Virage Coupe

Virage Coupe Description

Unveiled: October 1988

In production: December 1989 - December 1995

Chassis numbers : DP2034, DP2034/1 - DP2034/5 (prototypes); 50000 - 500426 (production)

- with some unused numbers from 50269

This exciting new Aston came on stream during the summer of 1989 with first deliveries starting that autumn. After an initial flourish of orders and sales, the early 1990s recession began to bite and demand for the coupe dropped to an absolute trickle with only a handful built each year between 1992 and the end of production in December 1995. Many chassis were allocated for coupes but were eventually built up as Vantage and Volantes leaving 53 coupe chassis numbers unused. For many years, the production of the Virage coupe (excluding the last of the line LE Coupe and other derivatives) was believed to be 389. After closer inspection of build records, it now appears that only 359 standard specification coupes were built. These divide into 167 RHD examples for the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan and Brunei markets (71 manual and 96 automatics) and 192 LHD for other overseas markets (92 manuals and 100 automatics). Of the LHD cars, 58 of these were built for the important North American market.

Virage Coupe Updates

In September 1991 the Ford Motor Company completed the total purchase of AML Ltd and Walter Hayes took over the helm from Victor Gauntlett at Newport Pagnell. Hayes had recently retired as a Vice-Chairman at Ford USA and was able to breathe new life and enthusiasm into AML. He saw to it that the company enjoyed the complete backing of its parent Ford, and that its massive technological resource was fully exploited during the development of the engine management systems.

The two engine ECUs which had been located to the lower front of the engine bay had proved susceptible to water damage. From chassis 50150 these were relocated to under the driver and passenger seats, providing a less harsh environment to operate.

Early fruits of the Ford ownership saw the introduction of a new safety feature, the driver’s airbag, which was introduced in 1992, allowing the car to continue to be sold in markets requiring ‘Passive Restraint’ equipment.

In 1993, the Virage coupe, alongside the Volante was further improved when the four speed version of the Torqueflite automatic gearbox was introduced. As a sop to the sporting driver of cars with automatic gearboxes, the shift pattern could be varied, by the flick of a switch, between ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’. The ‘Sport’ setting delayed the point at which the up-shifts were made which allowed for very brisk travel. There was an improvement in the ride with the fitment of 17 inch wheels. The side vents which featured on the very first styling models of the Virage were re-introduced into the design. In addition, the dash and centre console were redesigned in what is sometimes described as the Volante dashboard. The troublesome VIC was removed and the space taken by three analogue dials whereas the instrument binnacle had separate instrument dials within a walnut facia. The updated model was first shown in March 1993 at the Geneva Show. Very few Virage coupes were built with the later dash - the first is believed to be 50387.

Virage Coupe Variants

6.3 litre and Cosmetic 6.3 conversions by Works Service

Within a couple of years of the introduction of the Virage, sales had slowed markedly as, in some respects, the car was considered no real advance over the previous AM V8: this was especially true for the available power. By making the 4-valve V8 engine acceptable for worldwide markets, the expected power hike over the old engine had not been achieved. As the planned Virage-based Vantage needed considerable development and would not enter series production until at the earliest 1993, as a stopgap measure, AM Works (known as the Customer Services division at the time) offered a comprehensive aftermarket rebuild of the Virage including increasing the engine capacity by a whole litre to 6.3 litres. Richard Williams Ltd. (RSW) had already enlarged the previous 2-valve V8 engine to 6.3 litres and subsequently went on to develop a 4-valve per cylinder 'version two' for Protek that saw active service in the latter half of the 1989 season in the AMR1 Group C race car. Following the demise of Protek and the AMR project in early 1990, AM Customer Service Division purchased the rights to the 6.3 litre engine leaving RSW to develop the even more extreme 7.0 litre version.

Upon its introduction in January 1992, the 4-valve 6.3 conversion Virage was able to offer an amazing 40% increase in peak power to 456bhp and an increase in Torque to 460lbft by increasing both bore and stroke. The cylinder heads were also reworked and gas-flowed, the injection system revised, as well as the fitting of new Cosworth pistons, higher-lift camshafts, a high-specification crankshaft and big-bore exhaust. The regular 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic could be retained but it was more usual to have this replaced by a new 6-speed ZF manual box as also used on the Lotus Carlton or Corvette ZR1 together with a new differential In addition to the much enhanced engine, the Virage 6.3 came with improved braking, improved handling and revised coachwork including much wider arches to cover the new 285 section tyres.

The package included, for the first time on an Aston Martin, the provision of an anti-lock braking system (ABS) which subsequently became standard fit from the upcoming Virage Volante and Vantage models. Not just fitted for aesthetic reasons, the 18 inch OZ split rim wheels were necessary to allow fitting of the largest ventilated and drilled brake discs then fitted to a production car and as also used on the AMR1.

Suspension modifications included raised spring and shock absorber ratings, all the front suspension was rose-jointed and a larger rollbar replaced the standard item. At the rear, the de Dion beam was relocated. Particular attention was given to overcoming an inherent tendency for the rear suspension to squat during heavy acceleration, a trait particularly noted during early road tests of the standard car.

