Last week I said we should try your Lamborghini knowledge. By
the way, it is “Lamborgeenee”, not “Lamborjeenee”. The fore-runner of the Espada
was the Marzal which was displayed for the first time at the 1967 Geneva Motor
Show and was the show-stopper (it was, I was there and sat in it). I asked last
week what were the main differences between the Marzal show car and the Espada
production car? The answer was that the Marzal was mid-engined 2 liter straight
six, while the Espada was front engined 4 liter V12. The Espada came out in 1968
and production stopped in 1978 after 1217 Espadas had been made.
So to this week. The De Lorean had stainless steel panels. Which current vehicle
has a stainless steel panel too?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Afternoon with an Aston
As a car company, Aston Martin has had a chequered history,
garnering many motor racing wins, and unfortunately, almost as many owners.
By 1926, Lionel Martin had lost control of his company to a W.S. Renwick and
an A.C. Bertelli. In 1933 it was saved from extinction by a titled
gentleman, Sir Arthur Sutherland KBE, and again in 1947 by the wealthy
industrialist David Brown. After David Brown, there was a succession of
owners on the Aston Martin letterhead until it was Ford Motor Company, who
had also picked up Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover, and then put all these
brands together under the Premier Automotive Group (PAG) umbrella.
But it was not to end there. Aston Martin was again in the news this year, when
in March Aston Martin announced the start of a new chapter in its illustrious
history following the financial news that the prestigious sports car
manufacturer had been sold by Ford to a consortium led by David Richards of the
British Prodrive company, John Sinders a wealthy investor and an Aston Martin
owner, and two Saudi Arabian venture capitalists Investment Dar and Adeem
Investment, to end almost twenty years as part of Ford Motor Company.
In a blow to BMW, Aston Martin was again chosen as James Bond’s personal vehicle
in the latest Bond movie Casino Royale. Remember the multiple roll-over when
James has to avoid Vesper Lynd, lying on the road. Far from destroying one
pristine Aston Martin DBS, the shot took four very tatty development hack DB9’s
to complete, and a couple of BMW 5 Series.
The stunt was done at 120 km/h and once the Aston hit the grass, it dug in and
just kept rolling, shedding pieces of bodywork and a wheel until it came to
rest, right side up, lights still twinkling and established a new Guinness World
Record for the most cannon rolls in a car. An astonishing seven complete turns.
The stunt driver was also unhurt!
However, enough of the movie make-believe. Here is the real deal. An Aston
Martin DB9 Volante. To begin with, this is no fancy bodywork slapped over a
pedestrian saloon. This is a purpose-designed and built open sports coupe.
Enginewise, the DB9 sports a six litre V12 which is, as tradition would demand,
up front, but brought as far back as possible to end up with a 50/50 weight
distribution between front and rear axles. This is Aston Martin’s own engine,
but has been re-engineered for the DB9, with a new crankshaft, cams, manifold,
and engine-management system for more midrange torque. For a relatively light
car, coming through the extensive use of aluminium, the torque figure of 567 Nm
is more than enough to keep a push in your back through to its top whack of a
smidgin under 300 km/h.
The habitacle is fairly typical Aston Martin, in being presented as a 2+2
option, but the 147 mm longer wheelbase means there is a little more room,
mainly for the driver and front passenger. The front and rear bucket seats are
also swathed in the obligatory leather, giving that wonderful smell on opening
the doors; however, the rears are suitable for legless midgets only.
Driving this car was an experience. To test such a machine, you cannot take it
on public roads to experience the full capabilities, so it was taken to the
Prince Bira International circuit just outside Pattaya. And it rained, to make
the test even more exciting.
I can vouch for the rigidity of the open-top body, no scuttle shake being
evident at any time, and is really a tribute to the V-H chassis. The seats were
firm, but you would not need to be over 90 kg, as it could get ‘squeezy’.
If you floor the accelerator, the engine note changes from a throaty purr to an
absolute growl, and with almost 450 bhp or 335 kW you will reach 100 km/h in
under five seconds. Make no mistake, this is a super-car.
The ZF semi-manual six-speed gearbox can be used like a manual, but without a
clutch pedal. It has all the electronic ‘smarts’ so that when you are
downshifting it gives the engine that professional ‘blip’ to synchronize the
revs, and if you insist, it will hold any gear right the way through to
red-line. Even on the race track, the electronics knew when to hold the gear and
all I had to do was steer the car between the walls!
On the down-side, the low roofline means that taller drivers will be rubbing on
the underside of the roof, and there are many blind spots. A very low seating
position also means that the driver does not see all the bonnet, and similar to
the E-Type Jaguars, I am sure many DB9’s will get dented noses. And no, I
If you are looking for exclusivity, a super-car with history, and a vehicle that
turns heads. The DB9 Volante is for you.
Just one small matter left. You will need around 22 million baht in the piggy