The first Aston Martin of the modern era, the DB7 mixes beauty with brawn – and it’s more attainable than you might think
How much to pay
• Project £5000-9000 • Good £15,000-24,000 • Concours £27,000-70,000 •
Running costs ★★★
DIY friendly ★★
The DB7 was the car that saved Aston Martin. If it wasn’t for this svelte grand tourer, the British marque would have disappeared into the backlog of motoring history, never to be seen again.
It was the result of a partnership between Ford (which owned Aston Martin), Jaguar (which provided the XJS platform for the DB7) and Tom Walkinshaw (whose expertise was used to turn the DB7 into a car that was brilliant to drive). The result blew people away.
First introduced in six-cylinder form, a V12 came along later. Both engines were available in coupé or convertible bodystyles. Throw in manual or automatic gearboxes, and you’ve got quite a few choices to make in terms of what DB7 is right for you. And rest assured this is a car that’s right for you – if you buy carefully.
Your AutoClassics Aston Martin DB7 inspection checklist
All DB7 engines are strong, but as they’re all-alloy units, anti-freeze levels must be maintained to stave off internal corrosion. The coolant should be renewed every two years to prevent silt from clogging up the radiator. A V12 radiator must be filled with OAT (Organic Acid Technology) anti-freeze; put in regular fluid and the two will react and turn to jelly, causing catastrophic damage.
If the six-cylinder engine doesn’t seem to have much pull it may be that the supercharger belt has snapped. This won’t cause any damage, but it should be renewed every 30,000 miles.
The part-stainless exhaust is reliable, yet manifold cracks on six-cylinder cars aren’t rare. Replacements are available and they’re not expensive – but there are two of them, so do double your budget.
Six-cylinder DB7s were available with a five-speed manual Getrag gearbox or a four-speed GM auto; V12 cars got a six-speed Tremec manual or five-speed ZF auto. All of these transmissions are very strong, but do carry out the usual checks for jerky changes or crunchy synchromesh just in case.
Differentials (and the straight-six gearbox) should have fresh oil every 30,000 miles to prevent premature wear. A worn axle will whine plenty, but even when new they weren’t as quiet as you might expect.
Suspension and brakes
The suspension is dependable, but if there’s uneven front tyre wear it’s because the geometry is out. The inside edges tend to wear fast. It’s worth finding a car with a Driving Dynamics package. This allowed owners to fit brake, suspension, wheel and bodywork upgrades; most opted for one or two bits rather than the complete package. Some of the parts are still available to upgrade from new-old stock.
While the brakes work sufficiently, they can overheat; check for juddering, which signals warped discs. Everything is available to make the car as good as new.
The alloy wheels are prone to buckling, especially those on the rear of the Vantage variant as they’re wider (9x18 compared with 8x18 elsewhere). If three-piece wheels are fitted check the state of the lacquer, as it tends to peel.
If V12 wheels are fitted to a straight-six car the handling will be wrecked, as the offsets are different. It’s also important to use the right tyres. Unidirectional Bridgestones should be installed – and on six-cylinder cars they’re handed, too.
Six-cylinder DB7s were better rustproofed than Vantages, so check the wheelarches and chassis legs for corrosion if buying a V12 car. When caught in time the wheelarches can be fixed cheaply, but if left the bill will escalate.
Serious corrosion is unlikely, yet you still need to analyse the double-skinned front bulkhead. This rots from the inside out if the scuttle and air-con drain tubes block. The radius arm mountings can rust, too, along with the jacking points.
Crash damage is more likely than corrosion – it usually leads to the latter, however. The panel gaps should be tight and even, although some early cars weren’t built to as high a standard as you might imagine.
Even a relatively minor parking nudge can lead to the chassis rails beneath the engine being knocked out of line, resulting in uneven tyre wear. If the paint on the composite wings, bonnet or boot lid is bubbling you know the car has been poorly repaired; a steel bonnet was fitted from 1997.
Try to ascertain whether or not the car has ever had a replacement windscreen. The plastic scuttle trim is often poorly refitted, leading to water leaks into the cabin. As you’d expect this can lead to rotten carpets and heavy condensation, along with wrecked ventilation fans.
All DB7 interiors are trimmed with leather. This can crack or split, which is why feeding it every couple of years is worthwhile. The plastic seat catches break, but they’re replaced easily and cheaply.
On the Volante, the top frame can wear holes in the fabric if the protective caps on the hood-iron bolts have come adrift. Repairs are usually possible, but a whole new roof might be needed if things are bad.
Headlamps are extremely costly to replace, so make sure that neither is damaged. Don’t worry about discoloured polycarbonate lenses, though, as these can be refurbished easily enough.
Non-functioning air-conditioning might just need a re-gas, but if it requires a new evaporator (which is more likely) this is an expensive job. It’s a 12-hour task on a six-cylinder car, while on a Vantage it takes a faintly ridiculous 21 hours.
- 1993: The DB7 makes its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in supercharged straight-six form.
- 1994: The first cars are delivered to their eager owners.
- 1996: The Volante appears, with a powered soft-top.
- 1999: The V12-engined Vantage supersedes the six-cylinder DB7, in both coupé and Volante forms.
- 2002: The run-out production DB7 goes on sale (the GT and GTA); so does the DB7 Zagato, but no cars are delivered until 2003. Only 99 DB7 Zagatos are constructed.
- 2003: The Zagato-bodied Vantage Volante is unveiled; the DB AR1. Only 99 are made, for the American market, except for eight European cars – all are left-hand drive apart from one. The final DB7s (tenth-anniversary models) are built.
While there are plenty of DB7s for sale, some variations on the theme are more plentiful than others. A lot more V12-powered DB7s were made than straight-sixes (4100 vs 2461), while just 885 of the latter were drop-tops, compared with around half of V12 production.
A full service history by a marque specialist is essential, and if you’ve set your sights on a V12 make sure you’ve got the cash to keep it running; they’re much more costly to maintain than six-cylinder cars. Whatever you buy, a thorough pre-purchase inspection is imperative, as what are apparently minor faults can end up being very costly.
Because the smaller engine weighs less and provides the car with better balance, and with the six-pot car being rarer, you can pay more for one of these than an equivalent V12. Most DB7 owners prefer the coupés and a manual gearbox. As the majority of models are autos, this means you can pay quite a premium for a superb manual DB7 – if you’re lucky enough to find one.
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics
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