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Aston Martin DB7

Aston Martin DB7 Published: 8th May 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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): L 4620 x W 1820 mm
  • Spares situation: Can prove patchy
  • DIY ease?: I6 is quite manageable
  • Club support: Usual AMOC levels
  • Appreciating asset?: Starting to really climb
  • Good buy or good-bye?: The former naturally if you buy well
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Jag-based ‘new DB4’ is more than just a rehashed XJ-S and 25 years after its launch, the lovely looking DB7 is a classic Aston Martin in its own right. Surprisingly affordable to own but you must buy wisely or it could a case of oh-oh seven…

It’s 25 years since Aston Martin launched its ‘new DB4’, the DB7, to help save the famous company (again) aided and abetted by Ford and Jaguar. The former owned both brands and typically cost-conscious used the aborted Jaguar F-type project as its base, itself a sexed up XJ-S.

Whether or not the finished article makes this a Jag in drag has raged for a quarter of a century but it doesn’t appear to hurt the car’s desirability with values outstripping some of the Gaydon models. Let’s face it, when the outer wrapping was as good as the delectable DB7, do – or should – we actually care what’s underneath?


1987 Ford acquires a troubled Aston Martin just in time to rescue the Virage project. Three years later, it steps in to buy the privately-owned Jaguar concern and begins to concoct a new entry-level Aston using proprietary components across the Blue Oval board. The decision to take both marques under the corporate umbrella stems from the legendary Walter Hayes (CBE) who was more than head of Ford’s press and communications; he introduced Colin Chapman to Ford and was the prime mover in getting Ford to bankroll Cosworth to design an all new Formula One engine – the legendary DRV which went to dominate Grand Prix racing for 15 years with 155 wins.

Hayes had the ears, and trust, of Henry Ford II and said to him he should buy Aston to preserve the heritage of the industry. “It won’t change the universe but it’s the kind of thing we should be doing”, Ford is reported to have replied.

1994 The DB7 (I6) is finally launched after being shown a year before, based upon an aborted F Type Jaguar project that was passed over by owner Ford to Aston. Earmarked as the new DB4 to provide a more affordable entry level Aston that was aimed at a wider market – which included women. Based upon the XJ-S platform, painted by Rolls-Royce and developed by Jaguar Le Mans winning team TWR, it was initially available as a (Jaguar XJR-derived) 335bhp supercharged straight-six coupé.

1996 The drophead Volante appears, complete with a powered roof, naturally. Also 1997 model year cars gained a raft of much needed improvements as well as better build quality.

1999 A V12-engined DB7 was always on the cards because the XJ-S was designed for such an engine. Called the Vantage, this 6-litre 420bhp all Aston unit quickly replaces the widely liked ‘six’ and is also offered in both coupé and Volante forms. 2002 Run-out DB7 comes on sale, simply called the GT; there was also an automatic edition available, wearing GTA badges.

In the same year, the DB7 Zagato also made its début, but none were delivered until 2003 and only 99 examples were made.

2003 The final flourish came when the Zagatobodied Vantage Volante was unveiled; the DB AR1. Just 99 were made, aimed at the US market, although eight European cars were produced. The final DB7s (10th anniversary models) were also built just before the DB9 came along.

Driving and press comments

Did the DB7 sell more on its sleek lines than ability? It’s generally agreed that as gorgeous as they looked, the first batch offered prettiness and pace but build quality and braking were below par for the 80 grand asked for the key fob. As a result, the Series 2 cars, unveiled for the 1997 model year in 1996, were a big improvement.

It wasn’t until the V12-engined Vantage of 1999 that the DB7 finally came of age although there are those who feel that the supercharged six gave the DB7 a more thoroughbred feel plus could hit almost 160mph, passing the 60 mark in under six seconds – quick enough for many. What let the car down was the (very average) four-speed automatic transmission of which the majority were saddled with as it took the edge off things notably.

