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Aston Martin DB7

Aston Martin DB7 Published: 16th Oct 2014 - 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): mm L 4620 x W 1820
  • Spares situation: Sadly patchy
  • DIY ease?: No, not really!
  • Club support: Usual AMOC levels
  • Appreciating asset?: Starting usual DB climb
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Great affordable and adroit Aston that’s more Johnny English than Connery’s classic. Superb looks almost matched by its performance but you need to take care when buying

OH, OH SEVEN

Put bluntly, Jaguar’s first aborted F-type project was turned into the DB7 and as a result became the car which saved Aston Martin. Small wonder then that some decry the ‘modern DB4’ (as it was hoped to be), as basically little more than a sexed-up old XJS under that DBs delightful skin. But when the outer wrapping was as good as this, did we actually care? Now 20 years since its eagerly anticipated launch, DB7s are probably the best value Aston most of us can realistically afford these days. If you get the chance, don’t let the opportunity pass you buy as values are already rising.

HISTORY

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 and initially earmarked as the new DB4 to form a more affordable entry level AM 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 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 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 début, but none were delivered until 2003 and only 99 examples were made.

2003 The final flourish came when the Zagato-bodied 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 looks than ability because it was no 911. It’s generally agreed that as nice as they looked, the first generation cars offered pace but build quality and braking were below par for the 80 grand asked. 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 and could hit almost 160mph, passing the 60 mark in under six.

What let the car down was the auto of which the majority were as it took the edge off things notably.

If you think this sounds negative, best to bear in mind that for the typical drivers – especially those who now buy a DB7 as a toy for occasional fun use – the car, even as a six automatic, is just fine.

Enthusiasts will find that the stiffer shelled coupés handle better than the convertibles which ride on a softer suspension and lack a rear anti roll bar. But a DB7 handles well and feels much more modern than any previous Aston, which you can say is hardly difficult.

What did the press think? 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 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 finishings 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 but preferred the auto instead of the “heavy, clunky change of the five-speed manual”, finishing by saying what it needs is a V12.

That same mag was less complimentary a couple of years later when the Aston placed against the XK8, especially the XKR. Another group test, against the usual Germans, same result, but it was the Jag playing a sole Geoff Hurst role because the DB7 was regarded as being sadly outdated just four years after its welcome launch. Thankfully the V12 came along…

As you can see the DB7 is good but 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.

IMPROVEMENTS

Best improvement is to have a thorough service and geometry reset done by a good AM specialist. It’s 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, they add. Chiltern Aston says customised cars are reverted to standard before retailing because wheel offset is that critical.

Bringing up the brakes on a DB7 to V12 spec is a wise policy while performance on the 335bhp 3.2 engine can be upped by 50bhp with better charge cooling as well as a faster-spinning supercharger pulley. We know of DB7s which have been converted to the lesser Jag AJ6 power unit to save on major repair costs. Take care when buying such a car; it’s like buying an earlier DB with an XK engine. It does the job but hurts values.

Prices

You used to see the earliest cars (usually autos) under £20,000 but now £20K is the bottom line for something decent says Chilton Aston who adds there’s few ‘average’ cars; they are either good or poor. Mainstream guide prices still apply to the DB7 and Glass’s Guide books a 2003 V12 Vantage at £25,000 on the forecourt. On average the Volantes are valued at £3000 over a coupé, although top cars will command higher prices than official trade values. In fact, top DB7s can sell for more than the latest V8s says Chilton who sold a handful of DB7s before it shifted a V8 that was also in the showroom, which proves that they are becoming collectible. Because the GTA is only a restyled Vantage, it isn’t worth a premium over the standard car but their rarity may cause 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 cost £15,000 from new but it is 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 later cars with airbags, comfier seats, softer damping plus more powerful brakes and headlights.

Volante premiums over the coupé will widen over time although prices for all good DB7s are starting to climb outstripping both the earlier Virage and some later Astons like the DB9.The cheapest DB7 sells for a smidgen under £16,000 (a six auto) and Glass’s Guide is looking at £30K for the last of the V12s.

