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After the AM Vantage of 1972 it was to be five years - and another change of ownership - before the first V8 Vantage joined the range. It was worth the wait, at last Aston - and Britain - had its first top-drawer 'supercar'. 

The V8 Vantage that went on sale in February 1977 was quite different from anything that had gone before. It was now a distinct model, although that was not the original intent, as opposed to a higher performance variant of the standard car. 

The concept was first conceived soon after the company reformed in 1975 under the auspices of George Minden and Peter Sprague, with Alan Curtis and Denis Flather soon joining the partnership. Engineer Mike Loasby, who had been with company in the late 70's and worked on the prototype DBSV8 Vantage, came back to head up engineering. 

The V8 Vantage as such did not begin life as a production car. It was initially envisioned as a conversion kit to be installed by the Aston Martin Service department at Newport Pagnell; much in the fashion they now offer 6.3-litre conversions for the V8 and Virage cars. Realising the standard V8 lacked power and performance, especially in the face of ever more stringent emission and safety legislation, Loasby developed a package for existing V8s, as Aston Martin did not have the resources to develop a new model at that time. The car released to the press in February of 1977 was a standard V8, in fact the factory demonstrator, converted to Vantage specification by the experimental department.

The Vantage engine owes a debt of gratitude to the development of the "space-age" Lagonda of 1976. David Morgan, Aston Martin engine man since 1968, was responsible for the engine's initial development and takes up the story. "With the Lagonda we found the V8 lacking in power and torque. This was due to a number of reasons.” “First we had to modify the airbox and inlet manifold to fit the engine into the Lagonda's rakish nose, it’s bonnet line being significantly lower than the V8’s. This substantially reduced power and brought down the torque figure also. Additionally it was mated to Chrysler's new Torqueflite automatic with a lock-up torque converter. The Lagonda ended up with a big flat spot around 2500 rpm; add in the substantial weight of the car and performance was not up to Aston's normal level. We developed the bigger valves to restore some of the lost power. Combined with lower-lift camshafts the result was a return to the original power level for the V8, but down from a peak at 6,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm with maximum torque now occurring at 2,500 rpm instead of 3500 rpm."

"Mike Loasby was always pushing for more performance from the V8. Having got the big valves in existence he thought we should use them in building an uprated V8. So we put big valves into the V8, fitted 48IDA carburetors and higher-lift camshafts using the profile from the Fuel Injected V8, which actually dates back to the Vantage C engine of the DB6. The first engine produced around 375/380 bhp. We used the "hot" engine in a standard V8, chassis number V8/11429/LCA, for testing and raced it at AMOC club meetings in 1976 to prove its performance. It raised quite a few eyebrows on the track as it looked like the standard car but didn’t go like one." 

"At the same time Robin Hamilton was developing his Le Mans car and Mike Loasby wanted to give Robin assistance so he paid for a wind tunnel session.” “We made the spoiler and bits and pieces to go on V8/11429/LCA and tested it in the tunnel with Robin's car. Combining the aerodynamic aids fitted to both cars resulted in a nice taut car, quieter and more controllable at speed.” “We had the first experience of what aerodynamics can do. Hence the Vantage body work was born, basically with a 10 per cent reduction in drag and we almost deleted any lift." “The biggest gains were made blanking off the grille. Air was brought in under the bumper through the spoiler and had no negative effect on cooling. The drag reduction was amazing.”

The Vantage prototype was created from the factory demonstrator, V8/11470/RCAC, a 1976 V8. Not all the modifications tried found their way onto the production cars, but they certainly endowed the prototype with startling performance. More than one journalist came unstuck with the car, returning it to the factory worse for wear as they had underestimated just how powerful the Vantage was! 

The engine used modified 48IDF2/100 carbs with a new manifold developed especially to mount them. The pistons were standard ones machined to allow clearance for the bigger 2.1" valves and inlet ports bored out to 1.5" and polished. Revised camshafts with the same profile as the "fuel injection" exhaust camshafts were fitted and the timing revised with more overlap on the induction side. The distributor was remapped with a different advance curve replacing the standard unit. A larger airbox with 4" inlet trunking, instead of the normal 3", was fabricated for better breathing to the carbs. The head was skimmed and the compression ratio brought back up to between 9.0 and 9.25:1. Hotter spark plugs, NGK BP6EV, coped with the increased compression and larger exhaust manifolds guided the spent gases into a new cruciform exhaust with a larger diameter of 2.5". Power was 360-bhp (370) at 5800 rpm on the test bed with 375-380 available after running in. Torque was a respectable 380 lb./ft at 4000 rpm.

Aerodynamic accruements included a bolt on alloy spoiler on the tail, plugged bonnet air intake, blanked off radiator shroud incorporating two 7" Cibie driving lights, deep fiberglass chin spoiler/air dam and perspex head lamp covers. The chassis benefited from tweaking used on V8/11429/LCA in club racing. Suspension was stiffened all round with adjustable Koni dampers and slightly stiffer springs rates, the springs were cut down 1 coil to achieve this. A stiffer front roll bar and more progressive rubber bump stops were fitted at the front. At the rear ride height was lowered through cut down springs and revised bump stops fitted for a demon tweak on the de Dion rear end to promote a different roll steer effect. Radially slotted front discs reduced brake fade and increased feel while an increase in castor angles gave more steering feel. Tyres increased in size to 255/60 VR15 Pirelli CN12s fitted on spacers at the rear to increase the track. All told the V8 Vantage could be easily distinguished from the standard car. Unlike previous Vantages, that were tuned versions of the production series, the first V8 Vantages were radically uprated vehicles. They also received "V" suffixes in both their chassis and engine numbers.

Works preparation completed at The Kangaroo Stable  

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Copyright August, 2001