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Aston Martin Vantage V550, V600 & Le Mans: Buying guide and review (1992-2000)

Aston Martin Vantage V550, V600 & Le Mans: Buying guide and review (1992-2000) Classic and Performance Car
Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550
The euphoria that greeted the launch of the Virage in 1989 didn’t last very long. The first completely new Aston Martin in two decades had been warmly welcomed by the press, and by Aston’s loyal fanbase, but within a couple of years sales had fallen off and the mood had changed. The general feeling was that the Virage lacked both firepower and road presence.
  
The boys in Works Service were first to respond to the clamour for something a bit ballsier, and in January 1992 began offering a 465bhp 6.3-litre engine conversion, together with bigger brakes, firmer suspension, wider wheels and tyres, and bulging wheelarches. 
 
It was a bit of a hotrod, but it worked. The press lapped it up, and Works eventually converted 40 cars. (At around £60k a pop, on top of the £132,000 it cost to buy the standard Virage, the boost to Aston’s coffers was as welcome as the boost to the Virage’s image.)
 
Meanwhile, the engineering department was developing the ‘official’ super-Virage, and in September 1992 it made its debut at the British motor show. Simply called Vantage, everything about it seemed right, its wide, low, muscular stance oozing presence but also sophistication, from its jutting chin and fared-in headlamps (three per side, a system borrowed from the late-80s Alfa SZ), through its sculpted sills and evocatively flared arches, to its subtly flicked-up tail and four round tail-lights. John Heffernan and Ken Greenley had worked a remarkable transformation on their original Virage design (in fact only roof and doors were carried over). 
 
Under the newly louvred bonnet, the big news was the addition of twin superchargers, lifting the output of the standard-capacity 5.3-litre V8 to 550bhp, with a matching 550lb ft of torque at 4000rpm. It was by some margin the most powerful production car the company had yet built and, at the time, the world’s most powerful production engine. The top speed was 186mph (measured, not claimed) and the 0-100mph time, despite a kerbweight of almost two tons, just 10.1 seconds. Aston Martin was back in the supercar business.
 
Tellingly, nowhere in the launch blurb was the Virage name mentioned; this was, as far as Aston was concerned, a wholly new model. The interior had been redesigned and now had airbags as an option for the first time (though the air-bagged steering wheel was particularly ugly). The rear suspension ditched the Virage’s complex A-frame and went back to the classic de Dion set-up, while springs, dampers and anti-roll bars were all beefed-up. The 18in wheels, the Goodyear Eagle tyres, the mammoth 362mm front discs and Group C calipers, all were unique to the Vantage, as was the ZF six-speed gearbox, one of very few deemed robust enough to handle the torque. Final development miles were completed by one Jackie Stewart, at the time a member of the Aston Martin board.
 
Deliveries started in late 1993, and, while the Vantage was never going to sell in huge numbers (that was the soon-to-be launched DB7’s job), it hit the mark with well-heeled customers of the old school. Road testers loved it, and schoolboys everywhere had a new poster car. 
 
There was even more to come. In 1998, Works announced the V600 upgrade, which, as the name suggested, lifted peak power and torque to 600bhp and 600lb ft respectively, achieved mainly by adding extra intercoolers to keep the intake temperature down and thereby increase boost, with a little extra help from a freer-flowing exhaust. The extra power, combined with a five-speed version of the gearbox with longer ratios that allowed the V600 to hit 61mph in first, dropped the 0-60mph time to just 3.9sec and 0-100 to 9.9sec, while the quoted top speed was now ‘over 200mph’. The full V600 package included gargantuan 385mm front discs with six-pot AP Racing calipers, while the suspension had stiffer springs, revised rebound rates and an uprated front anti-roll bar connected by spherical joints. 
 
The full package cost £43,000, which, when added to the cost of a stock Vantage, brought the total to £232,950. Initially you had to buy and register your standard Vantage (retrospectively known as the V550), then take it back to Works for the upgrade, but after a few months it was decreed new cars could be registered as V600s. It’s a moot distinction. If you want to be sure a car is what it purports to be, give the chassis number to the Aston Martin Heritage Trust.
 
The last hurrah for the supercharged Vantage, and for the great V8 engine first sketched by Tadek Marek in the early ’60s, was the Le Mans. Unveiled in 1999 to mark the 40th anniversary of Aston’s famous win in the 24 Hours, it had a unique grille treatment, new wheels, revised suspension and special trim. Just 40 were built, and that rarity has certainly supercharged their recent rise in value. 
 

Performance and specs

 
Engine V8, 5340cc, twin-supercharged 
Power 550bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque 550lb ft @ 4000rpm
0-60mph 4.6sec (V600 3.9sec)
Top speed 186mph (V600 200+mph)
Transmission Six-speed manual (five-speed in V600), rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2610mm
Length 4745mm
Width 1924mm
Height 1330mm
Kerb weight 1990kg
 

Common Problems

 
• Crash damage is one of the things you need to be alert to, as is rust. The Virage family was built on the classic V8 platform, specifically a shortened version of the ’80s Lagonda. The triangulated chassis sections under the sill pods tend to trap water, and it also gets in the B-pillar, so you get rust inside the door-shuts. You can also find it bubbling up on the leading edge of the front wing.
 
• Pay particular attention to the chin spoiler because if it needs to come off it means removing the intercoolers and oil coolers and all the pipes that go with them, so it’s a really big job.
 
• The spoiler might have been bashed because the front springs sag, and the car is very nose-down. Even if the miles are very low – and that applies to most of them – springs, dampers and bushes degrade over time and need replacing. With all the weight, bushes get a hard time generally, as do the gearbox and differential mountings with all the torque.
 
• Look for oil weeping from the head gaskets and also the oil supply pipe at the back of the engine; it’s enormously difficult to get to because it’s right up against bulkhead, so it’s probably something you’d live with until you needed to pull the engine forward or remove a cylinder head for other work.
 
• The good news is that the engine itself and both manual gearboxes are generally robust and give few problems. The rare auto is less suited to the massive torque. 
 
• You rarely see issues with the superchargers, though belts and pulleys do wear – a whistling sound is the clue here. The water pump is a weak point, as it takes the strain of all the auxiliary belts. 
 
• Make sure all the electrics work. Some of the little black boxes are fiendishly difficult to get hold of or are very expensive. 
 
• Servicing requirements are essentially the same as any other V8-engined Aston of the ’80s and ’90s. Budget around £1800-£2000 for routine servicing, with another £1500 a year for non-service items that will inevitably need replacing. Tyres, for example, are £500 a corner.  
 
• Fuel thirst is almost comically extreme: when Autocar tested a V550, they recorded an average of 11.6mpg. But then no-one buys a Vantage for its fuel economy. It’s the last of the old-school handbuilt Astons, a dinosaur in some ways, but definitely T Rex. With twin superchargers. 
 

Owners’ clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.amoc.org – Aston Martin Owners’ Club
• www.amocna.org – North American Aston Martin Owners’ Club
• www.astonmartinworks.com – Aston Martin Works
 

Summary and prices

 
To put current values and running costs into context, it’s worth recognising that with a new price of £177,600 in 1993 (V600 £232,950 in 1998), this was one of the most expensive cars on the market. Where are values today? Expect to pay £175,000-£350,000 for the V550 and V600, while the extra special Le Mans is £450,000-plus today. In May’s Bonhams Works sale, an as-new LM sold for £449,500, and the same car today might well fetch half a million. 
 
The real problem for a potential Vantage buyer is actually finding one. A total of just 244 V550 and V600 models means there’s usually only a handful for sale at any one time, and their prices, too, have climbed steeply over the last 18 months or so. 
 
Words: Peter Tomalin // Images: Matthew Howell
Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550 Aston Martin Vantage V550
Last updated: 20th Jan 2017
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Aston Martin Vantage
34000 249950 GBP
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £109,950 £109,950

    Variant name:S V12 ,Derivative:VH2 ,Variant: AMR V12 Vantage S Performance Pack

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 15075 mi
    • Engine size: 5.9
    For sale
    £109,950 £109,950
    HWM-HWM Aston Martin of Walton-on-Thames
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £41,900 £41,900

    Variant name:V8 Roadster ,Variant: Convertible Sportshift, A Beautiful Low Mileage Exampe, 19" Alloy Wheels, Satellite Navigation, Heated Electric Front Seats Multi award-winning prestige car dealership John Holland is delighted to offer for sale this outstanding low mileage Aston Martin Vantage 2dr Sportshift Roadster finished in Onyx Black with complimenting Black Leather Upholstery with Contrast White Stitching. This stunning example comes with a huge specification to include, 19" Multi Spoke Alloy Wheels with Black Calipers, Satellite Navigation, Climate Control, Heated Electric Front Seats, Rear Parking Sensors, Electric Folding Mirrors, Auto Lights, Xenon Headlights. Also benefiting from a Aston Martin service history completed at 826 miles at Aston Martin Mayfair, 5037 miles at Chilton Aston Martin, 7299 miles 9216 miles and again at 9912 miles all at Aston Martin JCT Leeds and again recently by ourselves. Supplied with 3 keys and all its hand books and wallet. John Holland has been established for over 40 years supplying a premium level of service in the sale of sports, prestige and collectors cars. We have a team of experienced buyers who hand pick our cars from all parts of the uk so you can buy with confidence all vehicles are HPI Clear and prepared to the highest standard, full dealer facilities available call the sales team for further information.

