The Aston Martin V8 Vantage was hailed at its 1977 introduction as “Britain’s First Supercar” for its 170 mph (270 km/h) top speed. Aston Martin V8 Vantage engine was shared with the Lagonda, but it used high-performance camshafts, increased compression ratio, larger inlet valves and bigger carburetor mounted on new manifolds for increased output. Straight-line performance was the best of the day, with acceleration from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.3 seconds, one-tenth of a second quicker than the Ferrari Daytona.
The first series had 375 hp (280 kW), and series specific details such as a blanked bonnet vent and a separate rear spoiler. 38 of these were built. The Oscar India version, introduced in late 1978, featured an integrated tea-tray spoiler and smoother bonnet bulge. Inside, a black leather-covered dash replaced the previous walnut. The wooden dashboard did find its way back into the Vantage during the eighties, giving a more luxurious appearance. The Oscar India version also received a slight increase in power, to 390 hp (291 kW). This line was produced, with some running changes, until 1989. From 1986 the engine had 403 hp (301 kW).
The Vantage name had previously been used on a number of high-performance versions of Aston Martin cars, but this was a separate model. Although based on the Aston Martin V8, numerous detail changes added up to a unique driving experience. One of the most noticeable features was the closed-off hood bulge rather than the open scoop found on the normal V8. The grille area was also closed off, with twin driving lights inserted and a spoiler added to the bootlid.
The 1986–1989 580 ‘X-Pack’ was a further upgrade, with Cosworth pistons and Nimrod racing-type heads producing 403hp. A ‘big bore’ after-market option was also available from Works Service, with 50mm carbs and straight through exhaust system giving 432hp (the same engine as fitted to the limited-edition Aston Martin V8 Zagato). 16 inch (406-mm) wheels were also now fitted. If this wasn’t enough, a 450 hp (336 kW) 6.3 litre version was also available from Aston Martin, and independents offered a 7 litre version.
304 Series 2 Vantage coupes were built – including 131 X-Packs and 192 Volantes. Of the ‘Cosmetic’ Vantage, 14 Series 2 coupés and 56 Volantes were built. Cosmetic Vantages lacked the powerful Vantage engine but retained the Vantage name and most of its body alterations, though the lack of carburetor allowed a flattened hood. From 1980 they featured DOT-approved 5 mph (8 km/h) safety bumpers front and rear. Most of these cars have since been retrofitted with full power, European spec engines. Although the full spec Vantage models were not imported into the USA when new, they now qualify for entry under the DOT’s ‘Show and Display’ rules in most US States. Federal requirements are also less strict for cars over 25 years old.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage convertible version was also produced, between 1986 and 1989. Six mechanically similar cars had been built earlier to special order, but it was not regularly available until then. The production version featured an even deeper front spoiler than fitted to the Vantage, even wider wheel arches, and extended side skirts. In 1987 The Prince of Wales took delivery of a Vantage Volante, but at his request without the production car’s wider wheelarches, front air dam and side skirts. This became known as the ‘Prince of Wales Spec’ (or POW) and around another 26 such cars were built by the factory. These are now generally considered the most desirable of all the 1970s/80s V8 models.
James Bond’s car in the 1987 film The Living Daylights. At the beginning of the film, the car is a Aston Martin V8 Vantage (convertible). The car used in these scenes was a Volante owned by Aston Martin Lagonda chairman, Victor Gauntlett. Later, the car is fitted with a hardtop at Q Branch, and these scenes feature a pair of non-Vantage V8 saloons, fitted with the same number plate as the initial car, but with Vantage badges now fitted to match the previous Aston Martin V8 Vantage.