There are two types of people in the automotive world: those who love Aston Martins, and those who simply don’t get them…
Those of us who revere THE definitive British luxury sports car maker marvel at its remarkable ability to produce beautiful, timelessly-designed performance cars in the face of strife, whether it be managerial, financial, or in its early years, global conflict along the lines of two World Wars.
An Aston Martin has a sense of fun, a quintessentially British bombasticity coursing through its veins; this may not make for a perfect motor car, but it’s a joie-de-vivre you won’t find in the hallways of Zuffenhausen or Maranello. When it comes to theatre and being simply a nice thing, then nobody does it better than Aston Martin.
Aston Martins - if you will - may not be perfect, but then that’s what makes them loveable. It’s why I would rather take a V8 Vantage home rather than the equivalent Porsche 911. If we’re talking modern classic sports cars for sale, then sign me up for a DBS over the then-equivalent Ferrari 599 Fiorano.
However, in the balance of fairness, it’s important to give the other side a voice… despite how wrong they may be with regard to the Aston Martin debate.
Aston Martin naysayers will sneer at the brand’s Britishness, and cry that the firm is a jingoistic throwback to a time of “Rule Britannia” when people were sepia and walked funny. They will suggest that if Aston Martin were a truly great car maker, then it would not have teetered on the verge of bankruptcy on more than one occasion throughout its 118-year history.
Thankfully, Alex Goy - our guest today - is someone who stands very much in the camp of Aston Martin aficionados. A much-loved automotive journalist who has presented videos on Carfection, and whose words you’ve probably read in Vantage, GQ, and Jalopnik, Alex proves to be joyous, charming, and pretty much a manifestation of Aston Martin in human form.
Alongside a Morgan 3 Wheeler, Alex also owns a 2012 V8 Vantage. Who better then, to explain that specific magic that an Aston Martin boasts that other equivalent cars do not?
Enter the Vanquish
To begin to answer this question, we need to travel back to 2002, a time when YouTube wasn’t a thing, Ferrari were racking up Formula 1 world championships, and Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond… and it was Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond (and I’m sorry, Brosnan is The Best Bond and that’s a non-negotiable point) that served as Alex’s gateway into the always-colourful world of Aston Martin.
“I’m from the UK, so obviously Bond played a big part in getting me into Aston Martins, but it wasn’t the DB5 that got me hooked, and it certainly wasn’t the DB7 because Bond never drove one,” he explains. “I remember watching Die Another Day when it came out in 2002, and there’s that glorious car chase on an ice plane in Iceland where Pierce Brosnan is driving a Vanquish, the bad bloke is in a Jaguar XJ-R and they’re both sliding around and it’s just wonderful.
“If you remember, the car can also become invisible, and John Cleese, who plays Q tells Bond “Aston Martin calls it the Vanquish, and we call it the Vanish!” - it’s all very twee and very nice, but going back to why that car put Aston Martin on the map for me, is its design.
“I love the shape of the Vanquish, and I love its brutality. It still had elegance, but it didn’t look as fragile as the DB5 or the DB7. If you look at either of those cars, the lines on them are so fine and neat. That, for me at least, suggests a sense of fragility.
“The Vanquish, on the other hand, doesn’t have that. In fact, it looks like the sort of car that doesn’t give a shit what you think. The magic of its design lies in that whilst it’s big and brutal, it retains that quintessential Aston Martin elegance.
“That shouldn’t really be a surprise though,” he continues. “It was designed by Ian Callum who in my opinion, is one of the greatest designers that Scotland has ever thrown into the world.”
If an Aston Martin is a “dinner party that’s got wildly out of hand,” a Ferrari or a Lamborghini is “an all-night, pilled-up rave”
From the outset, it’s clear that the design of an Aston Martin is something that holds massive appeals for Alex. Yet as the discussion progresses, it becomes clear that his love for the brand runs deeper than mere aesthetics. It’s more about the ambience of enjoyment, occasion and understatement that only Aston Martin can build around a performance car that’s powered by either a snarly V8 or howling V12.
It seems hilarious to even consider that “understated” can be an adjective associated with a car maker whose current line-up of new cars all boast six-figure price tags, and top speeds around the 200mph mark. Yet with Alex’s gratifying description of an Aston Martin being “a dinner party, albeit a dinner party that’s got wildly out of hand” and a Ferrari or a Lamborghini being “an all-night, pilled-up rave,” it makes sense. Hear the man out…
“The thing with Aston Martins is that they don’t need to try particularly hard,” he continues. “Recent Lamborghinis have become very big, brash things, and it’s all a bit lairy. With that, some owners seem to be trying too hard, too. I’m not a fan of the shoutiness that comes with them.
“As for Ferraris, don’t get me wrong - if you want a supercar, then buy a Ferrari because they’re the best of their kind in the world. But again, there’s an image steadily being associated with them and it’s starting to piss me off a bit. It’s almost as if the statement of “I drive a Ferrari” is becoming synonymous with “I’m better than you, and I really don’t like that.
“I find that with an Aston Martin, you don’t really feel pretentious or self-conscious in them. They’re just a very pleasant, very nice thing, and a lovely piece of design. One of the lovely things about Astons is that they have never really shouted about their presence, so you won’t find a bloke revving the knackers off of one in a car park, and an Aston would certainly not try and race you away from the lights.
Ian Callum’s arrival at Aston Martin marks the introduction of effortlessly stylish car design
“One never tries to be ‘seen’ in an Aston Martin, one is always noticed,” our guest thoughtfully muses. “They’re very classless wherever they are. That’s something very special, and something they have over other cars - they’re enormously pretty, and they’re not the sort of cars that announce their presence; someone will notice an Aston Martin, and then announce its presence to whoever they’re with.”
