Thirty years ago, a small number of Aston Martin clients received a stunning new model that was, at the time, a real supercar and the most powerful production vehicle ever built by the British automaker.
When the production vehicles were ready to be delivered in late 1993, the V8 Vantage V550—a technical and stylistic masterwork—had already begun to take on almost legendary status. It had been introduced a year earlier at the British Motor Show. The new automobile had sparked a flurry of excitement due to rave reviews in the automotive media, including Jeremy Clarkson’s first road test for The Sunday Times.
“Calling the performance explosive is like calling the space shuttle jolly clever,” said Clarkson. He correctly said, “You will never have felt or heard anything like it.” At least in the context of an Aston Martin. With 550 bhp at its highest power and 550 lb/ft of torque available at just 4,000 rpm, the V550 outperforms the Virage by an astounding 220 horsepower—all from basically the same 5,340-cc quad-cam V8 petrol engine. The main distinction is the installation of two Eaton M90 superchargers, each powered by a separate cylinder bank, which provide a symphony of high-performance noises in addition to the engine note.
Performance, of course, lives up to the incredible power and torque numbers. Even though the V550 weighs 1,990 kg, it is quick and has a lot of power and torque. The peak speed of 186 mph is, as the salespeople of the era liked to remark, “adequate,” and the 0-60 mph dash takes 4.6 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission transfers incredible power to the driven rear wheels, and a mechanical limited-slip differential provides a certain amount of dynamic control.
This two-door 2+2 coupe had a wheelbase of 2,610 mm, dimensions of 1,944 mm in width, and 4,745 mm from nose to tail. It’s a massive car by today’s standards, and, more significantly, it was meant to be redefined by thsupercartandards.
The V8 Vantage V550, designed by Ken Greely and John Heffernan, is a luxurious vehicle that embodies the ‘ more is more’ philosophy. It has six headlights, arranged in two banks of three, hidden under a heated glass cowling. Although the automobile appears similar to the Virage at first glance, most of the design was new, and only a small number of the aluminum panels were retained. In addition to the well-known Aston Martin grille, there are large intakes and vents to help with brake and engine cooling.
The brakes must be strong enough to bring a two-ton sports vehicle to a stop at 186 mph in the shortest time. To do this, the V550 hahadhe most enormous brakes of any production automobile in the world at the time. The front of the vented discs measures 362 mm and has four-piston AP calipers, while the rear has 310 mm discs. Thankfully, Bosch’s four-channel ABS comes standard. Four flared wheel arches support eighteen-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with 284/45 rubber.
The V550’s interior is a celebration of high-end British automobiles. Connolly leather, Wilton carpets, and an abundance of burr walnut veneers give the driver and passengers no doubts at all about how luxurious this location is. An airbag is integrated into the four-spoke steering wheel, which is a first for an Aston Martin. A set of electronic adjustment controls is situated in the inboard bolsters of the two front seats.
Carrying the Vantage brand with pride, the V550 soon became the ultimate in British sports car desirability, even though it cost about £177,000 at introduction, translating to almost £440,000 today. Only 239 V8 Vantage V550s were produced throughout the manufacturing era of 1993 to 1999, making them very uncommon and sought-after both then and now.
Paul Spires, President of Aston Martin Works in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, the heritage home of the Aston Martin brand and the place where many of its most iconic models, including the V8 Vantage V550, were built by hand, said: “The V550 holds an extraordinary spot in my heart, as I know it does for the small band of lucky owners who possess one of these cars.
“I remember the car’s introduction and the enthusiasm that customers and dealership employees felt when the first customer automobiles were brought from Newport Pagnell thirty years ago.
How has the V8 Vantage V550 become a true modern classic? It’s rare to see one on the road, much less have the good fortune to drive one, so I’m thrilled that we at Aston Martin Works are still maintaining, repairing, and even restoring these remarkable vehicles.