The basis of the first 6.3 Virage coupe was a body-in-white acquired from the engineering department that was under consideration but rejected for the Vantage. That said, the final form was unique to the 6.3; the flaring to the wheel arches could be described as fuller than that seen later on the production Vantage. The converted car retained the regular front and rear styling of the donor car save for a new deeper air dam with integral fog lights plus the addition of a bolt-on rear spoiler used for aesthetic reasons rather than being truly functional. The interior of the 6.3 was not specifically modified unless the owner required the Volante style dash for instance and there were various in-car entertainment upgrades available.

By the autumn of 1993, the 6.3 engines’ output was raised to a massive 500bhp and 480lbft of torque. This extra was achieved through bigger valves, a different inlet cam profile, better induction, a further increase in exhaust bore, more gas flow work on the cylinder heads and a suitably re-worked engine management system. On the chassis side, the springs and dampers were softened, the front anti-roll bar was increased in diameter by an eighth of an inch and a rear anti-roll bar fitted for the first time on a Virage.

There was also a significant number of varied special bodied Virage derivatives that delivered to a Far East collector with the engines all converted to 6.3 specification and these are described in the V8 Vantage Special Series section which especially covers the Works Service coachbuilt cars.

The aftermarket 6.3 conversion was also offered on the Virage Volante and this car is described in the Virage Volante section.

Performance figures for the 6.3 are difficult to tie down as it was possible to choose from three different back axle ratios. Despite that, the factory claims of under 5.5 seconds for the 0 to 60mph dash and top speed of 174mph appear totally plausible.

The price of the conversion varied according to customers’ individual requirements, but the average cost of the total package in the mid-1990s was in the region of £50-60,000.

The Registrars are aware of fifteen coupes built or converted to full 6.3 specification and a further three to cosmetic 6.3 specification where the engine remained untouched. It is certainly possible that more could exist awaiting to be discovered.

As far as the Registrars are aware, the 6.3 conversion has only been performed on the 89/ specification Virage engine, not on either the V/590 supercharged or later /95 or /97 specification engines. It was also not homologated for sale in North America.

RSW 7.0 litre conversion

Following on from the development of the 6.3 and 7 litre versions of the 2-valve V8 engine, RS Williams turned their attention to creating a 7 litre version of the 4-valve Virage engine. One particularly unique car, 50119, following the engine conversion was then sent to AM specialists, Lincoln Scott, who modified the exterior styling. The rear is similar to that of the supercharged Vantage, whereas the front is similar to the Works Service developed 6.3 Lightweight Virage. The Registrar is not aware of any claims for the power output of the 4-valve 7.0 litre Virage but it must be in excess of 500bhp, It is known however that the fuel consumption can drop to only 8mpg around town.

Other known RSW 7.0 litre Virage coupes are 50028 which retains its standard coachwork and 50413, a LE Coupe. Anxious for yet more power, 50413 was dispatched to Lynx Motors for the addition of a turbocharger. Of course, the suspension, 4-speed automatic transmission and brakes were also uprated to cope with the extra performance. With the boost turned up to maximum 14psi, this unique Virage produces 720bhp. What is more, the peak torque figure is 1090lbft@3500rpm - compare this to the Vantage V600's figure of 600lbft@4000rpm.

Virage shooting brake conversion

Chassis 50061 has undergone a conversion, believed to have been carried out in Germany, to a 3-door shooting brake. 50061 has a different design of tailgate and taillight arrangement from the known production / Works Service conversions, with the appearance of having perhaps come from an Audi Estate.

