V8 Volante (Weber Carbs) Description
In production: 1978 - 1986
Chassis numbers: 15001 - 15439, plus 15442 & 15448
- V8 Vantage Volante chassis numbers are also within the V8 Volante series
Enter the V8 Volante. Announced on the 21st June 1978, the first year’s production of around 80 cars was virtually all destined for the drop-top hungry US exotic market. As well as the obvious convertible roof, the Volante had acquired some detail differences from the AM V8 saloon. The bonnet (or “hood” in the US) was redesigned with a sculptured fully closed bulge. The interior received some updates but was characterised by the addition of full width polished burr walnut fascia and door capping as standard. The following October saw the introduction of the Oscar India AM V8 and the closed bonnet and walnut finishes were also available as standard on the closed car.
As a convertible, the V8 needed a stiffened platform chassis to compensate for the loss of rigidity with of the roof. The design and engineering work of the Volante became the final project for Harold Beach following more than 25 years of service with AML which included designing the chassis for the DB4. Strengthening was added to increase rigidity with extra box sections in the sills and reinforcement in the base and side of the windscreen pillars.
The power operated hood (“soft-top” in North American) was designed and engineered by George Moseley, who was amongst others, responsible for the hood of the Rolls Royce/Bentley Corniche. Made from Everflex and with a plastic rear window, it was fully lined to provide greater comfort at high speeds when erected but stood a little proud when retraced and covered by a tonneau. Rear accommodation was a little narrower and the boot (trunk) a little smaller too, but this did also present the opportunity of offering bespoke fitted luggage by Tanner Krolle to make best use of the space available.
The first car, 15001, especially made for AML MD Alan Curtis and registered AML1 was finished in Tourmaline Blue with Fawn interior, remaining the only right hand drive car for many months as production, at the rate of three a week, focused on LHD cars principally for North American customers. The second right hand drive Volante was not built until chassis 15042.
The Volante was available with the Chrysler Torqueflite 3-speed automatic (axle ratio 3.07:1) or at an additional cost, the ZF 5-speed manual (axle ratio 3.54:1), but the automatic was the more popular choice. Cars for the US market were fitted with the Federal spec, catalysed LFA/LFM specification engine but it is is now quite common for engines to be modified mechanically back to European specification in those US States with more lenient emissions testing.
With the hood erected, the Volante stood 44 mm taller than the saloon and yet with clever packaging, retained a useful 94.5 litre fuel tank giving a potential touring range of up to 325 miles. Despite all the additional strengthening and the additional hood mechanism, the weight of the Volante was only 68 kg more than the contemporary saloon; about the same as an additional passenger.
Performance of the European specification cars was brisk rather than supercar quick. Top speed was variously stated as between an honest 135 mph and a faintly implausible 150 mph, whereas 60 mph could be reached from a standstill in 7.7 seconds as proved by Motor Magazine, 3rd March, 1979.
Total production of V8 Volante with Weber carburettors reached 441 examples of which just 157 are known to be right hand drive and only 19 of these known to have manual transmission. This leaves 266 known left hand drive cars and of these, just 50 with manual transmission. Of the left hand drive cars, 173 were sold in North America. The V8 Volante was an overwhelming success accounting for more than half of the V8 engined Astons produced every year.
Key updates during production
From the start of 1980, North American market examples starting with chassis 15093, had to be sold with ugly 5 mph impact bumpers. For once, this Federal Department of Transport driven feature wasn’t due to safety as such but was an effort to try to keep repair costs down following low speed crashes. The construction of a black rubber faced aluminium beam mounted on hydraulic rams added around 45 kg to each end of the car. To keep the rear licence plate clearly visible, this was relocated to a new recess above the bumper. From 1985, the 5 mph bumpers became mandatory in cars for Saudi Arabia too. The only saving grace for the rather ugly additions was that they really did protect the delicate coachwork. Nowadays, conversion to European spec chrome bumpers is a common, if expensive occurrence. As well as the replacement of bumpers, a significant amount of coachwork needs changing for the car to resemble European specification.
Development of the Volante ran in line with the contemporary AM V8 saloon. Thus from 1980, the Volante received the V580 spec engine beginning with chassis 15167. In autumn 1983 came the BBS cross spoke wheels, better air-conditioning and the new wings badge. Mid 1984 saw the adoption of the new steering column, stalks and two spoke steering wheel.