The British automaker looks back on the 1972 Aston Martin V8, one of its most important classic cars.
Like so many other high-end automakers, Aston Martin has a heritage division devoted to preserving the classics. For the creators of the Vantage, this division is called Aston Martin Works, and every now and then, the division likes to take a trip down memory lane to recall some of its finest moments, like the incomparably cool V12 Vanquish. But now we're looking back at a smaller engine, or actually, the car it came in.
The Aston Martin V8 debuted in 1972 to replace the DBS V8, which had arrived with the company's first V8 engine. Despite its basic name, the focus of this car wasn't its engine but rather its styling, and that styling would leave a mark on the brand that can still be seen today.
Aston Martin admits that the AM V8 was essentially a styling exercise, replacing the angular nose of the DBS with a more curvaceous front end that gave the new car a much more muscular look. Key to that new nose was the arrival of two seven-inch quartz iodine headlamps and a black mesh grille, while a power bulge on the hood added to its imposing look. Coke-bottle flanks and Aston Martin V8 side strake badges completed the styling updates. On paper, these changes seem small, but designer William Towns provided a clean and classy look that inspired the styling of Aston products all the way until 1989.
When it debuted, the AM V8's 5.3-liter engine was fed by the DBS V8's Bosch fuel-injection system. Because power figures were not so important at the time, it's unclear what this first iteration produced, but it's estimated that around 320 horsepower and roughly 360 lb-ft of torque would have been provided. A five-speed ZF manual or an optional Chrysler Torqueflite three-speed auto was fitted, and the car could do 60 mph in about six seconds with a top speed of around 160 mph. Just 289 of these early examples were produced between April 1972 and July 1973, with later cars featuring simpler Weber carburetion and larger hood scoops. Numerous iterations followed over the years, including the open-top Volante versions in June 1978.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage arrived in 1977 as "Britain's first supercar," thanks to its ability to outrun a Ferrari Daytona from 0-60 mph and its top speed of 170 mph, achieved with high-performance camshafts, an increased compression ratio, larger inlet valves, and bigger carburetors mounted on new manifolds. With these upgrades, the V8 Vantage could produce as much as 380 hp, although at the time, power output was simply described as "adequate."
With its twin driving lights, blanked grille, trunk spoiler, and sealed hood bulge, it was much more aerodynamic than its predecessor too, although the car spends a considerable amount of time flying through the air in 1987's The Living Daylights, with Timothy Dalton as Bond. The car made a comeback cameo in Daniel Craig's No Time To Die, too, but the legacy of the AM V8 will always be its subtle styling upgrades that have informed Aston Martin's design ever since.