Living with the Vantage

I thought it was about time I wrote a little something about my experience of the Vantage, which was a car I had wanted to buy for a few years but had half given up on at this point.

I’ve owned the Vantage for just over a year now after buying it on a bit of a whim at probably the worst time of year to buy a ‘sports’ car. The salesman I had befriended at Grange had been sending me Vantages of varying shades of green and blue, as the only stipulations I had given him were that it had to be a manual car and in an interesting colour. I (and my friends who’d approved of the idea) had mostly given up hope when I couldn’t bring myself to sell my 190e and stick to the plan of buying and selling a car every 3-6 months and building up the fund each time.

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Can you believe it used to be even more yellow….?

After missing a call from the salesman I decided to have a look online and see what car had come into stock that he’d want me to see, and a bright yellow Vantage appeared – which I wasn’t expecting. After taking a drive up to Grange and walking around the car it was obvious that it was a special car, especially among the sea of grey, black and white cars. I was something of an easy target and a few days after driving the car I did the deal, after all when was I going to get a chance to buy a car like this again? Rather stupidly in my excitement I forgot most of my lessons in buying a car and didn’t check the car as thoroughly as I should have – though to be fair the salesman did spot a couple of items and had them corrected without me asking (though they should have been caught by the AM inspection, admittedly). As it turns out that excitement nearly bit me in the behind months later when I discovered that the tyres were all nearing or over a decade old and a discussion ensued as to whether a brand like Aston Martin should really be selling performance cars with tyres well past their best. Luckily the dealer sorted this after some persuasion.

After collecting the car in early December I barely used it for the next few months, being a little too precious about it and ‘saving it for best’. Early on in 2018 the battery failed whilst in the garage and parts of the centre console did too, meaning that the car had to be dragged out onto the back of a lorry and then taken to the dealership for them to diagnose. The centre console was fixed under warranty but apparently the battery was going to cost me well over £300 to replace, which is ludicrous, no matter the brand. I wasn’t best pleased with the dealer’s attitude towards it, though they didn’t consider the battery a serviceable item as I do. After getting the car back I had little faith in it, though I did promise myself to use it more in a hope to stave off more issues.

By the summer I had been using the car more regularly and had a decision to make about whether to take it to the Le Mans Classic or if I should take another car, as I didn’t trust it to make the distance to Le Mans and back with no major issues. I was convinced to take the car and in the end there were no big issues, though the TPMS did throw a fit now and again. The car drove perfectly and proved itself to be quite an accomplished GT car that provided plenty of comfort on the rather lovely roads down to Le Mans. It is a journey I would recommend to any petrolhead, as the calibre of cars that you see is incredibly high, and a highlight for me was coming out of a set of tolls next to a Testarossa which happily blasted off after giving me a thumbs up.

After returning from Le Mans I began using the car daily, and enjoying using it more. The more I drove it the more I realised that the Vantage really isn’t a sports car at all, its more suited to being a GT. It isn’t a slow car by any means, and it does sound good too, but dynamically it just isn’t there. The rear suspension acts like a pogo over a bumpy road and though I’ve heard much praise for the steering feel I’ve never really trusted it enough to give it much of a push down country lanes. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy driving the car, but rather that it isn’t what I expected it to be. The only gripes I have with the car is that the clutch is quite bad, and that the gearing on reverse means that unless you’re on level ground you’d better like the smell of burnt clutch. I’ve heard the twin plate clutch is a great upgrade so that will be planned at the appropriate time and I will just have to live with the lack of feel that comes as standard.

The Vantage is a special car, and is a special colour too. I’m also happy to admit that I quite enjoy the fact that the typical Aston owner is probably going to be displeased that the car is a ‘tasteless’ colour. It also isn’t an unreasonable proposition as a daily driver as the fuel economy happily reaches towards 24 MPG with ease*, and I made a round trip to Huddersfield and back (450 miles) on a single tank of fuel – with no real effort to conserve fuel until the last 20 miles. I haven’t bonded with it like I have with other cars, but I’m giving it a chance and using it plenty to see if I can dispel the idea that it is very much replaceable.

I will add one last point though – even when the dealer has let me down and frustrated me I have always found Andy Palmer incredibly helpful on Twitter. I find it both amazing and fantastic that the CEO of a company like Aston Martin has time to answer tweets from the ordinary customer like me, much less sort out the problems I’ve had. It is those sorts of actions that really do set a brand apart, so thank you Andy.

