The V8 Vantage as a development of the DBS V8 was first considered in 1968 (Gershon’s book, Aston Martin 1963-1972), returning to the original idea whereby only the most powerful model in the range took the Vantage name. Subsequently, changes in ownership and a period in administration delayed progress on the flagship AM V8 which did not begin until many years later.
During the early and mid-1970s, the V8 engine proved to be an exceptionally reliable and robust unit and it was clear that there was scope for a substantial increase in the power that it could deliver. That the Company was thinking along these lines was demonstrated by Mike Loasby in a converted AM V8(V8/11429/LCA) with a distinctly non-standard engine and exhaust system which he entered in a race at the St. John Horsfall meeting in 1976, although this car should not necessarily be regarded as a prototype 'Vantage'.
With much more development both in the mechanical components and body features, the production ‘Aston Martin V8 Vantage’ was announced on 18th February, 1977. With revised camshafts, larger air-box, larger inlet valves, Weber 48 IDF3/150 carburettors, new inlet manifolds and different spark plugs, the engine was claimed to increase power by 40% and a 10% increase in torque over the standard car. Power output was still not disclosed by the factory but Michael Bowler in his book (Aston Martin V8, p.174) states that, when run-in, 375-380 bhp was available. That was enough to give a top speed of about 170 mph, a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and 0 to 100 mph of 12.7 seconds. Even Motor Sport had to agree that it was “the fastest accelerating production car in the world “(April, 1978). The same ZF manual ‘dog-leg-first’ five-speed gearbox as seen in the V8 Saloon was standard equipment, but a few cars were sold with the Torqueflite automatic box and a 3.058:1 back axle, after AML director, Denis Flather had had his personal cars V8/11737/RCAV and then V8VOR12076 built with the three-speed Chrysler Torqueflite automatic gearbox to demonstrate that the unit could handle the torque. It was not, however, until 1987 that the automatic gearbox became an official option for the Vantage.
The increased performance called for aerodynamic improvements. These included an add-on spoiler across the rear edge of the boot lid, a deep air dam under the front bumper, blanked off radiator grille with the supplementary Cibie driving lights let into the panel and the bonnet air scoop closed off. Koni dampers were fitted and the suspension stiffened, with a larger anti-roll bar. Otherwise the Vantage shared the broad specification of the contemporary 1977 AM V8 Saloon.
Certain markets, such as North America did not allow cars with the high performance Vantage engine to be sold yet there was still a demand for the car. As a result, some Vantages were sold with the upgraded aerodynamic features, braking and suspension but with the Federal specification LFM or the automatic LFA engine. Such cars were known as 'Cosmetic' Vantages.
Over a period of 12 years, the V8 Vantage was the high performance flagship model of the range. Yet in that time only 367 examples were built in total making it quite a rare and desirable car. Right hand drive cars, built mostly for the British market numbered 239 examples, the remaining 128 left hand drive cars were sold worldwide, with some emission and therefore performance restrictions, in some markets.
For a more in-depth look at these cars, Kean Roger's article in AM Spring 1999, Vol.33 No.142 is a 'must'.