Inside Coys: 1974 Aston Martin V8
Coys let us try out their heavyweight V8, to be auctioned at Blenheim Palace, Saturday 15 Jul 2017
If you’re the type of person who has always got one eye on sport, you’ll have heard about the recent success of British boxer Anthony Joshua.
Joshua is a World Heavyweight Champion, a fearsome puncher, 6’6 of weaponised muscle capable of defeating any one of the world’s most accomplished boxers. He’s also a bloody nice chap – polite, well-spoken, charming, and handsome. We’ve a long standing tradition of heavyweight champions just like Joshua in our country – Lewis, Bruno, Cooper, and Martin, Aston Martin.
Of course, this particular Martin is a heavyweight of an altogether different sort. The Aston Martin V8 reigned from 1973 to 1989 delivering a Joshua-esque blend of qualities that made it come across as a real smoothie, but is it? We thought we’d take the opportunity to get to know the Aston Martin V8 a little better, so we popped down to the Coys showroom in Richmond to take the car out for a day.
Our particular Aston V8 was first registered in the Netherlands despite being right-hand drive. Finished in a gorgeous combination of Navy Blue paint with a grey leather interior, it looks every bit as classy as you’d expect from an Aston Martin, even 43 years after it was brought into the world. This car is just 1 of 967 examples ever produced of the ‘Series 3’ Aston Martin V8, so it is as rare as it is beautiful. It’s design looks old, sure, but it doesn’t look out of place and certainly doesn’t look any less striking than it did back in the 70’s. This is a car with enormous presence, like a heavyweight boxer in his prime, it dominates the environment around it.
Presence aside, domination was enforced by the huge 5.3-litre V8 engine sat under the long bonnet. It was constructed from a combination of alloys and modified from an earlier 5.0-litre version used in the Lola-Aston Martin racing cars – so it’s got a honed and athletic heart that packs exactly the type of punch you’d expect. The 5.3-litre unit produced 320bhp at the time, a spectacular figure for a 1970’s car, and it helped propel the Aston to an equally spectacular top speed of 160mph.
These high performance figures don’t really tell the whole story, though. While it is undoubtedly a beefy unit, the Aston Martin V8 has the character of a fighter outside of the ring, not one in the throws of a title bout. It’s relaxed, it’s confident, and it’s taking things fairly easy. Don’t get me wrong, you still wouldn’t want to mess with it, the power and grunt is there if it is needed, but it is hidden away under some layers of relaxation that almost make the car feel like a brawny recliner. That begs the question – what is all that power there for?
Like all things with an Aston Martin, it’s a luxury. The engine itself is part of that luxurious environment. TheV8 is there simply to make travelling easier, the power and grunt that the Aston possesses isn’t for breaking records, it’s to make driving on the road better and more enjoyable. So, is the Aston Martin V8 a baby Rolls-Royce? Actually, it’s pretty far from it.
What distinguishes our Aston here from cars like Bentley and Rolls-Royce is how much of a firm hand is required to drive it. While Rolls and Bentley aim to give you an easy drive, with light, gentle controls, the Aston requires more strength. Pedal inputs must be strong, firm, and decisive. It’s not much use gently squeezing the brake on, this car is a ball of muscle and reacts better to powerful, precise inputs – be firm, be confident – and apply the same philosophy with the steering too. The wheel is constantly moving and so you’ll often be required to input subtle adjustments. Whether that’s with a relaxed one-handed grip or the two-handed approach depends entirely on your driving style.
In a way, it’s funny that the Aston Martin is more commonly associated with James Bond – a slick, smooth character with a rather refined way of despatching his adversaries. This Aston Martin may be refined, and it may be handsome, but it’s much more likely to throw sledgehammer punches and pummel its opponents to death than use a silent pistol.
The Aston Martin V8 is a heavyweight champion, not a secret agent. That doesn’t make it any less potent though, and as a main event there’s little else to match it.
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