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Aston Martin DB7

Seventh Heaven Published: 11th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Aston Martin DB7

Fast Facts

  • Best model: V12 GT
  • Worst model: Anything tatty
  • Budget buy: DB7 Auto (six)
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): mm L 4620 x W 1820
  • Spares situation: Getting patchy
  • DIY ease?: No, not really!
  • Club support: Usual AMOC
  • Appreciating asset?: Moving on up
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Only if you buy well
Without doubt the DB7 is one of the best looking Astons ever but sadly body rot can be surprisingly bad, especially after ‘02 cars where underseal wasn’t applied as standard Without doubt the DB7 is one of the best looking Astons ever but sadly body rot can be surprisingly bad, especially after ‘02 cars where underseal wasn’t applied as standard
Tyres and rims are critical Tyres and rims are critical
headlamps used to be scarce but now okay headlamps used to be scarce but now okay
A nicer environment than the XK8 we reckon although it’s as tight. Trim stamina isn’t up to Porsche levels so watch for deterioration. Ford bits mean that some repairs are cheap A nicer environment than the XK8 we reckon although it’s as tight. Trim stamina isn’t up to Porsche levels so watch for deterioration. Ford bits mean that some repairs are cheap
Although the 3.2 ‘blown’ engine is XJR-based it’s not the same as Aston used a racing block. Like the V12, it’s a tough unit if looked after and can be maintained by Jag specialists Although the 3.2 ‘blown’ engine is XJR-based it’s not the same as Aston used a racing block. Like the V12, it’s a tough unit if looked after and can be maintained by Jag specialists
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Much more than a the ‘Jag in drag’ the DB7 is the most affordable Aston of them all as well as being arguably the best looking! What more could you ask for?

Pros & Cons

Super looks, good value with containable running costs, appreciating asset, a true Aston Martin
Middling ‘six’ automatics, too many tatty examples, reliability issues, XK8 rivalry?

Take a Jaguar XJ-S, tune and improve it plus give it a body to die for (one the XJ-S always lacked) and what have you got? No, not the XK8 but the Aston Martin DB7! Launched a couple of years before the Jag, although the cars look and appear similar – and were both owned by Ford – they were developed and produced by seperate companies. Although no pastiche, the DB7 was designed to rekindle happy memories of the lean and mean DB4 – days before Aston started to big-up and bulk-up their cars. The resultant DB7 certainly did that, not least due to the input of important big wigs in the industry; Sir Jackie Stewart, legendary Aston Martin racer Innes Ireland, David Brown himself and not forgetting the Aston Martin Owners Club… They all had a vital role to play in making the DB7 (a car fi rst mooted years before by Aston boss and massive car enthusiast Victor Gauntlett), a reality. A new Aston is always a major happening and even Rolls-Royce wanted to get involved and painted the cars! As a ‘new DB4’ the DB7 ticked all the right boxes, while it also gained a new fanbase – women! Whereas Astons of old were always regarded as ‘mens’ motors, the svelte lines of the DB7 plus its modern ease of driving, marked it out as a prestige GT for anybody, so long as they had the money that is – try £78,000 for starters. Today you can pick up a DB7 for a quarter of this and not be fi nancially ruined either. The DB7, with its mix of Ford components and Jaguar hardware, is just about the only Aston Martin most of us can afford to buy and run.


What fi rst started off as a vague idea in 1987 fi nally made it to the showrooms in 1994, thanks largely to Ford and the late Tom Walkinshaw who rebuilt Jaguar’s reputation on the race tracks (winning Le Mans three times), and developed and built the Aston at his TWR factory. Based upon the XJ-S, but extensively modifi ed, the DB7 was more than just a dressed up Jaguar – as many would have you believe. It was initially available in coupe form only; it wouldn’t be until 1996 that the high style Volante soft top would appear, complete with a powered fabric roof. Power came from a supercharged Jaguar straight six – but it’s not the normal XJR unit. No, for the Aston it was based upon a downsized 3.2, but Walkinshaw employed a thicker block that was used in racing to enable the supercharger to be used at full pelt, producing 335bhp (4-litre XJR is rated at 321bhp). If those six-cylinder DB7s had been the entrée, the V12-engined Vantage that arrived in 1999 was the main dish – and very tasty too. Once the DB7had become established, experimental cars included a V12 GT that could have instigated a one make series and a V8 racer that failed to qualify at Le Mans. However logic dictated that as the XJ-S platform was originally designed as a V12 – and as Aston already had such an engine – the DB7 V12 Vantage was the answer, all six-litre 420bhp of it! From the outset, this replacement for the straight six model was offered in both coupé and Volante forms. Things ticked over nicely for three years, but by 2002 there was a run-out DB7 on sale, called the GT. There was also an automatic edition available, wearing GTA badges. Both were really Vantage-tuned models under a GT name. In the same year, the DB7 Zagato also made its debut, but no cars were delivered until 2003 – and even then, a mere 99 examples were constructed. The fi nal fl ourish came in 2003, when the Zagato-bodied Vantage Volante was unveiled; the DB AR1. Just 99 were made, aimed at the American market, although eight European cars were produced. All of these featured left-hand drive, apart from one. The fi nal DB7s (10th anniversary models) were also built in 2003, just before the DB9 came along.


