The name Vantage is indelibly associated with Aston Martin sports cars, with more than a third of the cars ever built by the company bearing the Vantage name. The name dates back to David Brown’s acquisition of the company in 1947. His first true DB model, the DB2, was launched in April 1950 (the first car produced under Brown’s tenure was the 2-litre Sports, retrospectively known as the DB1), with “Vantage specification” planned for soon after the release.
From the outset, Vantage signified enhanced performance, achieved by collaborating closely with the designers and engineers working on Aston Martin’s nascent racing programme. In fact, the archives show that renowned Austrian racing car designer Robert Eberan von Eberhorst — famous for his early work with the Auto Union team and later the Aston Martin DB3 racing car — headed up the project. Vantage had arrived and from then on it was a name to be reckoned with, gracing some of the most beautiful, powerful and striking cars built by the factory. For the 70th anniversary celebration, Aston Martin gathered them together, spearheaded by the newest Vantage to bear the name.
Aston Martin DB2 with Vantage specification, 1950-1953
The car that started it all. Vantage indicated an enhanced engine output, with the DB2’s 2.6-litre Lagonda engine being given larger carburettors and a high compression ratio. The result was an engine capable of 125bhp, an increase of 20hp on the standard car. “Vantage specification” entered the order books as a special request for more performance-focused drivers; the engine’s success on the track was widely praised. Available in both two-door saloon (shown here) and drophead coupe form, the Aston Martin factory in Feltham, Middlesex, produced 250 examples of Vantage-powered cars during the DB2’s three-year production run. The visual components of the instantly recognisable Aston Martin form language were starting to come together, as was the fusion of speed, beauty and fine craftsmanship.
Aston Martin DB6 Vantage, 1965
It took another decade for the next Vantage to surface. First the classic DB4 and then the iconic DB5 received Vantage editions, now much sought-after models. The Aston Martin DB6 wasn’t a marked stylistic departure, although its bodywork was larger and slightly more aerodynamically focused, but it shared the 4.0-litre straight six installed in the DB5 Vantage before it, producing a similar output of 325bhp.
The DB6 also shared the same subtle Vantage badging as its predecessor and the low number of original Vantage specification cars, in both two-door saloon and Volante form, make this model another rare and collectible classic Aston Martin.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato, 1986
The partnership between Aston Martin and Zagato had lain dormant for 23 years after it debuted with the spectacular form of the 1960 DB4 GT Zagato. The car that revived the collaboration was an enhanced version of the brutish Aston Martin V8 Vantage, often called “Britain’s first supercar” for its devastating performance. In 1986, the Italian coachbuilder revealed its bold reinterpretation of the muscular British GT, with sharp-edged bodywork, integral bumpers and a thin-pillared glasshouse mounted on a shortened chassis with just two seats. Just 52 examples of the coupe were built, all fitted with the Vantage’s enhanced 410bhp “X-pack” engine.
Aston Martin Vantage, 1993
An evolution of the Aston Martin Virage, the first Vantage of the 1990s was the V550 model, so named for the 550hp conjured out of Aston Martin’s mighty V8 when equipped with twin Eaton superchargers. The power was sufficient to get this heavyweight machine to a top speed in excess of 186mph with the richly finished wood and leather interior standing in stark contrast to the bulbous, muscular bodywork. This was Aston Martin at its boldest and most elemental, a car that demanded respect from its driver and made an imperious statement on the road. The final car of this era was the magnificent V8 Vantage Le Mans, limited to just 40 cars.