Yet Aston Martin hasn’t always been seen as a synonym for effortless elegance. In fact, during the early-to-mid 1990s, the brand flew dangerously close to becoming a “fussy old man’s car”.
The first-half of the ‘90s were a time of plenty for much of the automotive world; cash was flush, and car makers had pretty much free reign to do what they wished. These favourable conditions saw Porsche introduce its radical new water-cooled 996 911, and Ferrari release one of its greatest hits of all time - the magnificent F355.
Yet despite the hope and optimism of the 1990s, Aston Martin was still firmly stuck in a world of “walnut wood and cream” leather. It wasn’t until Ian Callum joined the firm that it began its transformation into the Aston Martin of today; a brand synonymous with timeless design and effortless elegance found nowhere else in the sports car market.
When Callum joined Aston Martin from TWR in 1993, he had a partial hand in penning the DB7; the company’s flagship GT for the 1990s. Yet for all of its shark-nosed good looks, the DB7 was based on creaking Jaguar XJS architecture which despite being continually upgraded, could still be traced back to the 1970s. Whilst the DB7 was undoubtedly well-designed, it was clear that when it came to its interior, Aston Martin had raided the parts bin belonging to its then-parent company - Ford - in order to save a few shillings here and there.
The Vanquish marked a new chapter for Aston Martin and laid the foundations for the DB9, DBS, and the Vantage
As the 1990s rolled into the 2000s, it became evident that Aston Martin would need to go radical to survive the new millennium. As Callum settled into his role, he oversaw the design of the first-generation Vanquish, a car which he - and plenty of others in the automotive world - consider to be his finest hour with Aston Martin. In parallel with Callum’s design theme, Aston’s engineers created the Vanquish’s revolutionary aluminium chassis, which boasted a carbon fibre backbone co-developed with Norfolkian chassis wizards, Lotus.
The result was a thoroughly modern Aston Martin ready for the 21st century; when it launched in 2001, the Vanquish was a symphony of aluminium, carbon fibre, and a newly-discovered sense of cool for the brand. Perhaps most importantly, this revolutionary, muscular V12 brute of a grand tourer would go on to influence what Alex points out as his favourite era of Aston Martin.
“I know Ian Callum left Aston Martin for Jaguar, but what he did for Aston was something truly remarkable,” he says excitedly. “The design and mechanicals of the Vanquish would go on to influence what I think are some of the best looking Aston Martins ever made - the DB9, and the Vantage.
“I wasn’t that old at the time, but I remember poring over car magazines when the DB9 came out and it was - and still is, to be honest - the most beautiful car! Whenever you see one of them now, which sadly isn’t often, it transforms your day into something special because it still looks the business. It’s the same as the Vanquish or the Vantage.
“If you see a Porsche 997 or a Ferrari which came about roughly the same time, so 20 years ago give or take, they don’t have anywhere near the presence of these Astons. To achieve that sense of effortless occasion so consistently is so impressive.
“As for the V8 Vantage which came along in 2005, and the later V12 - for me, everything about this time was fantastic for Aston Martin, and it really shows in the cars they were making. The Vantage wasn’t perfect by any means, but it had… something.”
You there, yes, you! you should buy an Aston Martin Vantage because they’re not as expensive as you might think…
When Alex jumped across to freelance motoring journalism, he decided that he should replace the Lotus Elise he’d had for eight years for a daily driver with “a proper boot and proper doors.” Despite toying with the idea of a Jaguar F-Type or a Porsche 911, it was a 2012 Aston Martin V8 Vantage with a six-speed manual gearbox that won out.
“You know, I always thought I’d end up buying a 997 911 and being buried in it,” he laughs. “But I don’t have a partner or any kids to tell me that buying an Aston Martin is a stupid idea, so I just thought “sod it” and I did it.
“I honestly thought I’d only have the Vantage for a year or so to get it out of my system, but now we’re in year three together and I absolutely love it. It’s a nice, lovely thing and it makes me truly, truly happy. It also has that crystal ‘Emotion Control Unit’ key, which is hilariously silly, but I love that too, because when you insert this massive glass, plastic, and metal… thing into a hole in the dash, the whole car lights up. For me, that just increases your bond with the car, even if it is just a bit of theatre because at the end of the day, I’m a bit of an old tart and I like that sort of thing.”
As things wind down amidst car bollocks chat about the bruising Aston Martin “did you spill my pint” V8 and semi-serious thoughts surrounding brand’s future in the hands of Lawrence Stroll and Tobias Moers are expressed, my final question to Alex is what advice would he give to anyone who’s looking to buy an Aston Martin, modern classic or otherwise.
Given the entire tone of the last hour on FaceTime, the answer is overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly for you and I, Alex gives us the answer we want to hear.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap to run and things will go wrong because that’s what happens with cars of this nature,” he chuckles. “They’re not getting any younger, and it’ll cost me at least £70 to go anywhere beyond a 50 mile radius, but cars are there to make us happy, and the Vantage, and I’m sure any Aston Martin from this era, will do that.
“If you’re smart about it, you used to be able to find an early V8 Vantage for as little as £20k, and prices will reach up to £80k… maybe more for a late V12 car. Ultimately, look around carefully, and when you think you’ve found the car you think is right for you and you have enough money, I’d just say go for it… but I would say that because I did and so far mine hasn’t exploded.”
Undoubtedly, Alex’s all-round positivity and infectious enthusiasm for what Aston Martin is and represents is something impossible to ignore. After this well-spent hour, buying and owning one of these hugely elegant and massively charismatic luxury sports cars now seems more desirable and attainable than ever.
If - like me - you’ve come away from this looking for a classic Aston Martin, click here to take a look through the models listed for sale on Dyler.
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