Cynics called the DB7 the ‘XJ7’, a Jag in drag due to its Browns Lane hardware, but the Aston enjoys its own identity over the XK8 even if in terms of pace there’s not much in it. The ‘six’ DB7 is slightly faster than an XK8, ditto the V12 against the XKR, although it would take a stopwatch and a pedantic driver to confi rm it. The fi rst supercharged DB7s have more than ample shove to wear the DB moniker with justifi cation, even if the automatic ‘box (as many came so equipped) took the edge off it. However, many feel that it was only when the shatteringly fast V12 Vantage arrived that the DB7 truly came of age. You’d instantly think that, with the racing experience of Walkinshaw, the DB7 would handle that bitbetter than the XK8, even if it was at the expense of the ride. Not so, as some regard the Jaguar as the slightly better all rounder, although Derek Campbell of Chiltern Aston (01442 833 177, http://www.db7centre. says the DB7, especially the ‘six’, is far more the ‘driver’s car’ thanks to a better suspension and weight distribution – better than the V12 in fact. Perhaps it now depends purely on the state of the running gear and tyres, but it’s unlikely that a good DB7 will disappoint you, apart from only average brakes. When you fi rst slip behind the wheel of a DB7, it’ll make a big difference what you’ve left behind and which edition you get into. If you’ve moved from an early Aston into any DB7 then it’ll be a revelation, but if you’re an enthusiastic driver coming from a contemporary 911 for an early DB7, you’ll be disappointed. Those fi rst cars offered pace certainly, but the cabin ergonomics and build quality were all below par, plus they’re as cramped as any Jag, too. As a result, the series 2 cars, unveiled for the 1997 model year in 1996, were a big improvement, particularly the anchors. Even then, it wasn’t until the fi nal V12 incarnation arrived, the GT, that the DB7 could really give its rivals a run for their money dynamically at least if not for build quality. If you think this all sounds far too negative, please bear in mind that unless you wring the DB7’s neck every time you take yours out, you’re not going to get anywhere near the Astons high limits on the road. For the typical ‘classic’ driver, the DB7’s performance will be the stuff of dreams. You could use it every day, but that would dilute the pleasure and a real world fuel return of around 20mpg would do your bank balance no good at all. Bear in mind, also, that post March 2001 cars qualify for the VED current tax bands.


This is where that dream can turn into a nightmare! Earliest cars, like a N-reg ‘six’, are now worth perhaps as little as £10-12,000 but will typically need another £15,000 spent to make them decent (and fi t for retail says Chiltern Aston). There are a lot of sad DB7s out there and Campbell reckons that 20 per cent of them aren’t worth touching even with anybody’s bargepole. Mainstream guide prices still apply to the DB7 and Glass’s Guide ‘books’ a Vantage at £22,000 on the forecourt, £14,500 trade, with the manual transmission worth just hundreds more. On average the Volantes are valued at £2-3000 over a coupe, although top cars will command higher prices. In fact, top DB7s can sell for more than the latest V8s. Because the GTA is only a restyled Vantage, it isn’t worth a premium over the standard car but their rarity may cause some sellers to ask for it. Cars with the Driving Dynamics package are highly sought after, carrying a hefty 20-25 per cent premium. This package allowed owners to pick and mix between brake, suspension, wheel and bodywork upgrades but most opted to buy one or two upgrades rather than the whole shebang. The whole kit costed £15,000 from new but it’s still available off the shelf for around a third less; choosing the chassis improvements alone is money well spent. These series 1 DB7s have a purer interior design than the series 2 of 1996; those are the cars with airbags, comfi er seats, softer damping plus more powerful brakes and headlights.


