a bit of mine I’ve got the slightly chipped crystal-topped Emotional Control Unit to a V8 Vantage named after the Emperor Caligula’s horse.
This is my Aston Vantage. There are many like it, but this one is mine. And it wasn’t the cheapest in the country.
Oh, and before you ask whether I’ve pulled the noise fuse, please click here.