Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Aston Martin DB7

Published: 28th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Straight six is Jag-derived so cheaper to maintain. Not bad on fuel, say around 20mpg Straight six is Jag-derived so cheaper to maintain. Not bad on fuel, say around 20mpg
Rear seats are tight even for small kids Rear seats are tight even for small kids
Okay so there’s some Ford Scorpio bits here and trim can become shabby but be honest, can’t you see yourself contented sitting Okay so there’s some Ford Scorpio bits here and trim can become shabby but be honest, can’t you see yourself contented sitting
Buy right and you can afford an Aston… Buy right and you can afford an Aston…
Arguably one of the best looking Astons of modern times, the DB7 is also great value, if you buy right. Arguably one of the best looking Astons of modern times, the DB7 is also great value, if you buy right.
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

What is an Aston Martin DB7?

It’s the car that saved Aston Martin from oblivion. If it hadn’t been for the DB7, developed with Ford’s money after it acquired the outfit back in 1987, the iconic British brand would never have survived. There may have been plenty of XJS parts under the DB7’s skin, but when the outer wrapping was as good as this, did anybody care? It didn’t seem so; the DB7 stole the show when it was unveiled at the 1993 Geneva salon. Today they are probably the best value Aston most of us can realistically afford.

History

The DB7 was initially available as a supercharged straight-six coupé only. Those first closed cars were delivered in 1994; it wouldn’t be until 1996 that the Volante would appear, complete with a powered roof. If those six-cylinder DB7s had been the entrée, the V12-engined Vantage that arrived in 1999 was the main dish - and very tasty it was too. From the outset, this 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. In the same year, the DB7 Zagato also made its debut, but no cars were delivered until 2003 – and only 99 examples were constructed. The final flourish came in 2003, when the Zagato-bodied Vantage Volante was unveiled; the DB AR1. Just 99 were made, aimed at the Usmarket, although eight European cars were produced. All of these featured left-hand drive, apart from one. The final DB7s (10th anniversary models) were also built in 2003, just before the DB9 came along.

Driving

When you first get 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 Austin-Healey into any DB7 it’ll be a revelation, but if you’re an enthusiastic driver and you swap a contemporary 911 for an early DB7, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Those first cars offered pace, but the ergonomics, build quality and braking were all below par. As a result, the Series 2 cars, unveiled for the 1997 model year in 1996, were a big improvement. However, while Newport Pagnell created a car that was more worthy of the Aston Martin badge, it wasn’t until the V12-engined Vantage of 1999 that the DB7 finally came of age. Even then, it wasn’t until the final incarnation arrived, the GT, that the DB7 could really give its key rivals a run for their money - dynamically that is. If you think this all sounds a bit negative, bear in mind that unless you wring the car’s neck every time you take it out, you’re not going to get anywhere near the DB7’s high limits. For the typical drivers – especially those who now buy a DB7 as a toy for occasional use – the brakes are over adequate while there’s rocket ship poke on offer.The important thing though is that you don’t have to buy a DB7 for occasional use; these are cars that you really can use every day.

Prices

The earliest cars are now worth £27,000; anything cheaper will typically need £10,000 spent on it to make it decent. These Series 1 DB7s have a purer interior design than the Series 2 of 1996; those are the cars with airbags, comfier seats, softer damping plus more powerful brakes and headlights. Although Volantes aren’t especially sought after, they still carry a 10 per cent premium over the sleek coupé. The cheapest open DB7 currently fetches £35,000; an extra £5000 will secure a Vantage coupe while the open-topped equivalent is £44,000. That leaves the run-out models, the GT and GTA. Because the GTA is really only a restyled Vantage, it isn’t worth a premium over the standard car. But with its Vanquish-spec V12, a GT fetches anywhere between £55,000 and £65,000 - and with just 84 made in right-hand drive form, there’s not much chance of values falling significantly. Cars with the Driving Dynamics package are highly sought after, carrying a 20-25 per cent premium as long as they’ve got everything installed. This package allowed owners to pick and mix between brake, suspension, wheel and bodywork upgrades; but most chose to buy one or two bits rather than the whole lot. The whole kit used to cost £15,000, but it’s still available off the shelf for around a third less; choosing the chassis improvements alone is money well spent.