Lest you think this sounds all a trifle negative, we’ll counter this by admitting that, for typical classic owners – especially those who now buy a DB7 for simply occasional fun use – this Aston, even, as an I6 automatic, is just fine. We’d have one!

Experienced enthusiasts will probably agree that the stiffer shelled coupés handle that bit better than the high-style convertibles when pressed because they ride on a softer suspension and lack a rear anti roll bar. But a good DB7 handles well and feels much more modern than any previous Aston, which you can say is hardly difficult given the last design used a platform dating back almost six decades – the De Dion rear suspension originating from the Lagonda saloon of 1961.

The Cosworth-aided V12 (essentially it’s a pair of Ford Mondeo V6 engines merged) is a different kettle of camshafts and, as Motor Sport magazine pointed out when introduced, while the car kept the DB7 moniker it really should have been called the DB8 because it’s almost a new car with different suspension, transmission (Chevrolet Corvette manual, BMW ZF automatic) Bembo/Teves brakes and a stiffer bodyshell.

What did the press think, given they kept tight-lipped about the car’s main development issues? Well it was a mixed bag really. Everybody wanted the DB7 to be a success and initially wrote very favourably, Car calling it “Jag in drag but a great car (automatic excepted)”. However, opinions started to change somewhat when the much cheaper, broadly similar, Jaguar XK8 came along.

In a twin test, against a Merc SL600, the ‘six’ DB7 Volante beat the German without the need for a penalty shoot out even though Car magazine criticised the Brit for some fit and finishing issues such as the hood’s exposed framework (“A bit like buying a Roller with rubber mats”), its weight which was a hefty 150kg over the fixedhead although actually preferred the automatic instead of the “heavy, clunky change of the five-speed manual”, finishing off by saying what this Aston ideally needs is a V12 – which it got in 1999.

That same monthly was less complimentary about the I6 only a couple of years later when the Aston placed against the newly launched XK8, especially the sensational supercharged XKR. Another group test, against the usual German rivals, saw same result, but it was the Jag playing a sole Geoff Hurst role because the DB7 was now openly regarded as being sadly outdated just four years after its welcome début. Thankfully, the V12 came along…

As you can see the DB7 is good but was no game changer. What still does it are those looks. “It’s sleek, sexy and rare… With the hood folded it looks sensational and with the top raised, the hood blends in perfectly”, said one love-struck road tester.

The V12 Vantage was headlined by Motor Sport in 1999 as “The best Aston for 40 years [DB4]” reckoning that the Mondeo-based motor was “a more charismatic V12 than any made by Ferrari today” and while the unit lacked “the alacrity of a supercharged engine like the 3.2… what it has instead is good old fashioned V12 relentlessness”.

The tester also praised how development by Aston reformed the comparative crudity of the I6’s XJ-S’s 1960’s underpinnings. “This DB7 [V12] has a refined and thrilling chassis that rides as well as it handles”. In its final summing up the monthly urged those that already have had an order for the earlier DB7 to cancel it for the £7500 dearer Vantage – immediately!

Values and marketplace

You used to see the earliest cars (usually autos) under £20,000 but now £25K is the bottom line for something worth having as there’s few ‘average’ cars; they are either good or poor. The best make the thick end of 30 grand (the starting price of a V12 Vantage) with convertibles adding up to another ten as Volante premiums over the coupé are ever widening although prices for all good DB7s are starting to climb outstripping both the earlier Virage and some later Aston Martins such as the DB9.

The upper echelons commonly are increasing coming with 50 grand price tags. Kent based Alan Carrington Classic & Cars, for example, has a beautiful six-speed manual DB7 GT which has covered less than 25,000 miles sporting a full AM service history, for a shade under £65,000. One of the 52 versions left, it’s one of the best as well as priciest DB7s but a rarity such as this is also a good investment as the high values won’t rescind.

