Can you remember when you last took notice of Jeremy Clarkson?
Shall I tell you? I bet it was the final feature of the final episode of series 13 of Top Gear, August 2009. Are you with me now? If not, take a 5 minute break and watch it here.
How on earth did JC record a full 4 minute mini feature film and yet managed only to utter 82 words. Has any other car before or indeed since, managed to virtually silence Jezza?
After highlighting the DBS V12 in AMQ Summer 2018 (read that article here), it is now time to look more closely at the V12 Vantage (VH280 to VH287B, six-speed manual 2010MY to 2013MY). Same engine, same gearbox, same brakes, same interior. It is as near as makes no odds, the same car but in a more compact package.
[Editors note: This article is republished with permission from Aston Martin Quarterly magazine and its authors Tim Cottingham and Chris Bolton. Please see full credit in footnote below. All photos are credited to Tim Cottingham]
Shortly before Christmas 2007, at a fancy party to introduce the new AML Design Centre, the wraps were pulled off the V12 Vantage RS Concept. Somehow, AML engineers had squeezed a dry-slumped Prodrive developed V12 into the space of the regular V8. The car was claimed to have 600bhp (now believed to be 580) and a claimed kerb weight of less than 1600kg, incredibly less than the 1630kg of the regular V8. Weight was saved by the extensive use of carbon-fibre including a featherweight bonnet, boot lid, interior trim and carbon ceramic brake discs. Power to weight ratio was claimed to be 375bhp per tonne, massively eclipsing the 233 of the 4.3 litre V8 Vantage. Even though the RS was only billed as a concept, it was a fully engineered car, driven in many articles in the auto press during 2008. Dr Bez hinted that if there was sufficient demand, such a car could go into limited production albeit at a premium price. Sadly the RS didn’t make production as it was as it would have been ferociously expensive. It would also have been blisteringly hot as there was no room to fit air conditioning.
Prototypes and Pre-production
Thankfully the idea persisted and the engineers eventually managed to package both a production spec V12 and air-conditioning into the compact VH2 (Vertical Horizontal 2) shell. The V12 Vantage was born.
AMHT are aware of ten discrete prototype or pre-production cars used during the initial development of the V12 Vantage although there were probably many more, most of which started out as V8 Vantage. So far as we are aware, only two have survived.
Three more prototypes were needed for the development of the 2012MY cars, perhaps one of which survives.
S00001 – S01376, excluding S00007
The production car was launched at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show; the suggestion was that production would be limited to only 1000 examples over a three year lifetime.
This was somewhat exceeded as 1199 were actually built, excluding the limited edition Roadster and later ‘S’ and ‘AMR’ cars. Whilst it’s easy to wag your finger at AML for dropping the 1000 limit, on this occasion it was a wise and fair move as we will point out a little later.
The car actually shown in Geneva was X61221, a late pre-production car with coachwork in Hammerhead Silver and Phantom Grey interior. This restrained cosmetic specification proved very popular with customers.
Some things from the RS were carried into production whist others did not. Of the features that didn’t make it, some resurfaced in the lighter, faster, GT12 in 2015. The RS tag absolutely was not carried over, maybe as it was a bit too ‘Porsche’ for an Aston Martin.
The 2010MY V12 Vantage was both less powerful and 80kg heavier than the RS but it was more civilised and comfortable than the pseudo race car concept. The quoted kerb weight of 1680kg was only 50kg greater than the V8, so long as the lightweight seats and Phantom Grey carpets plus the standard in car infotainment package were specified: Standard seats added 17kg, regular 900g carpet another 1.5kg and the thirteen speaker B&O audio, considerably more. The B&O might look swanky but it has a significant weight penalty.
The AM10 engine was almost identical to the AM08 from the DBS coupe (VH3) with only three changes having been made to the engine components in order for it to fit within the VH2 structure. The design of the wet sump was re-profiled losing 15mm depth as the VH2 front structure was originally designed for the dry sump V8. The oil filter mounting and water pump housing were also revised to suit the smaller engine bay. Finally, the AM10 engine and transmission oil systems were heavily modified including a rear-mounted oil cooler with a much increased capacity, sensible in a car that generates such a lot of heat in a confined space.
The front structure of the VH2 tub was extensively revised too so as to accommodate the V12 without affecting the exterior dimensions of the car. As well as the bigger V12 engine and its twin air intakes, the front structure needed to accept a new brake cooling system, and a relocated radiator tilted forward to create more space for the engine.
The V12 Vantage continued with the carbon-fibre propshaft within an aluminum torque tube similar to the DBS and also the mid-rear mounted Graziano six-speed manual gearbox. It borrowed the longer final drive ratio of 3.71:1 from the DBS, as opposed to the 3.909:1 on the V8 Vantage and larger 8-bar oil cooler. The weight saving and powerful Brembo carbon ceramic brakes were a straight carry over from the DBS.
The coachwork materials matched the contemporary V8 Vantage with the use of steel, aluminum and composite panels. The new carbon fibre front air dam was similar to the RS Concept while the bonnet vents of the RS became carbon fibre inserts onto the slightly bulged aluminum bonnet. The RS ‘pop-up’ rear spoiler didn’t make production: now we know it wasn’t even a functioning item; had it been so, it would have robbed precious boot space. So in place of the pop-up rear spoiler, the V12 Vantage gained a more pronounced lip to the edge of the boot lid. Extended side sills, similar but not absolutely identical to the 2008 N400 V8 Vantage were standard fit. For a while, the V12 was visually very easy to distinguish from the regular V8 but things became tricky from 2010 as firstly the V8 Vantage S and then the regular V8 Vantage also received the same more aggressive front air dam design and six bar grille.
Hand of drive and market spread
In common with all other Gaydon VH models, the ratio of hand of drive favours LHD cars. In fact even though the V12 Vantage was not initially available in North America, it did not affect the balance as seen with all other models. Production of right-hand drive cars reached 470 examples (39.2% of production) with sales in the UK, Australia Japan, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Left hand drive cars achieved 729 examples and were sold in 27 markets.
|Market||Production Numbers||Market||Production Numbers||Market||Production Numbers|
Two cars – BR, LUX, P, RC, RL
One car – CH, CZ, DK, GR, HR, N, RUS, S
Series production of the 2010 model year began during winter 2009 with the first production cars, all factory demonstrators, road registered from April 2009.
After only 103 2010MY cars were built, a slightly modified 2010.5MY car came in during September 2009 quickly followed by the 2010.75MY car in January 2010 with emission improvements for Euro5 compliance.
The 2010MY cars sold worldwide yet the vital North American (NA) market was not allowed access to the flagship car of the VH2 range. But pent up demand was high enough for AML to make the changes necessary for the V12 to be homologated for sale. The main change needed to satisfy the federal authorities was a modified crash structure, only seen on NA market cars. Consequently, bu the introduction of the 2011 model year the V12 Vantage was available worldwide. One thing of note was that the popular lightweight seats were not permitted on NA cars as these could not be fitted with the correct airbag sensors. Sadly this does make NA cars a little heavier.
2012MY cars are distinguished by the adoption on the Bosch beam blade windscreen wipers, new Garmin sat nav and optional coloured Brake calipers. From new, these were only available with a black finish whereas from 2012MY, introduced from August 2011, these could also be optionally specified in red, yellow or grey. The Piano Black centre console became standard fit instead of the alloy finish and new Pirelli P Zero tyres became a no-cost option instead of the track optimized P-Zero Corsa.
By the time that the car was replaced by the paddle shift V12 Vantage S in 2013, production had reached 1199 examples.
There were technically four ‘special editions’ of the car but two are so rare, you will probably never have heard of them before.
The most numerous of the special editions are the original series of Carbon Black cars. These un-numbered special edition cars were launched alongside the Carbon Black DBS shortly before Christmas 2009 with a very high level of specification for only a modest five percent price premium over the standard car. The cars were built to the same cosmetic specification with AML Carbon Black paint, obsidian black, silver stitched interiors, gloss black wheels with the lightweight seats all as standard. These cars were rather popular as 230 were sold, including 58 in the North American market (without the lightweight seats due to air bag issues) – two for Canada and 56 for the US. These cars were available over two and a bit model years, 2010.75MY, 2011MY and 2012MY.