    • Year: 2007
    • Mileage: 12400 mi
    • Engine size: 4.3
    For sale
    £41,900 £41,900
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £249,950 £249,950

    Variant name:V12 Coupe Special Editions AMR ,Derivative:AMR ,Variant: V12 AMR 2dr Sportshift III NATIONWIDE DELIVERY INCLUDED. Aston Martin Edinburgh present this V12 Vantage AMR Coupe finished in Stratus White with a Pure Black Alcantara and Blue Haze Metallic leather interior scheme. This rare car features the AMR Titanium Exhaust System and the AMR Carbon Aerokit. Being 1 of 100 worldwide, this is a rare opportunity for you to own one of the last naturally aspirated 6.0L V12 powered cars, this one producing a phenomenal 595bhp! Contact our team for more information on this specific example. Tailored finance packages available. IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO SELL YOUR ASTON WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. PLEASE VISIT WWW.WEBUYSPECIALISTCARS.COM

    • Year: 2018
    • Mileage: 847 mi
    • Engine size: 5.9
    For sale
    £249,950 £249,950
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £84,950 £84,950

    Variant name:V12 Coupe Special Editions ,Variant: V12 2dr MANUAL CARBON EDITION NATIONWIDE DELIVERY INCLUDED. Aston Martin Edinburgh presents this V12 Carbon Edition Vantage Manual with a full Aston Martin service history and comes fully approved with 12 months Aston Martin warranty and roadside assistance. This car was last serviced by ourselves in May 2018. Contact our team for more information. IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO SELL YOUR ASTON WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. PLEASE VISIT WWW.WEBUYSPECIALISTCARS.COM

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 33792 mi
    • Engine size: 5.9
    For sale
    £84,950 £84,950
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £107,950 £107,950

    Variant name:V8 Coupe Special Editions AMR ,Derivative:AMR ,Variant: AMR 2dr Aston Martin Edinburgh presents this stunning V8 Vantage AMR 2dr manual finished in the Halo Scheme package. Vantage AMR epitomises everything Vantage has stood for since 2005. Possessing dazzling charisma, and a core of inner steel, it is an icon of style and substance, inspired through our racing pedigree to create the purest of thoroughbreds. AMR takes Aston Martin into a new dimension. One where we can turn-up the sporting DNA present in all our models and make a true statement. Vantage AMR is available in the AMR Halo Pack, taking inspiration from Aston Martin Racing’s 2016 WEC-winning #95 Vantage GTE. As a celebration of Aston Martin’s worldwide competition success across GT4, GT3 and GTE categories so why not speak to our team to find out more about this truly special car. IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO SELL YOUR ASTON WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. PLEASE VISIT WWW.WEBUYSPECIALISTCARS.COM

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 353 mi
    • Engine size: 4.7
    For sale
    £107,950 £107,950
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £51,950 £51,950

    Variant name:V8 Coupe ,Variant: 2dr Sportshift [420] Aston Martin Edinburgh presents this great looking Vantage which comes with 12 months Aston Martin Warranty and 12 months MOT. With it's black interior with silver stitching it really makes the car stand out. Contact one of our executives who can arrange very competitive finance quotations, a personalised HD video and more images of this vehicle. Covered nationwide delivery available. IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO SELL YOUR ASTON WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. PLEASE VISIT WWW.WEBUYSPECIALISTCARS.COM

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 33762 mi
    • Engine size: 4.7
    For sale
    £51,950 £51,950
  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £34,000 £34,000

    Air Conditioning, Bluetooth, Climate Control, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, iPod Connectivity, Hi Fi Audio, Sports Seats, Heated Seats, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Full main dealer service history There really isn't enough space to fit all the history of this car into the text box, a brief outline will be given but we recommend serious buyers call for a full breakdown of what really is a remarkable service and maintenance record. Service history- 10k, 18k, 24k, 30k, 35k, 39k, 41k, 43k, 44k The car is supplied with all original keys (3 keys, 2 fobs), The original handbooks, 12 Months MOT, Fully clear HPI report and Warranty. The service history has ALL been carried out by Aston Martin MAIN DEALERS. Aside from the amazing service history the previous owner has had Aston Martin extended warranties in place for the last few years resulting in all required repairs been carried out by Aston Martin main dealers. We have quite a large folder full invoices and receipts from Aston Martin to show exactly what repairs have been carried. A few examples are..... New shock absorbers, new headlights, door handles.... The list goes on. During March 2018 the car visited Aston Martin for a full health check, at the same time it had the boot struts and both front door struts replaced, a new auxiliary drive belt and 4 new wheel centre caps to compliment the unmarked, Bridgestone wrapped alloy wheels. The outstanding service history and maintenance record is equalled by the condition of both the interior and exterior. An absolutely unbelievable low mileage example that has been serviced and maintained by Aston Martin main dealers. Specification wise the car benefits from the Premium audio u

    • Mileage: 45000 mi
    • Engine size: 4282
    For sale
    £34,000 £34,000