Virage Coachbuilt

Virage Coachbuilt Description

During the early 1990s, much of the world was suffering from an economic downturn. Sales of the Virage coupe which had been very strong initially had virtually dried up and even the introduction of the Volante had not made a significant impact on overall sales. The global economy was not strong, the UK was in recession and, as such, demand for expensive and thirsty handbuilt supercars was low. It is often quoted but worth repeating that in 1992 a mere 42 new Aston Martins cars were sold. Thus it was down to the Customer Service Division; later rebranded as ‘Works Service’ to step in and attempt to attract some much needed revenue. AML customers were of course quite discerning and often requested unique upgrades and bespoke enhancements to their cars. Thus the 6.3 litre conversion was born but so too were some interesting coachwork conversions.

Initially the Virage shooting brake was unveiled at the 1992 Geneva Motor Show, succeeded a year later by the four-door Lagonda saloon and five-door Shooting Brake.

Virage Coachbuilt Derivatives

Virage three-door shooting brake

Unveiled: March 1992

Chassis numbers: DP2099/1 & DP2099/2 (prototypes); 50425, 50435 plus at least two others (production / conversions)

At the Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 1992, AML publicly revealed its latest model, carrying the code number DP2099, a high speed four-seater estate car or as we call it, a shooting brake. Derived from the Virage Coupe and styled by John Heffernan, it had a claimed top speed of 152 mph, which made it the fastest purpose-built load carrier in the world. Previous David Brown era shooting brakes were built by independent coachbuilders but the Virage was the first one designed and constructed entirely by the factory. At a price in excess of £165,000 it was also the most expensive. DP2099/2, as displayed on the Geneva Show stand, came with specially selected accessories from Asprey’s of London, who were engaged to advise on some of the car’s standard and optional equipment.

Functional features included fold-down rear seats with a 50:50 split, a luggage blind, electrically-operated rear ventilation windows and a folding dog-guard grille. Refinements included rear storage pockets, luggage tie-down points in the carpeted rear floor, and even a fold-out flap that protected the rear bumper during loading and unloading. The shooting brake provided 28 cubic feet of usable luggage space with the rear seats folded down, four times that of the standard coupe and could be supplied with bespoke fitted luggage as required. Rear passengers benefited from six inches additional headroom over the Coupe due to the revised roofline, so it was able to accommodate four full size adults with ease.

The additional weight was about 60 kg and the performance only slightly reduced with a claimed 0-60 mph time of 7.6 seconds. Due to a generously large fuel tank the shooting brake had a touring range of 400 miles on one tank of unleaded petrol.

The first two prototypes, DP2099/1 (green) and DP2099/2 (Martini Rosso Burgundy) were the only production built Shooting Brakes. Both used modified Ford Escort tailgates with Renault 21 Savannah Estate tail lights. It is believed that at least a further four cars were built having been converted from completed coupes and carried out in Works Service; the first was converted from Chassis 50435, the second 50425.

Virage Lagonda four-door saloon

Unveiled: November 1993

In production: 1993 - 1996

Chassis numbers: DP2034/5 (prototype - formerly a Virage Coupe engineering prototype); 50279, 50401 - 2, 50405 - 7 & 50424 (production)

The Towns or ‘wedge’ Lagonda, a strong seller throughout the 1980s, went out of production in 1990 leaving AML without a luxury four-door saloon. With worsening sales of the two-door Virage coupe, one way to broaden the range was to offer a stretched Virage and resurrect again the Lagonda marque. As the Virage was in fact based on a shortened ‘wedge’ Lagonda chassis itself, the conversion back to a four-door was an inspired plan. AML convinced a long standing British customer to buy DP2034/5, a right hand drive engineering prototype Virage coupe, and have it comprehensively rebuilt to four-door specification.

The finished car, completely styled in-house, had a stretch of about 12 inches to the wheelbase and was fitted with a 6.3 litre version of the V8 engine. The Hunter Green coachwork retained the slimmer haunches of the standard coupe and narrower OZ split rim wheels but was fitted with a 6.3 style front air dam with a pair of rectangular fog lights. As the car was a four-door, the decision was made to badge it as a Lagonda and to reserve the Aston Martin name for two-door cars only. A unique Lagonda grille design was attempted but eventually the standard Virage arrangement was retained.

A special AML customer and car collector from Far East Asia became aware of the prototype saloon during construction and, with the guarantee of exclusivity, ordered six similar cars to be built. These were all built afresh to similar right hand drive, 6.3 litre, four-speed automatic specification.

A seventh production car, 50424, with left hand drive specification, was also made at the request of another overseas customer. Although never included in the price list, it is believed that each car would have cost buyers in the region of £290,000.

