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Aston Martin Vanquish buying guide (2001-2007)

2016-05-30 Read: 202x

Damnably seductive, the original Vanquish. It’s a car with vivid performance, a tremendous warmth of character and a rousing delivery that grips you from the moment you press that big red starter button and never lets you go. As when new, its charisma more than compensates for its few failings, and cements its place as one of the great Aston Martins. With early examples available for as little as £50,000, they are horribly tempting.

This was the last extensively hand-built Aston and the last to come from the old Newport Pagnell works, which to some makes it the last ‘real’ Aston. Not that it’s a dinosaur. In many respects it was also the first of the new-era Astons. The first to be launched under the stewardship of Dr Ulrich Bez, and the first to be built around a structure of extruded, bonded aluminium and advanced composites. 

Another break with tradition was the automated six-speed manual gearbox, which did away with a clutch pedal and introduced paddles for the first time on an Aston, side-stepping the notoriously heavyweight manual gearshifts of previous flagship models.

And then there was the 460bhp 5.9-litre V12, a Cosworth-led evolution of the engine that had first seen service in the DB7 Vantage. It endowed the Vanquish with suitably vivid performance – 0-60 in under 5sec, a top speed of around 190mph and a rousing soundtrack to match – while the stiff platform and beautifully controlled suspension gave the Vanquish a light-on-its-toes demeanour that was a revelation after the previous supercharged Vantage flagship. And all clothed in a body of undeniable muscularity and ‘presence’, Ian Callum’s first clean-sheet Aston design.

Which one to buy?

Any Vanquish is a desirable package, but the biggest choice you have to make is early or late model. The model evolved over the years, and the character of a launch spec Vanquish is considerably different to a last of the line Vanquish S. 

A really worthwhile option to seek out is the Sports Dynamic Pack, available from 2003. This added uprated suspension and brakes, but the Vanquish S, introduced in 2004 (from chassis 1506), incorporated these as standard. Along with the handling upgrades, a new aero package, improved gearshift and a power increase to 520bhp completed the package.

Towards the end of Vanquish production, Aston Martin Works Service was sanctioned to develop a manual gearshift conversion. Almost 70 cars have been converted so far – although a well set-up automated car is a delight in itself.

The Linn audio system that replaced the original Alpine hi-fi for the 2003 model year is desirable, as is full leather (some Vanquishes have Alcantara centre panels on the seats), while 2+2s are slightly more sought-after. 007-spec Tungsten paint adds value; conversely, dark blues and greens are not so saleable.

Performance and specs

  • Engine V12, 5935cc 
  • Power 460bhp @ 6500rpm 
  • Torque 400lb ft @ 5000rpm
  • Transmission Six-speed automated manual
  • 0-60mph 5.0sec 
  • Top speed 190mph 

Dimensions and weight

  • Wheelbase 2690mm
  • Length 4665mm
  • Width 1923mm
  • Height 1318mm
  • Kerb weight 1820kg

Common problems

  • A well-kept Vanquish should present with undamaged bodywork, a clean, unmarked interior and a well-populated service file – although it’s unrealistic to expect that low-mileage cars will have been religiously serviced every six months, you should still expect to see stamps and invoices for annual work. You’re unlikely to be inspecting the quality of restoration work, although few Vanquishes are still in original hands.
  • A full service history by reputable specialists is the first box in need of ticking. Ideally Vanquishes should be serviced every six months or 7500 miles; if a car’s had anything less than an annual service it should certainly put you on your guard
  • The good news is that the V12 engine is very strong, and serious faults are rare. The most common problem is with the coil packs, which suffer both from heat damage and occasionally from water ingress causing shorting. Any misfiring points to problems.
  • Potentially the most serious issue is oil consumption caused by the engine ingesting its own oil vapour because the reed-type valves in the breather system have stuck open. A low oil level could eventually lead to starved big end bearings at the back of the engine. So look inside the air filter for a heavy oil deposit; anything more than a light misting could spell trouble.
  • Don’t be put off by the automated manual – properly set up and driven with a little sensitivity, it’s a decent system. The Magnetti Marelli hardware sits on the back of the transaxle, providing electro-hydraulic actuation of the gearchanges.
  • Early cars had analogue gear position sensors, which can wear, which is when you can get problems. Later cars (chassis 600 onwards) had magnetic sensors, which are much more robust. Most early cars have had them retro-fitted when the clutch has been replaced. The shift has benefited from software updates over the years, too.
  • Unsurprisingly, clutch wear varies hugely depending on driving style. Clutches can last as few as 15,000 miles or as many as 40,000. On the test drive you’re looking for a nice crisp pull-away and a crisp change, with no slip, no untoward noises and no serious vibrations. A whistling sound as you pull away suggests spigot shaft bearing wear, which is a £2000 repair; £5000 if the shaft needs replacing too.
  • The standard brakes aren’t up to track-work but are fine for anything but the most extreme road driving. Cross drillings should be cleaned as part of a service; if they’re blocked it can lead to corrosion, particularly on the inner face.
  • Look for bubbling at the edges of the aluminium body panels, the first signs of electrolytic corrosion, which if it develops will eventually necessitate a respray. 
  • Also check the front wing strakes – they’re cast on some cars and also prone to bubbling (replacements cost around £300 each).
  • The single biggest problem with the Vanquish, though, is its steel front subframe. Water gets trapped between undertray and frame, causing rust. If it’s extensive it may require replacement (£5000-plus). So remove the tray and check. 
  • Also check the small steel bracket at the end of each sill. Corrosion here can spread through the mounting bolts and cause electrolytic reaction in the tub itself. The carbonfibre crash structure front and rear is visible underneath so check for signs of damage, though it is repairable.

Model history

  • 1998: Project Vantage show car previews the Vanquish at the New York Auto Show 
  • 2001: Production V12 Vanquish launched, minutely changed in every detail over the show car 
  • 2003: Vanquich SDP (Sports Dynamic Pack) offered 
  • 2004: Vanquish S launched (from chassis no 1506); more power, improves chassis and aerodynamics 
  • 2007: Production ceases at Newport Pagnell after 2593 Vanquishes built in total, including final 40 Ultimate Edition cars

Summary and prices

This was (and remains) a car of strong character, great style and effortless (200mph!) performance, with a unique place in history as the last of the artisan Astons – and prices seem set to continue rising. Fancy a Vanquish? Better act quick.

Well-cared-for examples are creeping up in value. Expect to pay from £55,000 upwards for a well-maintained early Vanquish today. Values are just starting to move ahead, and early cars are starting to sell for between £60,000 and £75,000, while a nice S is £100,000 and an Ultimate Edition [the run-out model, just 50 made] is way beyond that. Predictably, mileage, service history and condition count most, but specification also plays a part.

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