Dark Knight – Aston Martin Vanquish

Words by Russell Harding

I’ve owned my Aston Martin Vanquish for four wonderful years. Mine is a 2006 Vanquish S in black with a black interior. I was drawn to the Vanquish because I like aggressive looking muscle cars, so my first Aston was a 6.3 Virage wide-body Volante, they don’t get a lot more beefed up than that! However, I always aspired to own a Vanquish one day.

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-9I was actually looking to move towards a DB9 Volante before moving up to a Vanquish. I wanted to have something more reliable than the Virage. The Virage was an amazing car but a constant moving investment of time and money. The DB9 wasn’t an exact fit for my tastes but I felt it could make for a very nice stop-gap while I put the funds together for my dream Vanquish. So I was in the hunt for my DB9 Volante and Grange in Welwyn had one I had been looking at and was interested in. One last look at their website when I woke up before heading down there, overnight a Vanquish had appeared in their stocklist in the exact colour I’d always wanted, black on black with red brake callipers. A sudden rush of blood to the head and I was on the phone at 8am. As luck would have it the phone got answered by James, the resident sales guru. My world fell apart when he replied “what Vanquish, we don’t have a Vanquish”. I guided him to their website and he said he would call me back in five minutes. That short wait felt like five hours, I can’t recall exactly how many times I looked at my watch but it was a lot! It didn’t get past half a ring when I said “hello have you found it”. Apparently the car had come in but wasn’t supposed to have hit the sales list as it was in pieces, literally, undergoing the 140 point check for the warranty. I said “hold it for me, I am on the way” and was with James at at 8.15am staring at a car under covers, half way in the air on a ramp, with all the wheels and under-trays removed. Even like that I just knew it was love at first sight and I had to own it. James was a proper gentleman and we agreed that I pay £1,000 to reserve the car and after agreeing a price, if the car wasn’t what it was supposed to be when off the ramp, then I could have my money back.

When heading back through the workshop toward his office at about 9.30am the receptionist informed James that he had several calls. I sat down with him and we shook on a price. As I left he came back up to me with a sheet laughing, showing me all those calls were about the Vanquish and he now had to call them all back. Timing sometimes can be everything.

Needless to say the car was perfect in every way when they had finished with her.

I had just spent twice what I planned and made the quantum leap straight to what was my ultimate car to own. I just thought it was going to be some years off.
Even now, after years of owning my Vanquish, I never just walk up and get in it. It’s almost impossible to do that. I find myself stopping a few feet away and admiring the lines from whatever angle I approach it and stand there like a grinning idiot. In summary, you take it all in, you smile, you nod your head a few times and THEN you get in it.

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-7Once you’re in and ready to get going, dear me this is the priceless part of a Vanquish and mine is now even more of an aggressive snarly beast as I have fitted a Quicksilver Exhaust to it. It really is a weapon of mass destruction. The start-up of a Vanquish is not subtle at all and my record in a car park to date is three car alarms all at once, witnessed at an Aston Driving centre by several and received a round of applause. I think she was showing off but I felt very proud of her. It is like mission control. Key in… foot on brake… countdown while checking systems… lights up… pull on both paddles… Houston we have zero… push button on dash… fire in the hole!

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-6This is where the hairs come up on the back of your neck as you ease away from the start and just hang out the gear change a little longer than normal, come off the gas for a tad and flip the paddle to go up. The snarly beast gives a huge loud cackle that is unmistakable and a real head turner. You leave any high street with everyone in appreciation. I never thought I could own a car where I never get tired of looking at or driving it. I feel my pulse rise as soon as I get close to it to go for a drive.

The Vanquish is a manual but with flappy paddles. It isn’t a sequential automatic and doesn’t drive as smooth as one with a torque converter but all the same you do get used to it and you learn its foibles and then you can get the very most from it. Or… you can be impatient, pull away on the paddles like a maniac and moan like a spoilt child – which makes for a good episode of Top Gear!

