The Aston Martin DB7-----Born Out Of The Time When Ford Owned Aston, Based On A 30-Odd Year-Old Car, But It's Still Sort Of Okay. Got Better As Time Went On.....
Ah, the Aston Martin DB7……..Oh how I dislike this thing, with looks Annoyingly similar to the Fisker Karma, which came well after the DB7’s end, and then based on a car which was, at the time of the DB7’s release, 21 years old, otherwise known as the Jaguar XJS, making it, more or less, about as modern as what a XJS could be when compared to say, the F-Type, but still, could be worse, I suppose.
Anyway, enough with my hate, on with the car.
The DB7, known internally as the NPX project, was made mostly with resources from Jaguar and had the financial backing of the Ford Motor Company, owner of Aston Martin from 1988 to 2007. The DB7’s platform was an evolution of the Jaguar XJS’s, though with many changes, apparently. Still, even the changes wouldn’t detract from the fact that the platform was an evolution of a 20 Year Old Car. The styling started life as the still-born Jaguar F-Type (XJ41 – coupe / XJ42 – convertible, and don’t confuse it with the Modern-Day F-Type) designed by Keith Helfet. Ford cancelled this car and the general design was then grafted onto an XJS platform. Why they did so, nobody knows, but probably because they just wanted to cut costs anywhere and everywhere they could. The styling then received modest changes by Ian Callum so that it looked like an Aston Martin, and not a Jag on which it was sort of based on. The first-gen Jag XK-8 also used an evolution of the XJS/DB7 platform and the cars share a family resemblance, though the Aston Martin was significantly more expensive and rare. A 40 Grand difference back then in the UK between the DB7 and XK8, in fact.
The DB7 was engineered in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, by Tom Walkinshaw Racing on behalf of Aston Martin. The engines continued to be built in Kidlington during the production run of the vehicle.
With production of the Virage (soon rechristened “V8” following Vantage styling revisions) continuing at Newport Pagnell, a new factory was acquired at Bloxham, Oxfordshire that had previously been used to produce the Jaguar XJ220, where every DB7 would be built throughout its production run. The DB7 and its relatives were the only Aston Martins produced in Bloxham and the only ones with a steel unit construction inherited from Jaguar (Aston Martin had traditionally used aluminium for the bodies of their cars, and models introduced after the DB7, such as the DB9, used aluminium for the chassis as well as for many major body parts).
The convertible Volante version was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1996. Both versions had a revised version of the 3.2 Variant of Jag’s AJ6 Straight-Six, and with a Supercharger, producing 335 bhp and 361 lb·ft of torque, built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing on Aston’s behalf, shoved under the hood. In the United States, the Coupé sold for $140,000, and the Volante for $150,000. Works Service even provided a special ‘DB7 Driving Dynamics Package’, which would greatly enhance performance and handling for drivers who wanted more than what the standard configuration offered. At least, that’s what the adverts would tell you. Whether or not that would compensate for a 1750 kilo kerbweight, nobody knows….
But, in 1999, the DB7 got what it could have been screaming out for: A V12. Shown at the Geneva Motor Show that year, the 5.9-litre, 48-Valve(Seems like a pretty big number), V12 was actually, believe it or not, two Ford Duratec V6’s, stuff you’d find in a Ford Mondeo of the time, presumably, although it had Cosworth-made Aluminium Heads and Engine Blocks. The engine served up 420 bhp and 400 lb-ft of Torque. A Tremec T-56 6-Speed Manual or, if you wanted to cruise on Motorways to, say, the South of France, instead of hammering down B-Roads at whatever time suited your fancy, a ZF 5HP30 5-Speed Auto(Known in Aston speak as a ‘Touchtronic’ Gearbox) would be used to deal with the power and torque.
But the engine wasn’t all that received changes…
In addition to the new powertrain, the Vantage model had more aggressive styling than the original car, with a bigger front grille, new fog/side/indicator lights and imposing 18” wheels shod in Bridgestone S02 tyres. The interior leather trim was cut and sewn at a special trim shop at Newport Pagnell along with Wilton Carpet for the flooring and choice of wood veneer or carbon fibre facia panels.
In 2002 the GT and GTA (The Touchtronic-Equipped model) joined the DB7 line-up. 190 GT’s and 112 GTA’s were built, they featured Bonnet vents, ‘framed’ wire grilles with the GT insignia, unique 5 spoke wheels and a re-sculptured lip spoiler on the boot lid. Other improvements included a twin plate clutch, uprated suspension, brakes(355 mm on the front, 330 mm on the back, some say) with the same brake booster you’d find in the Vanquish, and special under trays to improve aerodynamics. Power was even increased by a further 15bhp to 435bhp on the manual GT model, with the GTA developing 420bhp. Possibly because the GTA’s transmission might not be able to handle all that extra horses….But, when given a GT, and the TG Test Track to use, Jeremy would demonstrate the fact that you could Actually leave the car in 4th when pulling away, and it’d still accelerate to 135 mph WITHOUT changing gears.
