In production: June 2001 - September 2004
Chassis numbers: 500001 - 501506
In 1998 Ian Callum was pulling together ideas for the model to succeed the many versions of the V8 engined cars which were to come to an end in 2000, 31 years after they were first launched at the Motor Show in London in 1969. He looked back at the many styles since the DB2 and settled on the 1960’s DB4GT Zagato as a car that had best portrayed the image he wished to create.. His first thoughts were expressed in the shape of the” Project Vantage”, which reflected the heavy haunches and the clean front of the Zagato.
The theme was continued into the V12 engined “Vanquish.” Which initially was due to be launched at the British Motor Show in October 2000. It was however held back to the early months of 2001, to make sure it was fully ready for production at the Newport Pagnell factory which had been totally reorganised and modernised for the new model. The proposed production rate of 300 cars per annum was challenged by the delay which raised the sense of anticipation and by the time the car was finally unveiled at the Geneva Show in March 2001 there was a 12 month waiting list for this exciting new car.
The body design was by Ian Callum and it retained a strong family likeness to the DB7 Vantage, albeit a bigger, more muscular version. Underneath, however, it was totally different. Using the techniques seen in the Project Vantage, it had an advanced aluminium/carbon composite construction chassis, especially suitable for low volume production. This structure was much more rigid than any previous Aston Martin and gave improved safety as well as making an open version possible in the future.
Externally, the aluminium body sides were waisted and the rear wings prominent in order to cover the massive 10J x 19 wheels and Yokohama tyres. Each body got eight coats of paint and there was an unlimited choice of colours. Initially, customers chose hides from Connolly but later the hides came from Bridge of Weir after Connolly ceased trading. They could also choose from a range of Wilton carpets before the interior was trimmed. The cabin had a ‘climate control’ system, using the jargon of the day, and was also fitted with satellite navigation and a high quality hi-fi sound system. The two front seats were fully adjustable and luggage accommodation generous.
The methods used to create the main body structure of the car were of particular interest as they had departed from the traditional methods used for the previous hand made cars.
The main substructure, including the floor and the front and rear bulkheads, was developed in co-operation with Lotus Engineering and formed from extruded aluminium sections bonded and riveted around the central transmission tunnel, which was constructed entirely from carbon fibre. The inner body side sections formed a single composite piece with the carbon fibre windscreen pillars, which were then bonded to the central structure to create a high strength safety cell.
The precise computer controlled manufacturing processes developed in Cupertino, U.S.A., with Ford Research Laboratories and Nottingham University for the construction of the composite sections and the carbon fibre windscreen pillars were unique to the Vanquish at that time.
Immediately ahead of the driver and passenger compartment, a steel, aluminium and carbon fibre sub frame carried the engine, transmission and front suspension and was bolted directly to the front bulkhead. There was a further deformable composite structure which employed the distinctive Aston Martin mesh air intake grille as a stressed member located ahead of the engine and front suspension to provide additional crash protection and accommodate the engine, transmission, air conditioning radiators and intercoolers. A completely flat surface was developed for the under-body enabling air to be channelled into a venturi section at the rear to assist high speed aerodynamics.
At the rear, the composite floor, parcel shelf and side rails of the luggage compartment were also designed to provide additional deformable crash protection together with the extruded aluminium side impact beams located in the doors.
While the above had a passing similarity to the substructures used in earlier models, the greatest departure came with the methods used to create the outer skin. In the past, the exterior had been hand formed, using the ‘English wheel’ a piece of equipment not unlike a giant ‘G’ clamp with special rollers (wheels) on the jaws into which the skin panelling was placed while the ‘wheels’ were brought together, nipping the panel. By pulling the flat panel backward and forward through the wheels it ‘raised’ (reshaped) the aluminium into the desired curvature. Final ‘dressing’ of the panel was done with a variety of hammers, ‘flippers’ and ‘dollies’.
In the Vanquish, all of the exterior panels, including the roof, bonnet, boot lid, front and rear wings and doors were produced from “super-plastic-formed” and pressed aluminium. Model makers will have come across a similar method in ‘vac-formed’ shapes and the Vanquish process was very similar. In simple terms, the aluminium was brought to a ‘plastic’ state by heating to 450-500 degrees C and laid over the mould. Air pressure was then used to shape the aluminium around the mould. This process was carried out by a specialist company, but the skill of the craftsmen was still a vital element in that each individual panel had to be tailored and bonded to the central structure by hand to ensure a perfect fit and finish.