 

*As pointed out by a friend, I do realise that 24mpg isn’t great fuel economy for the average car but it works for me and I find it reasonable for this type of car!

New Arrival – 1986 Rover 3500 Vitesse 4.6l

Last week my pre-Christmas purchase finally arrived, though it was only held up due to the festivities and luckily the previous owner was as relaxed about it as I was. I’d been had forewarned by the owner that he hadn’t been able to get it running a week before I was due to collect (and pay for) it, though he had been using it previously so I was expecting it when the day finally came (even if my bid had been for a running and driving car), and he was a nice chap to deal with. Sadly no real paperwork came with the car which is a shame especially since it’s modified and I feel it has something of a story to tell – so if anyone knows this car or anything about it please don’t hesitate to drop me a message. I’m going to be digging into more about the engine as it is one of the reasons I bought the car and you don’t see 4.6 litre Rovers all that often. The car was also a rare twin plenum car originally apparently (one of which has been on my list to purchase for a while), though obviously that is something of a moot point now as the original engine is long gone. It’s a little sad that the car didn’t remain a twin plenum car, but at the same time it has ended up as something interesting and thats good enough for me.

The car was described as being solid but the paint being thin in places, and thats accurate though I’ll admit I was hoping for it not to be quite so thin on hard edges that you can see through it, and dull everywhere else. I have little doubt that a good polish will help it look a whole lot better and the other paintwork can be done in time, though it isn’t too much of a worry as this car will be used and not a garage queen. The door cards aren’t fitted and there is no headlining, so those will be on the shortlist to complete to make the car useable, and it could also use a good deep clean inside and out, along with an inspection, service and whatever else we find along the way that needs fixing.

We got around to getting it running a couple of days after the car arrived and I walked into the workshop just in time to see it spitting flames from the exhaust (after hearing the racket from outside). It isn’t the greatest sign for the engine but it did entertain me and as it was the first time I saw the car running I felt it was something of an introduction to what will surely be a big character among our cars. I caught the flames on video and you can see them below along with a few extra images from the original listing and a few I have taken since it arrived.

Specs:

  • 1986 Rover Vitesse Twin Plenum
  • 4.6 litre Serpentine engine
  • T5 gearbox
  • Revolution RFXs
  • Rimmer’s stainless steel exhaust and manifolds
  • Gaz adjustable shocks

 

Renault 17 Gordini – running at last!

Its now been 13 months since I updated this page and the little Renault has been in storage for all of that time and not been touched while other projects have been completed. Since the old man picked up a new Alpine for himself he’s been reinvigorated to get this project started and so the car was brought out of storage early this week. Everything has been gone through and checked to make the starting process as painless as possible, just so we would know how well the car runs and what sort of condition the engine is in.

As it turns out the engine is actually quite sweet and sounds fairly throaty! Looking forward to getting this car back on the road and having a drive, and happy that we’ve finally started it too!

1974 Jaguar XJ6 Manual

Monday 12th March 2018

So our Jaguar XJ6 has just arrived, sight unseen and I was pretty excited personally, this is a rare manual car and also a one owner car with only 46,000 miles on it. It certainly sounds like a winner and the arrival was a pleasant surprise as the car is solid after all those years in dry storage and also in good condition throughout too, though it needs a good wash. This car has been lightly recommissioned by the previous owner though we’re expecting some work and won’t know exactly what until we’ve had it up in the air.

Monday 19th March 2018

We’ve finally gotten round to giving the XJ6 a wash and gotten it back into the workshop for a quick look, and we’ll have it up in the air tomorrow. The paint isn’t in the greatest of condition as we expected, and the brightwork will need rechroming too. We’ve had the car running as you can see in the video below and its fair to say she isn’t running at her best – yet.

 

The London Classic Car Show 2018

I can’t believe a year has passed since I visited the London Classic Car Show at the ExCeL in London, but somehow it has. The show seemed to be a little smaller perhaps this year, though the layout was different so I could easily be mistaken. As alway there were many fantastic cars to see and many for sale also. I didn’t spend so much time watching the parade this year though what I did see did look fantastic also, especially since there were a couple of very non-original cars included in the line up.

I’ve included a gallery of some of my photos from the day below, this is an event that is well worth attending for anyone who likes classic cars.