Virage Lagonda four-door long wheel base

In production: 1996

Chassis numbers: 50427 - 8 (production)

Following the order for the six, four-door, Virage Lagondas the Far East Asian client also ordered a pair with an even more extreme 18 inch stretch offering much greater rear legroom as befits a true limousine. Both were to right hand drive automatic 6.3 litre specification; one finished in red, the other in black.

Virage Lagonda five-door shooting brake, ‘Les Vacances’

Unveiled: November 1993

In production: 1993 - 1996

Chassis numbers: 50005 (prototype - formally a Virage Coupe); 50246, 50251, 50403 – 4, 50408 - 9 (production)

Alongside the four-door Lagonda Saloon, a similar five-door shooting brake was designed and built based on an early Virage saloon chassis. Chassis 50005 was purchased by a European collector who specified left hand drive, 5-speed manual transmission, 6.3 litre specification engine with coachwork in Hunter Green. At the customer request, the car was called ‘Les Vacances’ (The Vacation) and received a unique name badge on the tailgate.

The 12 inch stretch to the wheelbase of the prototype allowed more generous leg room for rear seat passengers and the car also had a rear-facing children’s seat so that in total it could accommodate six passengers.

The Far East Asian collector ordered a further batch of six, five-door, shooting brakes each with a more generous 16 inch stretch (total wheelbase of around 120 inches). These production cars were all right hand drive, four-speed automatic and with the 6.3 litre engine.

Virage 6.3 Lightweight

In production 1995 - 7

Chassis numbers: 50421 - 3 (production)

Following a commission for a high performance Virage 6.3 litre, the Special Projects Group developed a special and potent lightweight version of the coupe. The brief was to both increase power and shed weight to create the ultimate normally aspirated performance car without resorting to fitting the supercharged Vantage engine.

The chassis were built partly to Vantage specification and the panelling was done in production alongside the standard cars with a unique hybrid combination of Virage 6.3 and Vantage styling cues. The front aspect featured a Vantage grille flanked by twin BMW headlights in a rectangular aperture. The wheel arches received the Vantage style flare rather than the bulbous 6.3 styling and the rear retained the Virage light clusters. The Vantage like bonnet had a pronounced power bulge together with oversized cooling vents. More vents were added along the flanks for cooling the rear brakes. The wheels used were highly polished spilt-rim OZs with a diameter of 18 inches.

The interior was substantially stripped back in an effort to shed weight. The rear seats were deleted and carbon fibre was used on the Vantage-derived dashboard, doors and even some of the exterior panels. The use of a red starter button, which Kingsley Riding-Felce inspired, predated its appearance on a production car, the Vantage Le Mans, by almost two years along with the larger tachometer.

The handbuilt 6.3 litre engines were a bit special too and featured eight carburettor butterflies and throttle bodies, carbon fibre trumpets and air-boxes plus special higher lift cams. Peak power was in the region of 500bhp although this could not be fully exploited as the engine was then mated to a four-speed automatic TorqueFlite gearbox. It is believed that, once completed, the ‘Lightweights’ were about 100 kg lighter than a standard Virage coupe and 150 kg lighter than a 6.3 litre car.

The three cars, in Titanium Grey, Black and Cobalt Blue, were eventually completed and flown out to the customer in Far East Asia during September 1997. Such was the secrecy surrounding their construction, that no photographs of the completed cars have yet been found.

Virage Coachbuilt Specification - Shooting Brake

Body / Coachwork
Two door 2+2 shooting brake
Steel platform chassis with handcrafted aluminium alloy body panels
Front airdam, bumpers and side sills in GRP
Transmission
Automatic: Chrysler TorqueFlite three-speed automatic
Manual: five-speed ZF. Clutch: hydraulically operated Borg & Beck with 267 mm diaphragm, not available with /95 engine
Chrysler TorqueFlite four-speed automatic with ‘sport’ and ‘touring’ mode on LE Coupe
Final drive ratio: 3.54:1. Limited slip differential
Wheels and Tyres
8J x 16inch five-spoke special lightweight aluminium alloy wheels
Avon Turbospeed 255/60 ZR16 tyres
Suspension
Front: independent, transverse unequal length wishbones, co-axial spring/damper units and anti-roll bar
Rear: steel tube de Dion unit located fore and aft by triangulated radius arms and transversely by Watts linkage with damper units and single-rate springs
Dimensions
Length: 4,745 mm
Width: 1,856 mm
Height: 1,320 mm
Kerb weight: 1,980 kg
Wheelbase: 2,611 mm
Boot volume: 28 cu.ft with the rear seats folded
Fuel tank capacity: 114 litres
Performance
Maximum speed: 152 mph
Acceleration: 0-60 mph 7.6 seconds
Acceleration: 0-100 mph 16.5 seconds
Price
March 1992: in excess of £165,000

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