Details

1978 ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE COUPÉ

Registration No. DPL 51T
Chassis No. V8VOR 12061
Engine No. V/540/2061/V
Blue with magnolia interior

Engine: V8, twin overhead camshafts, 5,341cc, 400bhp at 6,000 rpm (see text) ; Gearbox: five speed, all synchromesh, manual; Suspension: front, independent by double wishbones, with coil springs and telescopic dampers, and anti roll bar, rear, De Dion tube, with coil springs and telescopic dampers; Brakes: servo-assisted disc brakes all round. Right hand drive.
People who buy the Vantage will do so in the first place for its performance, and they will not be disappointed. But they should take extra heart because it is one of the easiest truly high-performance cars to drive, and to drive well: and it has been given brakes to match. In comfort, too, it has much to offer, and there is a great deal of what is best in the British tradition of designing and building sports cars in its making. Autocar, Road Test, April 1977.

The history of the development of the Vantage is recorded in the description for Lots 3 and 9, but this car represents, albeit in somewhat modified form, the origins of the model, and is one of just 172 that were built in the fourth series of V8 Aston Martins.

As noted in Christie’s interview with him in the preface to the catalogue, Elton’s first sports car was an Aston Martin, and he has always held the marque in high regard. With the announcement of the Vantage, it is certain that he could not resist the new model, but naturally in keeping with his flamboyant performing style, this was always destined to be a quite unique example, for it was originally supplied in Watford Football Club livery, of Mandarin yellow with black and maroon stripes. A manual car, it was sold through the longest-serving distributor of the marque, H.W.M. of Walton-on-Thames, and original options specified on the Aston Martin build-sheets were an electric sunroof, lockable fuel filler caps, and twin detachable head-rests for the front seats. It was first registered as ‘APA 165T’ in December 1978.
In the early years the Vantage was used very regularly, this included summer trips to the South of France on at least one occasion and naturally, as President of the Club would have been taken to Watford Football ground a number of times. As tastes changed it has been repainted a number of times, from the extraordinary original scheme, then it went to red and latterly to the current livery.
In its present guise, following a complete restoration by the Aston Martin works in the mid-1980s, the Vantage sports flared wheel arches and sill skirts, which are incorporated into the bodywork, and has 1987 series alloy wheels. In addition, at the time of its rebuild, the engine was also uprated to the contemporary Series 3 Vantage specification, and more recently it has been converted to run on unleaded fuel.
As the collection of Aston Martins grew, and the early Vantage was usurped by its successor, [Lot 9], Elton John gave this to his personal assistant Robert Halley, but later, when Halley decided to part with the car, Mr John bought it back for the collection, it was at this time that the car gained its current registration number.
Despite the change of ownership from and back to Elton, it was always maintained by the same combination of agents, initially being serviced by the suppliers H.W.M., and then under the supervision of Weybridge Automobiles by R.S. Williams. Service records note the mileage as being approximately 27,000 prior to the 1980s refurbishment, and since the car has covered 9,800 miles to the date of our inspection. Its condition is commensurate with this post-restoration mileage. With a current MoT certificate and road tax the car is ready for use on the road, and has the sensible modern precaution of a ‘Piranha’ burglar alarm.

This car holds a special place in Sir Elton John’s affections, and he refers to it as ‘The Beast’. When he first owned it in the 1980s, at a time when he was President of Watford football club, and his team were doing particularly well, it was painted in the team colours. Sir Elton told us ‘the car was yellow with a black and red stripe down it. A bit like an American car’. He also recalled Prince Philip saying ‘Oh it’s you who owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when we’re driving into the back of Windsor Castle. I’ve seen it so many times and thought’Who owns that ghastly car?’!’ Sir Elton John has used this car consistently, and has had a lot of enjoyment out of it. Recently he used it to get to a few concerts on the Country House Tour, 2000, he recalled that on one occasion. ‘We were going from Brighton to Southampton and we overshot Southampton we were going so fast. We went 10 miles past without realizing!’
Derek Baulcombe, Sir Elton’s main driver, and John Newman, his fleet manager, are both very keen on this car ‘The Beast’. Baulcombe feels that its nickname is very appropriate: ‘That Vantage sort of roars like a beast, as soon as you put your foot down’.

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