Aston Martin this year celebrates the creation of one of its most famous model designations, as the Vantage family of sports cars marks its 70th anniversary.
The name Vantage proudly sits on more than a third of all the sports cars ever made by the luxury British brand. Spanning seven decades and covering some of the company’s most revered sports cars, the Vantage family forms a crucial part of the ever-evolving Aston Martin story.
From the earliest days of the DB2 Vantage, through the iconic 60s cars: DB4, DB5 and DB6, into the muscular models that made Aston Martin a world-beater in the succeeding decades, then on through the brand’s game-changing ‘VH’ architecture cars and into today’s state-of-the-art Vantage sports car, this historic name has become synonymous with pace, power and more than a dash of style.
Remarking on the enduring appeal of Vantage as part of the brand’s rich and fascinating heritage, Aston Martin Lagonda President and Group CEO, Dr Andy Palmer said: “Today’s Vantage and Vantage AMR sports cars represent the latest interpretation of what this single, yet incredibly evocative, word means to drivers around the world.
“As we celebrate 70 years of Vantage in 2020, it allows us to delight in our superb sports car heritage. Vantage has always stood for engineering ambition, thrilling performance and exceptional beauty, and I’m pleased that today’s models more than live up to the standards set by their iconic forebears.”
DB2 with Vantage specification
The word Vantage first appeared alongside the Aston Martin brand name in 1950, with the debut in that year of the Aston Martin DB2 with Vantage specification.
As with many of the early uses of the Vantage appellation, the title stood for a car with an uprated engine. In this instance, it referred to the use of larger SU HV6 carburettors and a higher 8.16:1 compression ratio in the car’s 2.6-litre Lagonda engine. These enhancements combined to achieve a heady 125bhp at 5,000rpm, thereby significantly outstripping the ‘standard’ DB2’s circa 105bhp. Just shy of 250 of these augmented DB2 Vantages, both saloons and drophead coupes, were manufactured at the brand’s then factory in Feltham, Middlesex, and it is believed that a good number of those remain drivable today.
Many Aston Martin engineers and designers had a hand in the early Vantage programme, but a technical paper on valve timing tests stored in the Aston Martin Heritage Trust archive shows that renowned racing car design theorist Robert Eberan von Eberhorst – famous for his early work with the Auto Union team before moving on to later design the Aston Martin DB3 and DB3S – was overseeing the project.
Communicating the Vantage advantage at the 1951 Earl’s Court Motor Exhibition, an Aston Martin press release said: “On the 1951 Earl’s Court stand will be displayed two Aston Martin DB.II saloons, one fitted with the regular engine and one fitted with the ‘Vantage’ engine, the high speed regularity of which was demonstrated so forcibly at Le Mans this year and last.”
The arrival of ‘Vantage’ as a signifier of more potent performance gently caught on among the sports car aficionados of the time, but it was not until early the next decade that another of the brand’s road-going offerings officially appeared in uprated Vantage form.
The DB4 Vantage made its debut with the start of the DB4 Series IV cars in 1961 and, unlike its trailblazing predecessor it is distinguishable visibly, as well as technically, from its ‘standard’ siblings.
Key to this Vantage was the fitting of the ‘Special Series’ engine which features not two but three SU HD8 carburettors and revised cylinder heads with bigger valves and a higher compression ratio. The block remains the same as that of the standard car. Power was quoted at the time as 266bhp, a useful increase of about ten per cent over the 240bhp of the Tadek Marek-designed 3.7-litre aluminium straight six powering the non-Vantage enhanced DB4.
The arrival of the more spacious DB4 Series V Vantage in 1962 – the final series of the DB4 model line – is significant not only as another Vantage version but also as one of the cars used in the filming of the James Bond film Goldfinger.Visually virtually indistinguishable from its DB5 successor – the car of course now synonymous with the world’s most famous secret agent – a DB4 Series V Vantage, effectively a prototype DB5, was used in some of the filming for Goldfinger, as the basis for the film’s ‘gadget’ car. Around 135 of these Vantages left the brand’s new Newport Pagnell factory in Buckinghamshire.
Those with a taste for extreme rarity, meanwhile, might be tempted by the DB4 Vantage with the optional DB4 GT engine: only half a dozen were created.