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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 cars for sale

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Aston Martin Vantage
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  • Aston Martin Vantage

    £42,995 £42,995

    Variant name:V8 Roadster ,Variant: 2dr Sportshift V8 Vantage Sportshift, Onyx Black, Obsidian Black Full Leather Interior, Red Lower Trim Stitching, Bluetooth, Red Brake Calipers, Cruise Control, Piano Black Interior, Bright Finish Grille, HID Headlights, Wash & Leveling Lights

    • Year: 2008
    • Mileage: 34000 mi
    • Engine size: 4.3
    For sale
    Prestige Cars Kent-Prestige Cars Kent
    01689 660603 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Aston Martin Vantage V8 Auto

    £42,990 £42,990

    Registered 2008 Mileage 43,866 miles Engine Size 4.3l Transmission Automatic Fuel Type Petrol Fuel Consumption 18.7 mpg Registered 2008 Registration SN08AVZ Previous Owners 3 Fuel Consumption 18.7 mpg Tax Band M Tax Cost £535 Colour Black Interior Trim N/A Exterior Colour Onyx Black Doors 2 Fuel Type Petrol Bodystyle Convertible Mileage 43,866 miles Engine Size 4.3l Transmission Automatic MPG figures are obtained from laboratory testing and intended for comparisons between vehicles. They are unlikely to represent real world efficiency. Left Right Tailor Your Finance Vehicle Features Warranty Technical Spec Tailor Your Finance Vehicle Features Fitted Options 2008 Model Year Brake Calipers - Red Electric Heated Seats Xenon Headlamps Contrast Stitching Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) Traction Control (TC) Dark Headlining Will come freshly serviced by

    • Year: 2008
    • Mileage: 43866 mi
    For sale
  • Aston Martin Vantage V8 2dr

    £52,950 £52,950

    Body: Coupe Transmission: Automatic Mileage: 30,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2012 (12) Doors: 3 Engine Size: 4.7 Finished in: ONYX BLACK WITH OBSIDIAN BLACK LEATHER SEATS 19" alloys

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 30000 mi
    For sale
  • 190 e

    €2,500(£2,219.25) €2,500(£2,219.25)

    1986 dry storage from new .lpg conversion, power steeriung. new tires. start and drive.sunroof.no rust http://www.alfavintage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/20170915_113204.mp4

    • Year: 1986
    • Mileage: 140 mi
    For sale
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