In 2012, a single German specification 2012.25MY ‘Carbon Edition’ in Flame Orange was built and for a while we thought it was unique. More careful examination of the AMHT records shows a nearby block of 3 identical spec 2012.5MY cars in Flame Orange, two built for the US and one for the UK. Whilst AML records describe only the first as ‘Carbon Edition’, we are now confident that all four represent a special edition that would have been marketed alongside the DBS Carbon Edition but for reasons as yet unknown, never progressed. All four cars were sold and we expect perhaps of their current owners are aware of their history.
Also in 2012, a second version of the Carbon Black was offered which has some marked differences from the earlier cars. Firstly, this was a numbered limited edition of 40 examples, the USA market taking 28 of the cars, Japan (3), Australia (6) and a single example each for the German, Brazilian and Canadian markets. Unlike the original Carbon Black, the numbered edition could be specified in alternative colours than AML Carbon Black. It was also the first production car offered with the option of satin paint. The only European numbered Carbon Black was shown at the 2013 Geneva Show finished in Satin AML Carbon Black coachwork. Whilst the main specification of the later Carbon Black closely followed the earlier version, the two distinguishing features common to all numbered examples were the adoption of a black finished grille and black-coloured side window surrounds known as Day Light Opening (DLO) on spec information. Some call these cars ‘Carbon Black 2’ but this does not appear in any contemporary marketing material.
Another extreme rarity were the three cars produced immediately prior to the final production car. The Centenary Editions were all built in mid-2013 exclusively for the German market in Meteorite Silver with Deep Soft Obsidian black interior, silver stitching, numbered sill plates and Sterling Silver wing badges.
In total, 74 individual colours were used on the 1199 cars manufactured: 29 colours can be found only on a single car. The ten most popular colours were AML Carbon Black (260), Quantum Silver (146), Hammerhead Silver (138), Onyx Black (102), Meteorite Silver (99), Tungsten Silver (68), Lightning Silver (49), Morning Frost White (47), Storm Black (47) and Stratus White (36). When grouped together, Silver, which includes many metallic greys is the most common hue followed by black and then white.
The original V12 Vantage isn’t the halo car like its bigger brother, the DBS and James Bond never drove one either. But it is the same car packaged as a compact sportscar rather than a Grand Tourer. It’s every bit as desirable as the DBS especially knowing how difficult it must have been for the engineers to package the V12 into the compact VH2 shell. It’s not the RS, the car the engineers would have wanted, but it’s as close as in a less expensive, more practical and more discrete package than the later GT12. We think it’s an important car in the recent history of AML, exactly the sort of car worth saving your last gallon of petrol for.
Interested in learning the rare DBS Coupe Production Numbers? Tim Cottingham and Chris Bolton have allowed me to re-publish another of their Registrar’s Corner articles from Aston Martin Quarterly Magazine (with AMQ’s gracious permission as well). You can find that article here.
DBS V12 Volante
Interested in learning about the even rarer DBS V12 Volante Production Numbers? Tim Cottingham has published another Registrars corner in Aston Martin Quarterly Magazines Winter 2018 edition, and they have allow it to be republished with permission here (click here).
Interested in learning about the VH2 Vantage and all its variants including the V12s and AMR? Tim Cottingham posted a quick summary to the Aston Martin Heritage Trust (AMHT) Facebook group in April 2021. Rarest of them all was the AMR V12 Vantage Roadster with just 29 examples. Check out the information here.
Credit and Thank You!
I would like to thank Aston Martin Quarterly (AMQ) magazine (David Lewington is the editor) and the authors Tim Cottingham and Chris Bolton for graciously allowing me to reprint this article that originally appeared in the AMQ Spring 2020 Edition Volume 54 No 226 Registrar’s Corner feature on pages 14 through 17 (you can find the original magazine format of the article here).
Tim is the Aston Martin Heritage Trust registrar and keeper of the data. Tim also runs the great website AstonMartins.com (that you can find here) that is absolutely a wealth of resource for anyone interested in the marque. When I am on his site hours disappear as I read through the great information and photos. You should definitely check it out.
You can learn more about the AMOC (including how to join) at www.AMOC.org. AMQ magazine is one of the great benefits of membership and you can read more articles like this written by other Aston enthusiasts. I’ve been an AMOC member since I purchased my DB9 and recommend you check it out!