We take Vintage Classics Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II on a two hundred mile round trip back to where all 7,000 DB7’s were produced at Wykham Mill, Bloxham in Oxfordshire (UK) and discover what a class act their latest acquisition is.
Prior to models such as the Aston Martin DB7 Volante even being conceived, the early 1990s were without doubt yet another transitional time for this iconic British brand. Along with Jaguar, Ford had taken control and was about to breathe new life into both marques, however there were going to be some ground rules laid down first. The main two being that new models had to be based on old structures and that the Ford parts bin had to be utilised wherever possible. Fortunately Jaguar designer Keith Helfet had already penned the original (and still-born) F-Type sports car and Ford man Ian Callum was going to be directly involved.
Helfet’s F-Type design was re-drawn so it would fit the XJS’s chassis creating the XK8 and later XKR models. Whilst Ian Callum set about subtly changing the Jaguar offering to make a more upmarket version that would ultimately include our Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II, more on the GTS II aspect shortly. During that same transitional time Ford unpicked Jaguar’s partnership with TWR, who together had operated out of Wykham Mill as JaguarSport creating cars like the XJ220, dedicating the factory instead to build all DB7’s (i6 and V12). TWR still remained involved by supplying engines from nearby premises in Kidlington, Oxon, UK.
Despite the obvious similarities there is definitely something about the Aston Martin DB7 that sets it apart from its Jaguar cousins. We started on these lines I know, but there really is a touch of class about our car today, and let’s face it with the premium you paid back then and even now, there needs to be. In the day the Aston Martin DB7 retailed at between £80,000 and £90,000 whilst the XK8 went on sale at around £50,000. By comparison good i6 DB7s today fetch upwards of £30,000 compared to no more than £10,000-£12,000 for a comparable Jaguar.
You’ll certainly pay more, but do you get more? Well after driving an XK8 Convertible and XKR Coupe I believe you do, yes. It’s not just the badges either, although they are very pleasing to look at inside and out. No there is something more, much more, going on whilst driving this Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II. For instance Ford may have insisted on using their switch gear, but whereas inside the XK8 based models you got the full Scorpio central console treatment, in the DB7 you have individually selected items hidden behind a walnut burr cover. A message saying perhaps, we know we have to use them, but no one should be forced to look at them, not in an Aston Martin anyway.
The wipers also intrigued me; having a lovely motion with an extending frame that reaches right out across the entire screen on each and every pass. Small things maybe, but from an engineering perspective a really nice touch, and possibly one more reason to help convince any discerning buyer to choose the Aston over a Jaag. The electrically heated charcoal leather seats in our Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II were also a delight to sit in and combined with the Ford sourced heater could literally cook you, roof up or down. Then there is the electrically operated hood on this Volante model. Mostly soft tops make any open top tourers look a tiny bit daft compared to their equivalent tin top siblings. Not today, if anything the Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II looks even better roof up, the contrasting black providing a more imposing persona.
Granted there is always going to be a compromise in the handling and feel of a roofless car from this era, especially when on an uneven road surface. And there was without doubt more than a small amount of scuttle shake to remind you the important role a permanent roof structure can play. It wasn’t major but would probably separate those ultimately after strong driving dynamics, with anyone whose real priority is an open top experience. To its credit the roof was very easy to put up and down, although did require the car to be stationary with the handbrake on and gearbox in park before it would operate. When it does go up the fit is reassuringly tight and noise levels inside greatly reduced. In fact it felt just like being inside a coupe, the quality is that good.
Time to talk about the fact our car is an Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II. GTS and GTS II packs were originally commissioned by Aston Martin Sales of Mayfair, London, as an after sales upgrade package. All the work being completed by independent and well renowned specialist Care Car Works in Hertfordshire, or as they are now known the Chiltern Aston Centre. The packs added a sports exhaust, composite bonnet louvres, different lower grill, Ferrari rear lights, body colour matched split rim alloys, GTS dials, an Aston Martin motif boot mat, black painted side grooves and other smaller items such as a wooden gear knob. The bonnet louvres, wheels, rear lights and exhaust having most visual and aural impact.
At £10,000-£15,000, although still available, the full GTS packs make less sense now on a pre-owned car than perhaps it did when the cars were sold new. However there is a compromise, at a reduced cost the Chiltern Aston Centre can either provide each item separately or alternatively add 50bhp to your i6’s 335bhp, plus a sports exhaust, to bring you within 40bhp of the V12 Vantage models 420bhp. One additional advantage being the hope of maintaining the 18-20mpg we achieved as opposed to nearer 10mpg driving the later car.
Vintage Classics have chosen well; even without the power hike their Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II sounds great and the delivery from the TWR built 3.2litre twin overhead cam six cylinder unit also quite superb. Low down there is plenty of torque and then as the single Eaton (Roots) supercharger spins up there is a howl as the 1,800kg mass of this later series airbag model is finally overcome to propel you down the road at what is a decent pace. The challenge being that the party only really gets going on this auto-box model at a licence threatening 60mph, and then never really ends after that. Buyers or hirers beware, you might be travelling quicker than you think.
The GM sourced 4-speed gearbox is a conventional automatic in every sense, although in this Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II appeared to keep drive permanently engaged. This did enable a relatively quick pick-up in terms of acceleration but didn’t help when trying to slow things back down again. A combination of the fact that there is still the 1,800kg mass to deal with, plus a leggy GKN Powerlock diff that guarantees 20-30mph per 1,000rpm in the top two gears. Whilst experimenting I let the gearbox do its thing and travelled through a village at 25mph without even a touch on the throttle pedal. Slotting down to second or third helped to slow things down, as did selecting neutral just before reaching a junction or stationary queue of traffic.
Reading up on various online forums DB7 brakes do come up time and again as a Achilles heel type problem which I have to say after driving this Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II is no longer a surprise. That despite the fact the Vintage Classics car has the optional AP Racing six pots callipers and larger diameter vented discs fitted instead of the conventional four pots. Throughout our journey I never felt out of control or close to an accident once, but then equally not inclined to leave the braking particularly late either. Therefore even with six pot calipers the best they can be described as is adequate.
I wanted this car to feel special and out on the road, it did. The steering was nicely weighted and as described, brakes adequate for the job in hand with pace more than quick enough, of course a Chiltern Aston Centre power upgrade would only improve on that. The auto-box kept pace most of the time, although overtakes did seem to work best by locking it in either second or third gear. All while the GTS II pack brought the background noise of the sports exhaust and aesthetically pleasing alloys and louvres in the bonnet.
After a day we were sold, this car not only provided comfort, but decent performance when required and a genuine feel good factor brought about by its quality and badge. Roof up and down this is most definitely an Aston Martin in every sense. For me the acid test of any classic is always this; ‘how would you feel after a big bill came in’ and in the case of this Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II, if I could afford it, I would pay without hesitation, this car really is a class act.
To hire this Aston Martin DB7 Volante GTS II contact Vintage Classics.
For advice on buying a car contact the Chiltern Aston Centre.
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