For many, a standard DB7 is heaven – so long as it’s in good nick. This is where spending a bit extra on a top car pays dividends as does having this Aston thoroughly checked and serviced by a good specialist; the suspension geometry is critical, for example. Bringing up the brakes on a DB7 to V12 spec is a wise policy while performance on the 3.2 ‘blown’ engine can be upped by 50bhp with better charge cooling. Hardly an ‘improvement’ but we know of a few DB7s which have been converted to lesser Jag AJ6 power to save on repair costs. When it comes to tyres, pressures and brands make a big difference. It’s also best to stick to the Bridgestone Expedias (S01 on DB7 and S02 on Vantage) originally specifi ed by the factory; they suit the DB7’s chassis better than anything else available. Chiltern Aston says any ‘blinged’ cars are immediately reverted to standard because the wheel offset is so critical.

What To Look For

  • Corrosion can be an issue, but crash damage is more likely. Your first port of call must be HPI (01722 422 422), to check the car’s history. If everything comes up okay, you still need to be vigilant for poorly repaired impact damage.
  • Service intervals are 7500 miles or six monthly and, as the car is essentially a Jaguar, it can be done by most normal garages. However, the major services at 30,000 for the DB7 and 45,000 miles for the V12 should be done by a marque specialist for peace of mind.
  • Believe it or not, but DB7s can fail an MoT due to rust and, if anything, it’s the later cars which suffer most. This is because Aston started to reduce the amount of underseal on its car and, by 2002, had stopped rust-proofi ng completely to save a few bob! Specialist Desmond Smail says it has seen rust holes in late cars and many owners are taken aback by what’s found.
  • If a 2002-on car has been rust-proofed then it was done after build, so check that a layer of underseal isn’t hiding serious rot issues to the fl oor and rear suspension areas. Rare but sadly not uncommon these days.
  • You need to check the jacking points, radius arm mountings and front bulkhead, as these will be the fi rst areas to succumb. The scuttle and air-conditioning drain tubes also get blocked, leading to water collecting in the double-skinned bulkhead. This then makes a bid for freedom by eating away the metal; by the time the problem is noticeable, it’s too late as it’s an MoT failure point. Putting everything right means removing the dash and engine (or at least the cylinder head), which means a bill of at least £2500.
  • Front-end impacts are common, whether parking scrapes or something more serious. If the car’s nose has been crunched, the chassis rails under the engine may be distorted, along with the subframe that carries the engine. Once this subframe has deformed, uneven tyre wear and odd handling traits will be evident, so be wary if the car has a fresh set of boots.
  • Panel gaps are usually tight and even, although some early DB7s weren’t that great. However, if you’re buying a later car you can expect a much better fi t and fi nish. Again, it’s the front of the vehicle that you need to inspect the most.
  • If it looks as though the composite wings, boot lid and bonnet are suffering from rust bubbles, it’s because the panels have been inexpertly repaired – although the bonnet was made of steel from the 1997 model year. New panels are the only long-lasting cure, with wings almost £500 apiece while a bonnet is around £1700 and say a grand for a boot lid. Part-repair panels are now also available for chassis repairs.
  • If a new windscreen has been installed, the plastic scuttle trim may have been incorrectly refi tted; it often is, leading to water getting into the cabin. Once this happens, the carpet can rot, along with the fl oorpans. Also, the two ventilation fans can be ruined.
  • The six and 12-cylinder powerplants are very strong, especially the former, but not entirely vice-free. Being all-alloy units it’s essential that anti-freeze levels are maintained, if they’re not to suffer from internal corrosion. Replacing the coolant every two years is advised; if this hasn’t been adhered to, silt will clog up the radiator and the engine may well overheat. Crucially, V12s use O.A.T. anti-freeze and nothing else; if the system has been topped up with standard fl uid, the two will have reacted and turned to jelly, probably wreaking havoc in the process.
  • The DB7 supercharger belt should have been replaced every 30,000 miles; it’ll snap if it isn’t renewed. That won’t cause any damage however, you’ll just end up with the horsepower count being much reduced when you end up with a naturally aspirated straight-six.
  • The exhaust tends not to cause problems because it’s part-stainless and well protected underneath the car. However, six-cylinder manifolds can crack where they merge; replacements cost almost £200 plus, and there are two of them.
  • Six-cylinder DB7 buyers could choose between a fi ve-speed manual Getrag gearbox or a four-speed GM automatic; Vantage buyers were offered a six-speed Tremec manual or fi ve-speed ZF auto. All units are very strong and easily capable of transmitting the power without problems, but still do the usual checks for intact synchros on the manual and smooth changes on the auto.
  • Back axles need to have their oil renewed every 30,000 miles; if this hasn’t been adhered to, wear will have occurred. It’s hard to spot though because all DB7 axles whine to a degree; rebuilt units are available off the shelf.
  • Although the suspension isn’t renowned for giving problems, it’s essential that the geometry at the front is spot on. If it isn’t, the tyres will wear unevenly and rapidly on the inside. That’s why you must turn the wheels onto full lock, and check the inside edges.
  • Although they’re not a weak spot as such, the DB7’s brakes could be stronger. If the car is driven really hard, it can lead to warped discs. As soon as you press the pedal you’ll know if this has happened, because the juddering will be obvious. The cure is fresh discs and pads, at around £400-500 depending upon spec.
  • All DB7s were fitted with 8x18in alloys as standard, apart from the 9x18in items fi tted to the rear of the V12. Distortion if the car has been driven quickly on poorly surfaced roads can occur, because the inside of the rim isn’t supported adequately. The wider rear wheels of the Vantage are even more prone, and they’re even more costly at some £500 each; the six-cylinder car’s wheels around a ton cheaper. If the optional three-piece Aliseo alloys have been fi tted, make sure the lacquer is intact as it often isn’t.
  • A Cobra alarm was fi tted to early cars, but from the 1997 model year there was a factory-developed system installed. This has a remote operation for the door and boot locks, but it’s easy to press the latter by mistake. The boot lid then opens only fractionally and it’s often unnoticed – but the luggage bay light comes on and the battery then goes fl at, stranding the car.
  • Don’t dismiss a non-functioning air conditioning system. It may simply need a £100 recharge, but more likely is that the evaporator needs renewing; at £400 the part isn’t too costly, but it takes two days to do the job and suddenly the bill leaps to a fat £3000. Part of the problem lies in the way DB7s are used, or not as the case may be. Many examples are toys that get used only occasionally, which is bad news for any air-con system and so gasket leaks become quite common.
  • All DB7s featured leather trim as standard; it isn’t especially durable so make sure there’s no wear. The trim should have been treated every year or two, in a bid to stop the hide deteriorating. If this hasn’t been done, there may be cracking and possibly even splits. Also likely is the spectre of broken seat catches; they’re plastic and easily damaged. However they’re also easily replaced, with fresh ones at only a fi ver a go.