In contrast, because the GTA is only a restyled Vantage, it isn’t worth a premium over the standard car but their rarity (just 41 remaining) causes their sellers to ask for it. Cars with the ‘Driving Dynamics’ package are highly sought after though, carrying a 20 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.

Although you’ll pay a hefty premium for buying from a dealer or recognised specialist, it’s usually worth stumping up the extra as they’ll have or know the best cars and with some 2000 around (1106 V12, 858 I6, according to how many there’s no excuse for buying in haste.

If you take the private route, you’re advised to have a full inspection carried out; apparently minor faults can end up being very costly indeed.

According to Heritage dealer Chiltern Aston of Bovingdon, Herts, DB7s are creeping up and exceeding Gaydon models, such as the DB9, because they are of conventional build meaning ‘repairable’ although Guy Wyles admits that the general standard of DB7s out there is little short of “appalling” due to their low (for Aston-ed) values, lack of body anti-rust protection and repair costs; Guy citing £6000 to properly repair rotten chassis legs, for instance. He also adds that he won’t touch a DB7 for retail unless it has Heritage dealer service history stamps.

While Guy’s personal favourite is the V12 manual he says that the original I6 is probably the best bet for investment purposes because of its purity of line (it was designer Ian Callum’s favourite, too-ed).


The best ‘improvement’ is to have a thorough service and geometry reset done by a good AM specialist (most are wonky). It’s best to stick to the tyres originally specified as they suit the DB7’s chassis better with Bridgestone Expedias the most recommended (RE0504 for I6). Chiltern Aston adds that customised cars are reverted to standard before retailing because wheel offset is that critical. In the same vein, V12 rims fit the earlier cars but do no favours to the handling. Bringing up the brakes to V12 spec is a wise if pricey policy while performance on the 335bhp 3.2 engine can easily be upped by 50bhp with better charge cooling as well as a faster-spinning supercharger pulley.

Is that body seventh heaven?

Be aware that as beautiful as they are, DB7s can fail an MoT due to rust and, if anything the later Vantages suffer most because Aston reduced the amount of underseal used and, by 2002, had stopped rust-proofing completely to save a few bob! If a 2002-on car has been rust-proofed then it was done after build, so check that a layer of underseal is not hiding serious rot issues to the floor and rear suspension areas.

Check the jacking points, chassis legs, radius arm mountings and front bulkhead, as these will be the first areas to succumb. The scuttle and air-con drain tubes also get blocked, leading to water collecting in the double-skinned bulkhead and a five grand bill could be on the cards.

Check for crafty bodged filler repairs to the wheel arches as it costs a similar sum if they’re rotten – beware of any fresh painting. A cheap DB7 may be anything but if you need new panels: bonnets weigh in at over £2000, front wings £520 each and certain headlights virtually £1000 a pop. Part-repair panels are available for body and chassis repairs but this can suffer from a patchy supply from the factory.

Handling the power

Six-cylinder DB7 buyers could choose between a five-speed manual Getrag gearbox or a GM automatic; Vantage buyers were offered a six-speed Tremec manual or five-speed ZF auto. All units are very strong but still do the usual checks for intact synchros on the manual and smooth changes on the auto gearbox. Back axles need to have their oil renewed every 30,000 miles; if this hasn’t been adhered to, wear will probably have occurred. It’s hard to spot though because all DB7 axles usually whine to some degree; rebuilt units are available off the shelf in the region of £1300.

While the Jaguar XJS-derived suspension isn’t renowned for giving major problems, it is essential that the geometry is spot on – yet many aren’t. The tyres will wear unevenly and rapidly, particularly on the inside if it’s all out of kilter. Although they are not a weak spot as such, I6 brakes could be stronger. If the car is driven really hard and the anchors used accordingly, it can lead to warped discs. The cure is fresh discs and pads, at around £200-£500 depending upon spec and model.

