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Fancy a pre-series, first-generation Aston Martin Vanquish? This one is now up for sale

‘Project Vantage’ is not only the blueprint for the original Vanquish, but also one of Aston’s most important design studies

Published: 09 Jan 2024

Unveiled to the world’s press in the Detroit Auto show of January 1998, the Aston Martin ‘Project Vantage’ was the pre-series version of what ultimately became the first-generation Vanquish, and while it’s not known just how many were created, it’s safe to assume that they are very, very rare.

As it happens, one has just gone up for sale for an undisclosed fee at Classicmobilia, presenting a unique opportunity to own a big slice of Aston Martin heritage… if you’ve got enough blank cheques lying around.

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As expected, several cosmetic changes reside over the finished product. At the front, the Project Vantage has black lining along the headlights, while a smaller set of fog lights rest either side of the grille which, alongside the lower vent, features more mesh than the final car.

By contrast, the rear of the car saw a much more significant change. The tail lights are noticeably different, adopting a more shadowy look with three lights split across two ‘bubbles’, as opposed to the final car’s two-light, single-bubble cluster. The dual-exhaust is also positioned further forward than it is in the final car, which in turn places more precedence on the rear splitter’s curved edges and make it look as sharp as a scimitar a result, despite not actually being any different to the final design.

There’s also plenty to unpack in the interior, which sports more carbon inserts than the final car and a gorgeous layer of tan leather across the seats, parcel shelf and along the doors. This was an option for customers on the final car, though the strap seatbelt design was ditched for a conventional one. Why, oh why did you do that Aston *sobs*.

The 48-valve 6.0-litre aluminium V12 was a prototype, and as per the original press release, was claimed to punch the Project Vantage to 60mph in four seconds flat and on to an expected top speed in excess of 200mph. 

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In the end, a similar iteration of this engine was used, but slightly downscaled to 5.9 litres and paired with either a wonderful six-speed manual, or not-so-wonderful six-speed ‘automated’ manual. Which is fancy speak for flappy paddle. Still, the Vanquish is good for 450bhp and 400lb ft of torque, and we imagine the Project Vantage has a similar set of stats. Actually no, it has strap seatbelts which make it far superior in every single way.

Jokes aside, why does this car matter so much? Simple: the first-generation Vanquish saved Aston Martin during one of its darkest financial periods. By selling over 2,500 examples over a six-year period in both Vanquish and Vanquish ‘S’ form, the marque not only managed to stay afloat but did so with the creation of an evergreen grand tourer which is as suave now as it was then. It even inspired a revamp by its designer Ian Callum, known as the ‘Vanquish 25 by Callum’.

The Project Vantage is therefore one of the most important design studies ever made by Aston, and with one now coming up for sale, it’s difficult to pass on the opportunity if you’ve got the means. And the garage space to mask it under a blanket for eternity, never to actually be driven.

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