It was quite a responsibility to be named as ‘Britain’s First Supercar’, but the 1977 Vantage V8 was up for it with the ability to beat a Ferrari Daytona to 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standing start and stratospheric top speed. Aston Martin had used the Vantage name before, usually to indicate a high-performance version of an existing model, and the Vantage V8 was is souped-up version of the regular Aston Martin V8 — itself effectively the DBS V8 relaunched in 1972.
However, this time the Vantage was classified as a model in its own right. Tadek Marek’s excellent V8 engine was tuned to deliver 438 bhp with increased compression, large inlet valves, special camshafts, new manifolds and enlarged carburetors — a set-up that would remain until an engine upgrade in 1986.
The Vantage was recognizable from the standard V8 by its rear spoiler, blanked-out radiator grille and closed-off bonnet without an air scoop. The Vantage also had flared wheel arches and side skirts (though Prince Charles ordered one without the latter embellishments, setting a minor fashion). There were various small styling and wheel changes throughout the Vantage V8’s long life. Two versions were offered — the saloon (313 produced) and the fabulous Volante convertible (115 built), the Volante not being introduced until 1987.
And yes, James Bond did indeed drive an imaginary Aston Martin Vantage V8 in The Living Daylights. It was actually three cars meant to be one — a V8 Vantage Volante convertible and two non-Vantage V8 saloons — with bulletproof windows, fireproof bodywork, retractable outriggers, wheel lasers, heat-seeking missiles, an afterburner, tire spikes and a self-destruct system. All that said, most people would love to slip behind the wheel of any old Aston Martin Vantage V8 and have a license to be thrilled.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1977 (until 1989)
5,340 CC V8
Top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Aston Martin V8 Vantages were sold into the American market but looked slightly different, with a flattened bonnet, and performance was toned down to meet US regulations – so these American examples lacked the awesome power of the real thing.