New Year’s Day: Brooklands

Well it is now 2018, and before work beckoned we managed to drive round to Brooklands Museum yesterday afternoon for their New Year’s Day car meet. We arrived late, and missed the bulk of the visiting classic cars. We did have a great time and there were still many fantastic and individual cars on show when we got there. I’ve included a gallery below of some of my personal favourites for you to (hopefully) enjoy. This was the first time I’ve been to an event like this at Brooklands, and I can easily say that I will definitely go again, it really is a special place with a great atmosphere which is just perfect for classic cars.

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Happy New Year!

I just wanted to write a quick blog post before all of the festivities get underway wishing a Happy New Year to everyone who follows us on social media, checks our website or has bought a car from us. Its been a good year for us and I personally am looking forward to another year full of interesting cars, people and stories. Hopefully some of our big plans for the coming year will be able to go ahead and make for some interesting reading for all of you. We’re going to be organising more car meets this year to try and raise some money for charity and hopefully we’ll see more and more people attending and more money being raised for good causes along with our own annual donation in March.

We’ve been clearing out a few of our projects in the last couple of months to make some room for more interesting and creative things (some of which will be a surprise), though we’ve still got a few big projects to complete before these get underway. We are also happy to discuss taking on outside projects, so if you’ve got one that you’re considering then please do get in touch. You can head over to our projects page and find out what is still going on and follow the progress on these both on our website and on social media.

Once again Happy New Year, I hope it will be a good one for all of us.

Our Week: 6th – 12th November

Its been something of a hectic week here, with new cars arriving, others being painted and our lovely MK1 Escort Mexico replica being sold.

First up is our Sunbeam Alpine, which is now being built back up after being repainted, and I was a little wowed when I saw it come out after being painted, as it really does help to complete the car, which is sure to be a head turner. I can’t wait to get out for a drive in it and share the end result with anyone who is happy to read my ramblings.

Also in the workshop is our very low mileage Pre HE Jaguar XJS which I’ve nicknamed ‘The Penguin’ (I’m sure you can appreciate why). The car was in long term storage with its original owner (which is how it accounts for the low mileage) before being sold and the new owner ‘recommissioned’ the car to a fairly low standard before we bought it. There were a lot of imperfections in the bodywork and paintwork which are now being corrected. This is going to be a fantastic car and they engine bay is receiving the same treatment, as well some much needed attention to help cure a misfire.

We finally pulled the Renault Alpine GTA out of storage to send it off to paint only to find out that no one wants to touch the glass work or even the rubber seals, as they are impossible to find for these cars, so the project has been delayed somewhat. If you know of anyone who specialises in Renault Alpines then please let me know.

I was very excited by the arrival of three (long awaited) American pick-up trucks, who are to be sold on behalf of a long time family friend. The last time I saw these trucks was when they were bought around five years ago, and I know that they haven’t done much since. All three vary greatly and to me, that is a fantastic thing. I’ve only managed to drive one of them so far but it surprised me by how well it drove. That truck is the 1935 Dodge KC 1/2 ton pick up that is fitted with a later Slant-6 engine and even NOS! The other two trucks are also special, with the hot-rodded Chevrolet 3100 Stepside catching the eye – and ear – very easily, I can’t wait to take it out for a drive. The final truck is a rat-rod International Harvester that is also very modified. A full description for each truck can be found on our current stock page.

 

There are also three other new listings on our website. An MG B convertible project that is very solid and should be going for an MOT at some point in the near future, it needs attention to its paint and bodywork but runs and has a good interior. Also listed is a rather fun MG B V8 ‘track car’ that is road legal and will also be MOTd before being sold, it looks pretty special too, so its worth having a look at the photos. Finally we have my favourite of the listings in the form of this stunning 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe, it is a fantastic little car and drives just as beautifully as it looks.

I managed to spend a day at the NEC at the Lancaster Classic Car Show yesterday which proved to be even more enjoyable than expected, even if most areas were rammed to the rafters. There were some simply fantastic cars on display and it was great to be able to catch up with our friends at The Market (www.themarket.co.uk) and I even managed to chat with the man who looks after George Harrison’s old Mercedes 500 SEL.

To cap off what has been a pretty great week our MK1 Ford Escort Mexico replica has just left for its new home, and more importantly it is going to the right home where it will be loved and enjoyed. I’ll certainly miss this car and plenty of my colleagues will too. I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend!