Twenty years ago, the first customer received the keys to their new V12 Vanquish. Without extras, the two-seat coupé (there was also a 2+2) cost £158,000. By the time production of the model and its sister car, the more powerful V12 Vanquish S, ended in 2007, just 2600 examples had left Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory. This modest number helps explain why, today, prices for good used Vanquishes start at a solid £60,000. At the other extreme, the best cars cost at least twice that.
With a monster 5.9-litre V12, in a choice of standard 460bhp or 520bhp S forms, heroic thirst and even more heroic servicing bills, you would imagine it’s a rich person’s occasional toy. But a surprising number of cars advertised have done close to 50,000 miles, while one we found, a 2003-reg manual, has done 94,000 (it costs £55,000). Its owner has had it for 15 years, during which time it’s had what he calls a few ‘Aston Martin moments’ but nothing serious. “Cars like the Vanquish need to be driven regularly, and mine proves they can take it,” he says. His experience supports what Terry Couzens of Vantage Engineering says about the Vanquish being reliable and easily up to the rigours of daily driving, even if you must nurse the clutch in town.
The model marked a new chapter in Aston Martin’s story. It was a very modern sports car with a bonded aluminium chassis built around a carbonfibre transmission tunnel. Elements of traditional craftsmanship remained in the hand-finished aluminium body panels and the engine, which bears the name of its builder. Of course, this hand-built aspect means no two Vanquishes are quite the same, and all require painstaking examination to establish their condition. If you don’t feel up to the job, consider having an independent Aston Martin engineer such as Rikki Cann (rikkicann.com) inspect the car for you.
Both regular and S versions (the latter was launched in 2004) send their power to the rear wheels via a semi-automatic gearbox. It’s a reliable ’box, apart from gear position sensor issues on early cars, but nevertheless, quite a few owners had their cars converted to manuals, a job Aston Martin Works, among others, was happy to perform. As this was written, around half of the Vanquishes we found advertised had a manual ’box, so it’s popular – but we’d prefer a car with the standard automated manual gearbox.
You can tell regular and S models apart by the latter’s aerodynamic splitter, revised grille and spoiler and a leather-covered centre console. Regarding options, the Sports Dynamic Pack, launched in 2003 for 460bhp cars but standard on S models and which comprised uprated suspension and brakes, is worth seeking out. The Linn sound system of 2003 is desirable, while the few 2+2 cars fetch higher prices.
Production ended with the Vanquish S Ultimate Edition, a 50-off special with unique paint and interior trim. Whichever version tempts you, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience.