Rare Rides: The 1990 Aston Martin Virage - End of Aston Independence
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.
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