In the ‘Normal’ V12 Vantage DB7(Ultra-Confusing, I know), Aston claimed that it’d hit 186 mph with the Manual, and 165 with the Auto, and 0-60 arriving in 4.9(Aston’s site says 5 Seconds Dead) seconds after setting off. That said, Car and Driver could only get the Vantage coupe they tested to 182 mph. Well then, Aston’s claims are about as vague as ever, then….Aston’s site claims that the Vantage weighed 1780 kilos, and 1875 in the Volante, by the way.
Of course, because it’s Aston, there were numerous special-edition DB7’s made throughout it’s production life:
There was a ‘Alfred Dunhill’ edition,50 “platinum metallic” cars with a built-in humidor(God knows what the hell that is)
There was a ‘Neiman-Marcus’ edition,——-10 special black cars for the 1998 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue
There was a ‘Stratstone Edition’,—-19 special black cars, 9 coupes and 10 Volantes
And there was a ‘Beverly Hills’ edition—-6 “Midnight Blue”, 2 coupes and 4 Volantes
Now, that’s only for the Original I6 model, there are still special editions for the V12…
There was a Jubilee Limited Edition, made to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth The Second,
There was a Keswick Limited Edition, painted ‘Nero Black Daytona’, nobody knows how many were produced,
And a Anniversary Edition, released in 2003, painted in ‘Slate Blue’, just to mark the end of DB7 Production.
But, that’s Still not the end, as there are two Special Variants left…
This is the first of the two, the DB7 Zagato. Introduced in 2003, the DB7 Zagato rekindled the relationship between Aston Martin and Italian coachbuilder Zagato, which had started with the iconic DB4 GT Zagato in 1961. This very special coupe was built as a strictly limited production run of only 99 cars and was only available in the UK, Europe and South East Asia.
The unique steel bodyshell featured a distinctive, large front grille aperture, and the signature Zagato ‘double bubble’ roof line with sculptured rear window. The rear end was completely unique and had single round tail lights and a drop down boot lid. Zagato styled 5 spoke alloy wheels and a unique Analine leather interior completed the striking looks of this very special car. DB7 Zagato used a 440bhp version of the DB7 GT engine coupled to the 6-Speed Manual found on the standard Vantage’s and GT’s.
The second of the two variants was the DBAR1.
Due to homologation problems the DB7 Zagato was not offered to the US market. To satisfy the demand created by the coupe, a special ‘roadster’ version was styled by Zagato, using the standard DB7 Volante chassis to overcome ‘type approval’ issues. Called the ‘DB American Roadster 1’ (DB AR1) the open-top model was built after the coupe and in fact final assembly was completed at the new Gaydon plant alongside the first DB9’s.
Unlike the coupe the DB AR1 used the standard 6.0-litre V12(5.9-Litre to some) from the DB7 Vantage with the ‘Touchtronic’ Auto. Styling was very similar to the DB7 Zagato with the same large grille and twin cowls behind the front seats tapering into the trunk lid, echoing the design cues of the ‘double bubble’ roof design from the coupe. Designed with a sunnier climate in mind (the car was only available in the USA) the AR1 had no roof or hood covering at all – just a simple rain cover to protect the leather interior when parked. Wow, that’s…Brave. And sort of useless.. Of course, both cars were limited to 99 examples…
Well then, so if it Does rain, and it will, if its the UK, just drive faster.
So, then, to conclude. The DB7 was another Aston born out of the time Ford owned Aston. It was a car which started out in life as a Jag concept, then got axed, then was taken to Ian Callum for styling revisions, then grafted onto the XJS Platform, a platform which was already, more than 15-Years-Old, although, of course, not without reinforcements and things like that, then fitted with a Supercharged Straight-Six, and then sent out the door. Of course, it didn’t take long for that idea to change, with the arrival of the V12-Equipped Vantage variant, where the V12 would later be used in pretty much every other Aston ever since, from DB9 to Rapide, and V12 Vantage to DBS. It was, by no means, ugly, but, in comparison to its successors, it doesn’t look as good as it would’ve back in the ‘90’s.
And on THAT Bombshell, you’ve just finished reading my article on the Aston Martin DB7, another Aston born out of the time Ford owned the company, another Aston which had its power increase as time went on, another Aston which has appreciated quite a lot over the past few years, as these things can now fetch prices of anywhere over 25 Grand to, and I swear I’m not joking, over 300 Grand in the UK. So, if you do want to buy one of these, my Top Tip is to go armed with A LOT of cash. Feel free to leave suggestions and advice and overlooked details down below, and I hoped you enjoyed it.
See you at the next one.