By on October 16, 2018

The Rare Rides series featured a vintage Aston Martin once before, when we took a look at the luxurious Lagonda sedan from 1984. Today we move forward in history a few years to see a luxurious, large coupe that’s more along the lines of what you’d expect from the Aston Martin brand.

It’s a Virage, from 1990.

The Virage occupied an interesting time in the history of Aston Martin with regard to both ownership and product offerings. Throughout the 1980s, the company continued producing the same vehicles it made since the middle Seventies. The aforementioned Lagonda debuted in 1974, and the V8 coupe (regular and DBS) had been available since 1969. The only other mainstream model the company offered was the V8 Vantage, which was new for 1977.

As the 1980s drew to a close, Aston Martin prepared a single new car to hold the banner for the brand. That car was the V8 Virage. Introduced for 1989, the Virage would end up the last model developed while Aston Martin was still under the ownership of Victor Gauntlett. Gauntlett was a wealthy petroleum executive who revived the Aston Martin brand in the early Eighties. Before that, Aston suffered through three different owners between 1970 and 1979.

When it debuted at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1988, Aston Martin pitched the Virage as its new flagship. More than that, it would be its everything for the first few years of production. From 1989 to 1992 the Virage was the only Aston Martin offering, joined by the higher performance (and identical looking) V8 Vantage in 1993, and the Ford-funded DB7 in 1994. By that time the company came under Ford’s corporate umbrella. The DB7 was in the works under Gauntlett’s ownership, but the cash required to develop an all-new model was more than he wanted to bear. Ford purchased a small stake in Aston in 1987, and Gauntlett stayed on as the chairman through 1991. That year, with DB7 development heating up, Ford took a controlling stake in Aston Martin. Gauntlett stepped aside for Walter Hayes, VP for Ford of Europe.

As one might imagine, the development of the Virage occurred on a bit of a budget. The chassis was a variant of the old Lagonda’s design. Keen eyes will recognize the tail lamps from a Volkswagen Scirocco and switches from European Fords. Powered by an aluminum 5.3-liter V8, 330 horsepower propelled the 3,946-pound coupe to 158 miles an hour. Finding 60 in 6.5 seconds even with an automatic transmission, it was a very quick car for the time. A five-speed manual was optional, and was selected about 40 percent of the time. The automatic in Virage examples before 1994 (like here) was the ever-popular three-speed TorqueFlite from Chrysler. Living on through 1995 (365 produced), the original Virage morphed slightly into the V8 Coupe that ran through 2000.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in the Netherlands, and asks about $96,700. Generally, for examples located in North America with low miles, asking prices are between $75,000 and $90,000.

[Images: seller]

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35 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1990 Aston Martin Virage – End of Aston Independence...”


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I think it looks mostly like an S13 Sylvia/200SX.

  • avatar
    gtem

    The interior looks absolutely gauche in that color combination, but man the exterior is awesome. Something about fat tires on a sports car, the whole thing looks muscular and serious.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    From the angle of the photos in this article, the proportioning here is awkward, but viewed from a higher angle, it looks awesome.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aston_Martin_Virage#/media/File:1998_Vantage.JPG

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    And I thought the Ford Tempo, 4 cylinder Ciera/Corsica/etc, and Toyota Tercel and Corolla were outdated for offering a 3 speed automatic during this era. At least they had the excuse of being extremely budget friendly, especially compared to this. Sheesh.

    Maybe a suitable overdrive automatic wasn’t available (I mean, even BMW sourced theirs from GM) or was too expensive, but if I were interested in this car (or, more appropriately, if I could *afford* to be interested), it’d be the manual or nothing. You can keep your Dodge Diplomat transmission.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Long story short, in the late 1980’s with a friend I visited the Aston facility in Newport Pagnell. Unfortunately we lost track of the days of the week and arrived on a Saturday morning. Our luck held, for as we were looking in the closed/locked front gate, the prototype Virage pulled in behind us, being driven by Aston’s chief engineer and chief designer.

    Spent a pleasant afternoon with them, including a drive (no we could not drive the actual car) well before any press.

    The reason they used the Chrysler transmissions is because they were the only ones at the time that met Aston’s requirements regarding weight, size and ability to handle torque. And they were actually older transmissions from late 1960’s and early 1970’s Chryslers that were purchased by their ‘scout’ in North America and then totally rebuilt.

    So definitely not Dodge Diplomat transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Nice story, Arthur – I had a feeling durability was the key reason why those transmissions were used.

      (Well, that, plus the fact that they clearly got them on the cheap.)

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Close enough. You can’t make me believe that cost wasn’t a big factor.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The Virage was a bespoke automobile. None were made until somebody had ordered one and made a substantial down payment. They then had to wait for up till 2 years until they took delivery.

        Each vehicle was’hand made’ by a dedicated team. There was no moving assembly line in Newport Pagnell. The site is now Aston Martin Works and Astons are restored where they were once manufactured.

        When we were there one of the cars that they were manufacturing was for Cubby Broccoli.

        For people like that, money is no object. Aston could have purchased any existing transmission but chose the Chrysler for engineering reasons. The only other option could have been having a transmission made to their specifications by another manufacturer, but with a run of less than 400 vehicles, the cost for that would indeed have been prohibitive.

  • avatar
    pathfinderdoorhandle

    Always got a kick out of the second generation VW Scirocco taillights on this era Aston Martin, specifically the smoked-lens versions from the ’86 through ’88 16V model. In the pre-3D printing days plastic components like taillights were expensive to produce for small independent companies, cheaper to outsource them.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      There are some really interesting shared lighting.

      The McLaren F1 used rear lights from a coach, and indicator/blinkers from a Lotus Elan.

      The TVR Griffith used rear lights from a Vauxhall Cavalier / Opel Vectra while the Cerbera used Fiesta rear lights

      The Jag XJ220 raided the BL/AR parts bin, the rear lights were from an R8 series Rover 200

      Ford GT40 used Simca rear lights

      Noble used a lot of Mondeo (Contour) parts including V6, gearbox, interior switches and the rear lights.

      The Mondeo predecessor Sierra (Merkur XR4Ti) donated windscreen and rear lights to the RS200

      Within the same manufacturer again, BMW M1 used rear lights from the 6 series sharknose

      The MG SV used front lights from a Fiat Punto and rear lights from a Fiat Coupe.

      Lotus Espirit and Excel used Rover SD1 rear lights, earlier Espirits used Fiat X19 rear lights

      Aston DB7 used Mazda 323F rear lights

      Early Land Rover Discoverys used Austin Maestro van rear lights

      Bristols have used rear lights from Vauxhall Carltons, Audi A4s and Bedford CF vans

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Amazing that this thing’s bones go back to the mid 70s, and sold through 2000. I feel like it had as long of a run as the Foxbody Rustang.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    from that rear view, it reminds me of a more substantial Nissan 240 SX. Nice looking car for those times.

  • avatar
    ajla

    When new, how did the price of this compare to the Continental R? Just from the pictures and description, the Bentley seems like the superior machine.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Rumour has it that Jaguar engineers were spitting blood when Ford bought them and then promptly put the Jaguar F type they had been developing onto a low loader only to see it emerge as the Aston Martin DB7 whilst they were ordered to make retro models like the S type which they knew would bomb at home and not do sufficiently well in the US to overcome the drop in home sales.

    To me it proves Ford were utterly clueless when it came to running PAG. Geeley has proven it at Volvo and Tata has shown it at Land Rover. Even now Jaguar is struggling to get over Fords screw ups.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      As was pointed out in a prior post, people forget where Jag was when Ford purchased them. Mistakes were made for sure, but they would have gone under without Ford buying them.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Tears from Jaguar and Saab about Ford and GM management decisions will never not be lame. If you don’t want to build S-Types and things on a Vectra platform then freaking stay independent and let your greatness shine brightly.

        Don’t show up to the bread line and complain about the quality of the soup.

        • 0 avatar

          “on’t show up to the bread line and complain about the quality of the soup.”

          You describe what happened with aristocracy during/after revolution both in France and Russia. I recommend reading “The Twelve Chairs” to learn more about it.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Fact has it that Jag wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for Ford’s cash, and their quality control before they went down in flames would make a 1994 Kia Sephia look like a new Lexus. Yeah, things would have been so much better that way.

    • 0 avatar

      What else to expect from company that had no clue what to do with its own luxury division (Lincoln in case you forgot).

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Here’s a thought if Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston has remained as one company under the ownership of a Tata or Geely how profitable would they be now? I suspect Audi and Co would have a serious competitor.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    VW Corrado in the front, Nissan 240 in the back!

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Yeesh, it’s a wonder Aston Martin survived long enough to redeem themselves with the DB7 and Vanquish.

  • avatar
    Marko

    US-market Aston Martins of this era used a Ford airbag steering wheel, with an Aston Martin badge glued over the Ford logo. Yes, the same suitcase of a steering wheel used in everything from the Taurus to the Mustang to the Econoline.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    The back of this thing looks like it was lifted with a taffy puller.

  • avatar
    Baskingshark

    Minor correction; the tail-lights are from the VW Scirocco. The headlamps are from the Audi 200.

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