All DB7s wore 8x18in alloys as standard, apart from the 9x18in items fitted 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 to this, and more costly. If the optional three-piece Aliseo alloys have been fitted, make sure the lacquer is intact (most aren’t). Bridgestone is the recommended footwear, cheap rubber ruins the drive and points to penny pinching elsewhere.

What To Look For

Is the DB7 still sitting pretty?

All featured leather trim as but it isn’t especially durable being prone to cracking and splitting. Also likely are of broken seat catches; plastic and easily damaged.

Switchgear is mostly Ford while Mazda MX-5 door levers are also employed. Ensure that the key fobs work as they should.

A Cobra alarm was fitted, but from the 1997 model year a factory-developed system replaced it which is less troublesome.

Don’t dismiss a non-functioning air conditioning system. It may simply need a £100 recharge, but it’s more likely that the evaporator needs renewing at £400. Okay – but it takes two days to do the job and suddenly the bill leaps to a fat £3000.

Engine enquiries

Both the six and 12-cylinder powerplants are pretty robust, especially the former (it provided the basis for the supercharged XJR engine) although being all-alloy units it’s essential that anti-freeze levels are maintained; replacing the coolant every two years is highly advised.

Crucially watch what you use; V12s use O.A.T. anti-freeze and nothing else so if the system has been topped up with standard fluid for any reason, the two will have reacted and turned to jelly, possibly wreaking expensive havoc in the process.

The DB7 six’s supercharger (which as a unit is pretty durable) belt should have been replaced every 30,000 miles or it is liable to snap albeit without any damage – simply a loss of power.

If the engine sounds rorty or raspy, it may not be because a sports exhaust is fitted but their cast exhaust manifolds have cracked, normally where they merge. The good news is at only £250 a go repair is not overly prohibitive.

‘Astonomical’ costs

1. Corrosion can be an issue (see separate section), but crash damage is more likely; If nose has been crunched, chassis rails under the engine may be distorted, along with the subframe. Your first port of call must be HPI (01722 422 422), to check the car’s history. If it all comes up okay, you still need to be vigilant for poorly repaired impact damage.

2. Sounds routine but if a new windscreen has been installed, the plastic scuttle trim may have been incorrectly refitted; it often is, leading to water getting into the cabin. Once this happens, the carpets can rot, along with the floorpans. Also, the two ventilation fans can be ruined at the same time – some £800 to overhaul them.

3. Service intervals are 7500 miles or six monthly and, as the DB7 is essentially a Jaguar, it can be done by most normal garages. However, the major services at 30,000 for the DB7 (where the I6 supercharger belt should be replaced) and 45,000 miles for the V12 should be done by a marque specialist. Budget on at least £1500 per year in maintenance costs.

Three Of A Kind

Jaguar XK8
Jaguar XK8
Developed, and launched, in tandem with the Aston using the same chassis, some regard the Jag as the better car and it certainly matches the Aston for power, pace and poise. Compared to the DB7, the rival Jaguar looks absurdly better value and you should test drive both to confirm to yourself if the Aston is worth at least double the dosh. The Jag has a far more widespread specialist network into the bargain.
Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz R129
Still a bargain GT, the R129 is the more modern replacement to the well respected but more old fashioned to drive R107 range and can be very cheap to buy. Hugely accomplished and built, it comes with a wide range of engines, from straight six to V12, so there’s an SL to suit most pockets; rare SL600 is a nailed-on future classic. Great independent repair base means servicing and repairs are surprisingly containable.
Aston Martin DB9/DBS
Aston Martin DB9/DBS
Based upon Aston’s advanced Lotus Elise-like VH composite platform and was the first of the ‘Gaydon’ Astons. The DBS of 2007 is the same design essentially but accent is more on performance and represent the cheapest routes to Aston motoring although the flip side are expensive running and servicing costs. Some experts see the DBS as the ‘new’ DB5.


Try as many as you can to get yardstick. DB7s may be XJ-S based but are still Astons so are specialist meaning that it’s easy to buy a so-so example if you can’t compare them. Dealers will normally have best examples.

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