You drive a Bentley and you are rich ****, you drive a Ferrari and you are a flash ****, you drive an Aston and you are an enthusiast – or at worst a person with taste. I owned a Bentley for six weeks, I was appalled as to the reaction I got from people that just didn’t know me. It just wasn’t fair. I have owned an Aston for six years and I have only ever had compliments and you get them wherever you stop. I never feel like it’s a problem to park it somewhere. I often come back to a crowd of local lads admiring it who then want to ask me all about it. In just those six weeks I had my Bentley it was keyed twice and it was constantly covered in phlegm upon my return. It went up sale soon after buying it.

Any Aston is a driving experience, not a racing experience and to me, although biased of course, the Vanquish just cannot be beaten in that respect.

At pace, on winding roads it’s in its element here, but it is a very different car to drive as an experience to something like a GTR or M5. In my opinion all those cars are only special when being thrashed to the limit. Any Aston is a driving experience, not a racing experience and to me, although biased of course, the Vanquish just cannot be beaten in that respect. For most able-bodied drivers it will give you a great feeling of sure footedness and that it won’t let you down if you respect it. Without question, it is the best GT of the 2000’s. It is a manual car but with a hydraulic clutch and all operated from paddles so you are a little bit modern with a pinch of old school thrown in. There is little difference at speed and the car appears to adapt to the change as it goes, light at first and then firming up when underway as it all should. It isn’t something to ponder about.

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-10The Vanquish came in a few guises, early ones as normal, later ones with an optional sports pack with improved everything to do with handling and stopping and then the last S versions with all that and a large increase in power output. They didn’t develop an upgrade kit for handling and braking for no reason at all, they did it because they knew the demand was there, in some people’s eyes the car was lacking in its production state at the time compared to the competition. Of course, all the shortcomings were corrected when the S came out, some say it should have been there from the start.

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-5Focussing on the aesthetics, the interior is on par with most other high end sportscars around that time, high quality, well built, with a modicum of style to it. The exterior is where the Vanquish sits above the crowd. It has to be one of the finest cars ever designed of any period. The lines simply flow from one end to the other creating something that looks totally fast and aggressive even when it is parked. The huge rear arches were cleverly sculptured to come back to a waistline for the middle and then only to widen back again for the front. But it all works. Plenty of other marques have tried that, few have ever got away with it. A short raking rear and a long bonnet harken back to the old days but with a very modern twist. The Vanquish just looks sublime from every angle.

You can never get bored of owning a car like this. There is just never a dull moment and it doesn’t matter if you are parked, in traffic or on a motorway, the experience is a connected one. Most other cars I have owned with similar power demand that you drive fast to see the point of ever having owned them. With the Vanquish I am very happy to see them pass me by as in a Vanquish you have absolutely nothing to prove. If you love Top Trumps this is never a bad hand to hold.

I’ve been all over Europe in mine, this year we got a few Aston owners together and went to the Nürburgring, alas it had a race on. As a human interest tale there were two Virages and two late model Vanquish S in attendance, both with Quicksilver exhausts and sounding like hellcats for the entire trip. As soon as we all got home one of the Virage owners went on the hunt and two months later is now proud owner of his own Vanquish. This is the effect they have on people.

I was one of the organisers of an event this year where many of the Vanquish cars made the pilgrimage back to their birth place in Newport Pagnell, at the Works Service factory. We had 82 of them in the same place, a record. On October 5th, at our forthcoming Concours at Sudeley Castle the Vanquish is the featured car and we will have twenty on display. It has been a great year for the Vanquish. If you are free come along and see them.

The Vanquish has a few well known issues; early gearboxes and chassis corrosion. Simply checking that the remedial work has been done in both respects would mean you should generally be trouble free. As ever, when buying, have that checked properly and have an inspection by a specialist and you could, like me, have manageable annual service costs of between £2-3,000. If you’ve got an early one with the contact switches and not magnetic ones in the gearbox and it fails, they usually stay failed and you could be looking at the wrong end of £10,000. Factor that in your purchase price and you can’t go wrong really.