A 190 mph maximum speed was the aim and 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The 5.9-litre V12 engine was up-rated to 450 bhp together with a flat torque curve peaking at 410 lbs.ft. Management of fuel and ignition was extremely sophisticated thanks to the Visteon twin PTEC engine management system. Transmission was through a six-speed clutchless manual gearbox giving 34.9 mph per 1000 rpm in 6th gear. A new paddle shift behind the steering wheel gave the driver full control manually but there was also a semi- automatic mode available to the driver. In addition the driver could select Winter Mode (to reduce wheel spin) or Sport Mode (for ultra fast shifting).
As well as the new engine and gearbox, the suspension was all-new, using both front and rear forged alloy double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and cast aluminium uprights together with anti-roll bars. Staying with tradition, it was the rear wheels that were driven through a limited slip differential with electronic traction control, designed to lower engine power as soon as wheel slippage occurred.
Buyers had a choice of cabin layouts providing two seats (described as 2+0) or two plus two with two notional seats in the rear. Sophisticated equipment included sensors for tyre pressures, wiper operation and headlamps. Aston Martins intended the Vanquish to have a world class specification while at the same time maintaining the hand finished quality in the best traditions of Newport Pagnell.
2002 was an exciting year for Aston Martin enthusiasts when Agent 007, James Bond, once again took to using an Aston Martin. Die Another Day featured a very much modified Vanquish, sporting all the gadgets that ‘Q’ could come up with (rockets firing though the grille, machine guns that popped up through the bonnet plus many other devices to confuse the enemy!). AML Ltd supplied three production Vanquish ‘hero’ cars and four pre-production cars for the special effects and stunt driving. The under bonnet space of the production cars was full to the brim with V12, so the special effects cars were fitted with small-block Ford V8 engines which allowed the under bonnet elements to be fitted, particularly the rockets which filled the space in front of the V8. These cars also had a four-wheel drive system to allow the drivers full control on the icy lakes that featured in the film. All the cars carried the registration number KE02 EWW. In December 2002, Car Magazine carried a very detailed article on the cars in the film as did Top Gear magazine in the same month.
While the Factory did not make a Volante convertible, Zagato did produce a Roadster concept (using pre-production chassis 50PP19), which was displayed at the 2004 Geneva Show. At the same motor show, Bertone showed the Jet 2 concept, based on another unknown pre-production Vanquish donor. Lengthened by 210 mm, the Jet 2 paid homage to the 1961 Bertone Jet based on the DB4GT but with 4 seat Shooting Brake coachwork.
V12 Vanquish ‘Sports Dynamics’
In production May 2004 – September 2004. Available as an option from chassis number - 501322
The advent of the DB9 in 2004 brought a common reaction from the motoring journalists, “Why buy the more expensive Vanquish when the DB9 gave you as much performance?” To restore the Vanquish to its pre-eminent position, the factory offered the “Sports Dynamic” Pack. This option had been developed for customers seeking a more overtly sporting handling, steering and braking set up compared with the standard car.
The comprehensive package included a new front suspension knuckle assembly and new wheel bearing hub assembly which, together with revisions to the steering geometry, provide enhanced steering response, feel and precision. Fitted all-round revised dampers combined with shorter and stiffer springs provided improved body control and handling balance. New lightweight 9 spoke 19” alloy wheels reduced unsprung weight, aiding response and feel.
A revised braking system incorporated six piston front calipers and larger discs combined with a unique groove pattern and patented floating mechanism. The new larger diameter front discs – 378mm in place of 355mm - provided increased swept area, delivered improved cooling with a 33% increase in thermal capacity giving enhanced resistance to fade. New rear discs – diameter unchanged at 330mm but 2mm thicker gave a 21% increase in thermal capacity.
The handling was improved by fitting shorter, stiffer springs with new dampers to work in conjunction with the improved suspension joints. Shorter steering arms provided a 20% quicker steering response.
The cost of this package was competitively priced as a £3000 option for which the ‘Sports’ seats from the DB7GT were thrown in as well.