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 and whether it’s been in a bad prang. If everything comes up okay, you still need to be vigilant for poorly repaired impact damage.
  • Front-end impacts are common, whether parking scrapes or something more serious. If car’s nose has been crunched, the chassis rails under the engine may be distorted, along with the subframe that carries the power unit. Once this subframe has become deformed, uneven tyre wear and odd handling traits will be evident, so be wary if the car has odd tyre wear - or even a fresh set of boots.
  • Panel gaps are usually tight and even, although some early DB7s weren’t that great quality build wise. However, if you’re buying a later car you can expect a much better fit and finish. Again, it’s the front of the vehicle that you need to inspect the most closely, especially the bonnet and wing gaps. 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 £470 apiece while a bonnet is £1700 and a boot lid is £1000. Bear in mind that all these prices are for the parts alone; you’ll need to add painting and fitting, inflating the cost significantly.
  • If a new windscreen has been fitted, the plastic scuttle trim may have been incorrectly refitted; it often is, leading to water getting into the cabin. Once this happens, the carpet can rot, along with the floorpans. Also, the two ventilation fans can be ruined; they’re £620 new (£375 exchange) each for the parts alone.
  • Serious rust isn’t an issue for any DB7 that’s been properly cared for, although there are a few areas underneath that can suffer from minor corrosion. You need to check the jacking points, radius arm mountings and front bulkhead, as these will be the first 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 anywhere between £2000 and £4000.
  • The six and 12-cylinder powerplants are strong, but not 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 will overheat. Crucially, V12s use O.A.T. Anti-freeze and nothing else; if the system has been topped up with standard fluid, the two will have reacted and turned to jelly, wreaking havoc in the process.
  • The 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 go from three into one; replacements cost £140 plus fitting, and there are two of them.
  • Six-cylinder DB7 buyers could choose between a five-speed manual Getrag gearbox or a four-speed GM automatic; Vantage buyers were offered a six-speed Tremec manual or five-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 synchro on the manual and smooth changes on the auto version.
  • 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, with the total replacement cost a very reasonable £1100 or so.
  • 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, perhaps to the point where the outer edge and width look fine, but the inside edge is worn through. 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 overheated brakes and 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 £83 and £137 respectively (£199 and £187 for the Vantage).
  • All DB7s were fitted with 8x18in alloy wheels all round as standard, apart from the 9x18in items fitted to the rear of the V12. Even this relatively narrow wheel can distort if the car has been driven quickly on poorly surfaced roads, because the inside of the rim isn’t supported adequately. The wider rear wheels of the Vantage are even more prone to distortion, and they’re even more costly at £447 each; the six-cylinder car’s wheels are £376 apiece. If the optional three-piece Aliseo alloys have been fitted, make sure the lacquer is intact, because it often isn’t - whatever wheels are fitted, make sure they’re not kerbed; they frequently are.
  • When it comes to tyres, pressures and brands make a big difference. If there isn’t the right amount of air in the tyre, wear will be rapid and the handling adversely affected. It’s also best to stick to the Bridgestone Expedias (S01 on DB7 and S02 on Vantage) originally specified by the factory; they suit the DB7’s chassis better than anything else available.
  • A Cobra alarm was fitted 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 flat, stranding the car. And you.
  • Don’t dismiss a damaged headlamp on a six-cylinder car, because these units are now obsolete. The only cure is to replace both lights with the V12 version, and they’re -gulp - £871 each
  • .
  • Also 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 £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.
  • 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. They’re also easily replaced, with fresh ones costing only £4 a go. If you’re buying a Volante rag top then you need to cast an eye over the roof because problems can arise. The hood iron bolts in the rear quarters are provided with rubber covers to protect the fabric; these sometimes disappear, allowing the frame to create holes in the roof. The only permanent fix involves letting in fresh material - something that has to be done by a specialist.
  • Whatever you buy, you must ensure it has a full service history; the car should have received attention every 7500 miles or six months according to the factory. However, because most cars cover few miles each year, an annual service is usually sufficient. The key ones to watch out for are the 30,000-mile one for six-cylinder cars and the 45,000-mile for the V12; they’re the costliest services that you don’t want to have to fork out for if the previous owner should already have stumped up.
  • Although you’ll pay a hefty premium for buying from a dealer or recognised specialist, it’s usually worth stumping up the extra cash. If you take the private route, you’re well advised to have a full inspection of the car carried out; apparently minor faults can end up being very costly. However, since the DB7 went out of production, many parts costs have been slashed - while others have increased massively. But then, if you do your homework before buying, you’re not going to have to buy too many parts - as long as you use the car regularly. Which shouldn’t be too much of a hardship, should it?

 

Verdict

The DB7 is currently great value, and with those looks you can forgive any dynamic or packaging shortcomings. For an Aston Martin, they are almost cheap buys, while left-hand drive versions can be third less than a right-hand drive equivalent. As ever with any premium brand it’s wise to buy the best example you can and a doggy DB7 can easily need five figures spent to bring it up to speed. Perhaps the DB7 is still too new to be called a classic but prices won’t dip much more, meaning there’s not a better time to buy one.



User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe