Wednesday July 5, 2017
There is a rare breed of car that is a seamless blend of form, aesthetics and function and the Aston Martin V8 Volante certainly falls into this elite category. It was once famously described as having the ‘brutish good looks of an aristocratic rugby player and the interior refinement of a gentleman's club’ and even when in repose the Volante exudes power and elegance in equal measure. It is, therefore, a natural choice for the Classic & Supercars Show at Sherborne Castle on the 15th and 16th July and Lancaster Insurance is very proud to feature one on its stand.
When the Volante debuted on 21st June 1978, it was the first drophead Aston Martin since the demise of the DB6 Mk. II and the perfect car to offer US buyers. The bulge in the bonnet was to accommodate four Weber carburettors, the fascia and naturally, the hood was fully lined and power-operated and although the body modifications resulted in a slightly heavier car than the coupe, it was still capable of travelling at over 140mph. ‘A magnificent car with unique qualities’, concluded a Motor road test of 1979.
Of course, such a vehicle was never going to be exactly cheap and cost nearly £10,000 more than the Coupe at £33,864. At that time, the average UK annual wage was around £6,000 although as compared with the £43,980 asking price of a Rolls Royce Corniche Convertible, the Volante was a positive bargain. A well-heeled buyer might also have a Bristol 412 with a ‘Targa roof’ while the Jaguar XJS cost under £16,000
The timing of the Volante’s launch proved to be perfect and by the following year, it amounted to half of all Aston Martin production and despite the impact of the 1979 Fuel Crisis, most of sales were in the USA. In 1986 the Volante Series II gained a flat bonnet and a fuel injected engine and later that same year, Aston Martin unveiled the splendid ‘V8 Vantage Volante’, which combined the Vantage engine with widened wheel arches, a front air dam and flared sills. A handful were specially made to ‘Prince of Wales’ specification; this was named for HRH Prince Charles, who preferred his Vantage Volante sans body kit.
And of course, the Volante was the transport for Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights. ‘B549 WUU', which we see in the early scenes, was the personal transport of Victor Gauntlett, the then Chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda. The Volante is then converted by Q and his team into a coupe, a process that it somewhat unlikely, but then few people watch 007 films for their plausible storylines. Besides, the Cumberland Grey Volante was as suited to the Dalton Bond as the DB5 was to Sean Connery.
Production ceased in 1989 and in recent years their values appear to have reached stratospheric levels; in 2016, a ‘Prince of Wales’ model was sold at auction by Bonhams for £651,100. Such figures are wholly understandable, for the Aston Martin V8 Volante is one of the all-time great British cars. To see one on the screen or in a motoring magazine can give a partial impression of its grandeur but that cannot compare to encountering one in the metal…