In April 1950, Aston Martin already under control of the industrialist David Brown unveiled the DB2. Shortly after, at the end of that same year the Vantage name was used for the first time in a tuned DB2 variant.
DB2 Vantage improvements were limited just to its W. O. Bentley designed inline 6 engine. This version had larger carburetors, an increased 8.16:1 compression ratio and intake camshafts with more agressive timing, reaching 125hp. The Vantage versions had their engines painted in red to differentiate them from the standard DB2.
The Vantage name was not used again until 1961, this time for the DB4 series IV, where it was also used as a designation for a tuned engine variant. The DB4 Vantage equipped the Special Series variant of the inline 6 designed by Tadek Marek. In Vantage guise it had three SU carburetors and modified cylinder heads, achieving a power increase of 10% reaching 266hp. DB4 Vantage pioneered the covered headlights, trademark of the DB5. 136 coupés and 32 convertibles were built.
The same recipe was used in DB5 and DB6. The DB5 Vantage was introduced in 1964 and used Weber DCOE 45 carburetors and modified camshafts that provided a significant performance increase up in the rev range, at cost of low and mid range torque. With these changes, the engine developed 330hp at 5500rpm. 65 coupé bodyed cars and only 7 convertibles were built.
For the DB6 Vantage a big effort was put in the search of lower rpm range performance, tyo achieve that Weber carburetors and an increased compression ratio were implemented. Performance leaped from the original 282hp to 325hp at 5750rpm, with a much more usable power band. 71 coupés and 29 convertibles (Volante) were built.
1968 was the year when the DB6 successor, called now DBS, saw the light, although in a rush with no time to finish the V8 engine that was intended to give life to this car. Because of that it was sold with the inline 6 inherited from the DB6.
In 1972, after the retirement of David Brown, the Vantage denomination was used again, but in this case it was not used for a tuned engine variant.
Once the new V8 engine, Tadek Marek’s masterpiece, was ready to go into production, the 6 cylinder DBS was renamed DBS Vantage. This was the first time Aston Martin used Vantage to name a model and not a higher performance version. DBS Vantage was in the market only during years 1972 and 1973, with just 70 cars built.
The name was reused for a performance variant in the following Aston Martin generation. The V8 Vantage which arrived on the market in 1977 had not only a tuned engine, but also aesthetic changes such as an aerodynamic package with the absence of air intake in the hood, widened wheel arches and its characteristic covered grill.
The engine improvements, consisting of new camshafts, larger diameter valves and an increased compression placed the power above 400hp and allowed it to reach 100km/h from standstill in 5.3 seconds. Motoring media immediately considered it the “first English supercar”. 429 cars were manufactured between 1977 and 1989.
With the objective of making a lighter, nimbler car, the overall length was reduced, the rear seats were deleted, the engine performance was increased and most importantly the body manufacture was commissioned to the Zagato. The result was the V8 Vantage Zagato, on sale between 1986 and 1988, manufacturing 52 coupé bodied cars and 37 Volantes.
The Virage family, which saw life in 1989 with the iconic V8 engine from its predecessors, although this time with four-valve cylinder heads per cylinder, would get its Vantage variant in 1993. This time the V8 Vantage was had a double Eaton compressor producing 550hp and 745Nm of torque. 286 units of the V8 Vantage were sold until production ceased in 1999.
If the performance of this model was not enough, in 1998 even more performance was extracted from the same engine, now reaching 600hp and 813Nm in the V600 variant, of which around 240 units were manufactured.
Only 8 units of V8 Vantage were originally manufactured with V600 specification, the rest being conversions made by Aston Martin Works. Even Stephen Archer, one of Aston Martin’s greatest experts, is unaware of the exact number of cars converted to V600 specification.
A special edition was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 24h Le Mans victory achieved by #5 Aston Martin DBR1 back in 1959.
This V8 Vantage Le Mans was the swansong of the Newport Pagnell hand built cars. It used the same V600 engine and a large number of improvements both in the interior and body, allowing it to reach 100Km/h in less than 4 seconds and a top speed of 320km/h. Just 40 cars were buit.
Also in the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, the first V12 Aston Martins were unveiled: DB7 Vantage and DB7 Vantage Volante, that would be the hallmark of the Aston Martin modern era. The all new V12 was capable of 420hp, a great leap if we compare it to the 340hp of the standard DB7.
In 2002, the DB7 Vantage range was extended with the GT and GTA variants, of which 190 and 112 units were manufactured respectively. Both incorporated aerodynamic, suspension and clutch improvements while the power was increased to 435hp. That same year 24 limited edition “DB7 Vantage Jubilee” were manufactured.
In 2005 the Vantage name was used again with a radically different approach, used now to name the entry level sports car. That car is the main character in this series of articles.
Thanks to @mishistoriasdelmotor (http://mishistoriasdelmotor.com) for the excellent photos used to illustrate this article.