Although you’ll pay a hefty premium for buying from a dealer or recognised specialist, it’s usually worth stumping up the extra cash as they’ll have or know the best cars and with some 7000 made there’s little shortage and so no excuse for buying rashly. 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.

What To Look For

INTERIOR

* A Cobra alarm was fitted to early cars, but from the 1997 model year there was a factory-developed system installed; the car’s battery can flatten easily, especially if it plays up.

* 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.

* All featured leather trim as standard but it isn’t especially durable. Also likely is the sight of broken seat catches; they are plastic and easily damaged.

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

GENERAL

* Try as many as you can to get yardstick. DB7s are specialist and it’s easy to buy a so-so example if you can’t compare them. Dealers will have best examples.

* 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 history. If everything comes up okay, you still need to be vigilant for poorly repaired impact damage.

* 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 carpet can rot, along with the floorpans. Also, the two ventilation fans can be ruined.

* 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 and 45,000 miles for the V12 should be done by a marque specialist

BODY AND CHASSIS

* Amazingly DB7s can fail an MoT due to rust and, if anything the later cars 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. Happily Many owners had theirs Waxoyled says new specialist Cotswold Prestige Cars (01242 821112).

* Check the jacking points, 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.

* By the time the problem is noticeable, it’s too late and an MoT failure point. Putting everything right means removing the dash and engine (or at least the head), which means a bill of at least £2500.

* If nose has been crunched, chassis rails under the engine may be distorted, along with the subframe.

* Bonnet steel from 1997. New panels cost: wings almost £750 apiece and certain headlights £1000 a pop. Part-repair panels are available for body and chassis repairs but patchy supply from Aston.

ENGINE

* The six and 12-cylinder powerplants are strong, especially the former. Being all-alloy units it’s essential that anti-freeze levels are maintained; replacing the coolant every two years is advised.

* 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, probably wreaking havoc in the process.

* The DB7 six’s supercharger belt should have been replaced every 30,000 miles or will snap albeit without any damage, simply loss of power.

* The exhaust tends not to cause problems but six-cylinder manifolds can crack where they merge.

TRANSMISSION

* 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 and 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 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 whine to some degree; rebuilt units are available off the shelf.

RUNNING GEAR

* Although the suspension isn’t renowned for giving problems, it is essential that the geometry is spot on. 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, the brakes could be
stronger. If the car is driven really hard, it can lead to warped discs. The cure is fresh discs and pads, at around £400-500 depending upon spec.

* 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, and more costly. If the optional three-piece Aliseo alloys have been fitted, make sure the lacquer is intact (most aren’t).

Three Of A Kind

JAGUAR XK8
JAGUAR XK8
Developed, and launched, in tandem with the Aston using the same DB7-based chassis, some regard the Jag as the better car and it certainly matches the Aston for power and pace. Compared to the DB7, the rival Jaguar looks absurdly cheap and you should test drive both to confirm to yourself if the Aston is worth double the dosh. The Jag has a far more widespread specialist network into the bargain.
ASTON MARTIN VIRAGE
ASTON MARTIN VIRAGE
If you hanker for a bargain old school Aston then it has to be the Virage, which is cheaper to buy, if not to run than a DB7 and build was iffy. Early cars were never liked but Aston got the car back on track with the redesigned Vantage, which is a much better GT. Excellent value all round on all and that stalwart V8 always goes well in uprated 32-valve tune. As Astons go it’s a bit of a marmite model.
MERCEDES-BENZ R129
MERCEDES-BENZ R129
A real bargain GT, the R129 is the more modern replacement to the well respected R107 range and amazingly cheap to buy. Hugely accomplished and built, it comes with a wide range of powerplants, from straight six to V12, meaning there’s an SL to suit most pockets; rare SL600 is a nailed-on future classic. Excellent independent repair base means servicing and repairs are surprisingly containable.

Verdict

That 007 never drove one won’t reduce the DB7’s image or its desirability because this Aston is much more than a Jag in drag cynics like you to believe. Prices won’t stay so affordable (in Aston terms, that is) so don’t delay if you have set your heart on one.



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