Three Of A Kind

Jaguar XK8
Jaguar XK8
Developed and launched in tandem with the Aston, albeit from different Ford divisions, some regard the Jaguar as the better driver over the DB7 and it certainly matches the Aston for power and pace. Compared to the DB7, the rival Jaguar looks absurdly cheap and you need to test drive both to confi rm to yourself if the Aston is worth double. The Jag has far a more widespread specialist network.
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin Virage
If you hanker for a bargain old school Aston then it has to be the Virage, which is even cheaper to buy, if not run than a DB7. Early models were never liked and build was iffy, but that stalwart V8 always went well in uprated 32-valve tune while Aston got the car back on track with the redesigned Vantage, which is a much better GT. Excellent value all round on all, some good ones sell for around £10K.
Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz R129
Another bargain GT, the R129 is the more modern replacement to the well respected R107 range. Hugely accomplished and built like you’d expect a Mercedes to be, it comes with a wide range of powerplants, from straight six to V12, meaning there’s one to suit most pockets. The rare SL60 is a nailed-on future classic. Excellent independent repair base means servicing and repairs are surprisingly containable.


The car that saved Aston is currently great value but values won’t sink further. The bargain six-cylinder DB7 is rarer than you might think, with just 2461 examples built, including 885 Volantes. The Vantage is much more common, with 4100 produced, around half of which were droptops. Despite their Jag DNA, these are true Astons and well worth a look before you seek out that affordable DBS…

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