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-2I bought a low mileage late S version and (touching head) I haven’t had any issues. I’ve only had to pay out for the basic servicing and my local garage Grange do a deal on that as well so I can hardly complain in that department. Certainly this was not the case with the older Virage I owned as that was always on some mercy mission back to the garage and the cost of ownership per mile was eye watering.

My local garage Grange Welwyn has one of the older (he won’t mind me saying that) very experienced Aston mechanics that was around in the era when the Vanquish was launched and spent a huge percentage of his time working on them. Sadly when these guys retire you will not be able to take the Vanquish to a main dealer and many are like that now so best you really do your homework – but that’s what joining a club like AMOC is all about.

These are still hand built cars remember. The manufacturing process matches that of the previous fifty odd years with banging out the panels by hand and then going to the box of foibles and throwing a handful at each one made. They are not the mass produced models that followed and some people can get confused as they only resemble the modern versions in looks alone. They definitely are not like them in any other way.

For Vanquish owners though there are many other specialist “Heritage” dealers that you can use that are very well respected and if you had a service stamp from one of those in your book it can often be of more value than your local main dealer. Those guys seriously know the Vanquish. Of course then there arguably is the pinnacle of private car medicine in Works Service. This is home of “Vinnie the Vanquish” and there is very little he doesn’t know about them. All in very safe hands there and many will attest worth perhaps the little extra they might charge, if at all.

As I write this, I doubt we have ever seen such a huge increase in the value of classic cars over the last three years and I have been fortunate to have owned one during this period. Any good ones have been snapped up and even when I see a few adverts appear with what might have been considered a “comedy chancer” price ticket on them, have then been shown with a sold banner across them within the week. Many sadly have just disappeared into collections never to be driven again. I just cannot see that these prices can be sustained with record prices for cars being broken each auction. I think that zero capital gains tax and low interest rates have fuelled things like wine, cars and art but for how long until the Government decides to limit you to one case, one car and one cartoon.

As regards the perception of the Vanquish, it is staggering to believe that this car already comes with the word“classic” in front of it yet, production only stopped 7 years ago. As many of us in the owners club say, “get one, while you can”

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 Buyers Guide Investment Car-11I was sat propped at a bar with Chris Evans next to me at a Ferrari launch in Surrey waiting for a drink. He had bought his entire GTO collection with him for everyone to enjoy. So I said “, thank you for bringing your cars for us to see, what an amazing collection,” to which he replied “yes I am a very lucky boy”. Until I got my Vanquish I kind of only half understood what he meant. Now I know myself, that’s how the Vanquish makes me feel, a very lucky boy.

Why buy an Aston Martin Vanquish?

  • Handbuilt masterpiece in the best tradition of Aston Martin.
  • Understated and timeless design.
  • Regarded by many as one of the most beautiful cars of all time.
  • Epic soundtrack to match the looks.
  • Everyday useable GT car that is at home on the motorway as a windy B-road.
  • Reliable engine and mechanicals make it an ideal ownership prospect.
  • Values have been rising steadily, get one while you still can.

What the motoring press said about the Aston Martin Vanquish

“You don’t need to drive the Vanquish to derive great pleasure from it. You can just stand and stare, because it’s a seriously handsome beast.”
EVO Magazine, 2009

“It’s a compelling car, the Vanquish S. I’ve driven much faster, more competent machinery, but very few that I’ve disliked giving back as much as this.”
Autocar, 2004

“Starting the Vanquish is still a nice piece of theater: Switch on the ignition, wait for the check lights to clear, press the brake, select neutral by pulling on both steering-wheel paddles, then press the central starter button, and-whuummff!”
Car and Driver, 2005