Virage Coupe Specification

Body / Coachwork
Two door 2+2 coupe
Steel platform chassis with handcrafted aluminium alloy body panels
Front airdam, bumpers and side sills in GRP
Interior
Full Connolly leather interior
Alcantara headlining or optional leather at additional cost. Leather trimmed Wilton carpets, lambswool floor rugs at additional cost
Burr walnut veneer set to facia, console and door trims (Elm on the LE Coupe).
Electrically operated and heated front seats
CFC free air conditioning system
Analogue instruments in a single backlit binnacle
Computerised vehicle information centre and fault finder
Virage Volante style instruments and three dial centre console on the LE Coupe and a few late cars
Leather steering wheel with driver airbag on LE Coupe and a few late cars
Blaupunkt radio cassette four speaker audio system
Optional radio CD system
Optional Sony Disc Jockey CD autochanger
Heated front and rear screens
Engine
Front mounted all-alloy 90° V8, 5,340 c.c; four-valves-per-cylinder, twin overhead camshafts per bank. Engine number prefix 89/
Bore 100 mm. Stroke 85 mm. Compression ratio 9.5:1
Weber/Marelli engine management system, fully sequential system with closed loop Lambda control and on-board diagnostic system (OBDI). Exhaust emissions controlled by two, three-way, catalysts with Lambda sensors
Catalysts deleted on Middle Eastern, Saudi, Brunai and Singapore markets where only leaded petrol available
Maximum power: 330 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Maximum torque: 350 lb.ft @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission
Automatic: Chrysler TorqueFlite three-speed automatic
Manual: five-speed ZF. Clutch: hydraulically operated Borg & Beck with 267 mm diaphragm
Chrysler TorqueFlite four-speed automatic with ‘sport’ and ‘touring’ mode on LE Coupe
Final drive: Salisbury hypoid bevel with Powr-Lok limited slip differential
Final drive ratio: 3.062: 1 or 3.54: 1 (USA manual cars)
Steering
Power assisted rack and pinion, 3.2 turns lock to lock. Turning circle between curbs of about 10.5 metres
Adjustment for rake
Wheels and Tyres
Unique five-spoke cast aluminium alloy 8J x 16''. Later, 'Volante' 5 spoke, 8J x 17" light alloy wheels
Avon Turbospeed 255/60 ZR16 tyres
Optional five-spoke, 8J x 17" 'Volante' light alloy wheel with Avon Turbospeed 255/55 ZR17 tyres from 1992
Suspension
Front: independent, transverse unequal length wishbones, co-axial spring damper units and anti-roll bar
Rear: cast aluminium alloy De Dion unit located fore and aft by cast light aluminium alloy triangulated 'A' frame radius arms and transversely by Watts linkage with damper units and dual rate springs
Brakes
Front: PBR Ventilated steel discs, 330 mm diameter
Rear: outboard solid steel discs, 289 mm diameter with sliding aluminium calipers
Servo assisted tandem master cylinder with Bosch four channel anti-lock braking system
Dimensions
Length: 4,737 mm
Width: 1,854 mm
Height: 1,321 mm
Kerb weight: 1,920 kg
Wheelbase: 2,611 mm
Front track: 1,499 mm
Rear track: 1,524 mm
Boot volume: 240 litres
Fuel tank capacity: 114 litres
Performance
Maximum speed: 155 mph (manual)
Acceleration: 0-60 mph 6.0 seconds (automatic)
Acceleration: 0-100 mph 15.0 seconds (automatic)
Price
December 1989: £120,000
January 1992: £134,604
January 1993: £133,574
1991 (USA): $241,500

Virage Coupe Specification - 6300 cc

Engine
Front mounted all-alloy 90° V8, 6347cc; four-valves-per-cylinder, twin overhead camshafts per bank. Designation suffix /6.3
Bore 103.14 mm. Stroke 95 mm. Compression ratio 9.5:1
Modified and remapped Weber/Alpha engine management system, fully sequential system with closed loop Lambda control and on-board diagnostic system (OBDI). Exhaust emissions controlled by two, three-way, catalysts with Lambda sensors
Maximum power: initially quoted as 465 bhp @ 5,750 rpm but from Autumn 1993, 500 bhp @ 5,850 rpm
Maximum torque: initially quoted as 460 lb.ft @ 4,400 rpm but from Autumn 1993, 480 lb.ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission
Automatic: Chrysler TorqueFlite three or four-speed automatic
Manual: five-speed ZF gearbox from donor car or six-speed ZF as used in the Lotus Carlton and Corvette ZR1
Final drive: Salisbury hypoid bevel with Powr-Lok limited slip differential
Final drive ratios: option of 3.54:1 or 3.33:1 (manual) and 3.33:1 or 3.058:1 (automatic)
Wheels and Tyres
OZ five-spoke 10.5 x 18'' split rim alloy wheels
Goodyear Eagle 285/45 ZR18 tyres
Suspension
Front: independent, transverse unequal length wishbones, co-axial spring damper units and anti-roll bar
Rear: De Dion unit, radius arms, Watts linkage, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar on 500 bhp version
Brakes
Front: ventilated steel discs, 362 mm diameter with AP Racing four pot calipers
Rear: outboard ventilated steel discs, 286 mm diameter with AP Racing four pot calipers
Servo assisted tandem master cylinder with Bosch four channel anti-lock braking system
Dimensions
Length: 4,737 mm
Width: 1,944 mm
Height: 1,321 mm
Kerb weight: 1,969 kg
Wheelbase: 2,611 mm
Performance
Maximum speed: 174 mph
Acceleration: 0-60 mph 5.1 seconds (automatic)
Acceleration: 0-100 mph 11.5 seconds (automatic)
Price
1992: total conversion in the region of £50,000 to £60,000 depending on owner's individual requirements
Engine conversion: £28,116
Six-speed ZF gearbox: £10,744
Bodywork changes: £10,188

Virage Coupe Number Guide

In order to confuse and for some inexplicable reason, the chassis numbering goes against all past convention by starting at 50000 and not 50001 as would have been expected. Cars were built with sequential numbers (with some unused and others used on derivatives) up to chassis number 50426. Model years stretch from 1990 through to 1995 (L to S in the VIN number). The engine numbers were matched to the chassis numbers with a 89/ prefix and have either suffix A for automatic or M for manual transmission.

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