When Sandy and Mark Rodrigues decided an Aston Martin was for them, they went right to the classified ads in the newspaper to look for one. After all, industrialist David Brown did the same in 1947 while looking for investment opportunities, and he ended up buying Aston Martin itself. And so a 1966 Aston Martin DB6 came to the newlyweds in London back in 1974.
Years later, the DB6 was left behind when the Rodrigueses en famille came to America, but in 2000 Mark Rodrigues cruised by Chequered Flag, a well-known Los Angeles dealership for used exotics. (It’s still in business.) And when he saw this 1979 Aston Martin V8 Volante, he realized he and Sandy were still Aston Martin people. Unrestored yet faithfully maintained, this car with its Madagascar brown paint and tan interior has driven up and down California and even won a few concours events. Now it’s more likely to make a run to the grocery store, yet driving is still its primary mission.
From its muscular aluminum bodywork to the 5.3-liter engine under the hood, the Aston Martin V8 is like a British-built Mustang, right down to its faintly coarse but irresistible personality. The Aston Martin V8 even comes from the Mustang era. Once David Brown had spent lots of money in the 1950s on reestablishing Aston Martin’s reputation with sports car racing (famously by winning the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans with driver Carroll Shelby), in the 1960s he was ready to cash in by building an American-style 2+2 GT car.
In 1963 Brown commissioned Tadek Marek, Aston Martin’s Polish-born engine designer, to create a V-8, and got an all-aluminum, 5.3-liter DOHC V-8 with fuel injection, as if it were a high-tech version of a Corvette 327-cubic-inch V-8 sent down from heaven. The Aston Martin engineering specialists gave Brown a chassis with double-wishbone suspension in front and a high-tech, De Dion solid axle with coil springs for the rear, plus Girling disc brakes at every corner. Then Carrozzeria Touring was asked to design and build a body, just as it had done with the DB4, DB5, and DB6.
After that, bad things happened. First, the Touring-built prototypes displayed at car shows in 1966 were unimpressive, so Aston Martin designer William Towns stepped in at the last minute. He had helped create the aerodynamically sound but notoriously ugly 1964 Rover-BRM turbine racing car, yet nevertheless produced a wonderfully proportioned car inspired by the GTs then pouring out of Italy. Then the test versions of the Marek V-8 blew up in the back of the John Surtees-driven Lola T70 MkIII at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 1967, just four months before the new Aston Martin’s scheduled introduction. So the Aston Martin DBS debuted in October 1967 with the DB6’s inline-six engine, just in time to be featured in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969). Finally the DBS V8 arrived in 1969, but it was too late, as the worldwide economy had fallen into turmoil. David Brown ultimately sold his car company in 1972.
Out of this troubled beginning as the DBS V8, a renamed and slightly restyled car appeared in 1972 as the Aston Martin V8 (AM V8), which is essentially the car we see here. And while Aston Martin struggled to survive under different ownership teams over the next two decades, the AM V8 endured in its various forms from 1972 to 1989, which surely must be some kind of record.
The 1979 Aston Martin V8 Volante is part of the third series of AM V8 configurations, and it’s known informally as the “Oscar India” car, code-named for its introduction on October 1, 1978. Both coupe and convertible examples incorporate the blanked-off hood scoop, new trunklid, and rear fenders to accommodate the rear spoiler, plus walnut-burl trim for the interior. Widely anticipated before its introduction in mid-1978, the Volante has a power-operated, fully lined convertible top that was a miracle of convenience and luxury in the 1970s.
Most of all, the AM V8 is the car David Brown had in his imagination in 1963. It is expressive yet fundamentally understated, very much the thing for people of quiet achievement. The Aston Martin AM V8 is a sports car, with a DOHC V-8 and a ZF-built five-speed manual transmission. It’s also a luxurious touring car, thanks to its Connolly leather upholstery and relatively spacious cockpit. It’s relatively fast (140 mph-plus for the convertible; 150 mph for the coupe), although not particularly quick (4100 pounds). And when you drive this car with its 1970s styling, everyone wants to touch it. Like so many other Aston Martins, the AM V8 has overcome its troubled beginnings and become collectible, perhaps because the power of the Aston Martin brand always prevails.
- Engine 5.3L (326 cu-in) DOHC V-8, 305 hp
- Transmission 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
- Drive Rear-wheel
- Front Suspension Wishbones, coil springs
- Rear Suspension De Dion axle, coil springs
- Brakes F/R Disc/disc
- Weight 4100 lb
- Years Produced 1972-1989
- Number Sold 2390
- Original Price $52,250-$71,835 (NADA)
- Value Today $51,500-$245,000 (Hagerty)
A 150-mph GT car then and a 150-mph GT car now, the Aston Martin V8 drives with perfectly understated British style. Often disdained in period for its Mustang-style forcefulness, the AM V8’s ponycar personality is in vogue now, and you don’t have to look farther than the current Aston Martin V8 Vantage for proof. The Aston Martin brand itself is very active in club events both in Great Britain and America, and many opportunities exist for motorsport viewing (24 Hours of Le Mans) or simple wining and dining. As with any hand-built car, repairs can be seriously expensive, but brand and club representatives take a personal interest in providing guidance. Best of all, Aston Martin has become a powerful British brand, and its authenticity, heritage, and sheer style speak to boys and girls, men and women. Then, as now, an Aston Martin is a Ferrari at a price that mere mortals can afford.