Dramatic looks, stunning V12, handling balance, the sheer drama and excitement of it
Brakes squeak unless used hard, drivetrain shunt at low speed… in other words, nothing
What is it?
It’s the Vulcan, Aston Martin’s track-only, One-77-based answer to McLaren’s GTR and Ferrari’s FXX cars. It’s got 820bhp and, above 190mph, delivers more kilos of downforce than it weighs. Only 24 were made, each costing £1.8 million and several owners then spent a rumoured £300k converting them to road use.
The back story runs something like this: back in 2014, Fraser Dunn, the then chief engineer of Aston’s Q Advanced Engineering division, and David King, Director of Advanced Operations and Motorsport, got chatting about some old One-77 development prototypes that were kicking around. Unsurprisingly their first thought was to make a faster one. They envisioned a One-77 R.
The trouble was that the project that interested and excited them also bought out the small boys in almost every other department at Aston Martin. Design wanted a piece of the pie, and when they got the go ahead to make some sweeping changes, including shaping the bodywork in carbon instead of aluminium, every other department started pushing to make equally significant changes.
So the plan to use the existing 7.3-litre V12 was abandoned. Aston Martin Racing pointed out that they had a very potent 6.0-litre V12 running in the Vantage GT3 racer that, with a significant amount of modification (including gaining a litre of capacity), would deliver on one of the key parameters – over 800bhp. The 6949cc nat asp motor ended up with 820bhp at 7,750rpm and 575lb ft of torque at 6,500rpm. That all goes to the rear wheels via a six-speed Xtrac sequential racing paddleshift and magnesium torque tube. The carbon chassis is from the One-77, so to the sub-frames and basic suspension layout.
The aero package is obviously very different. The rear wing is mighty, but doesn’t develop as much downforce as the underbody diffuser. And because the Vulcan is front-engined the diffuser can be opened out earlier, generating more suck further forwards. An AMR upgrade pack (as fitted to the maroon car) added front dive planes, pressure-reducing vents over the front wheels and a second element to the rear wing, presumably because Aston felt that 1,350kg of downforce at 190mph wasn’t enough.
Carbon Brembos lurk behind the 305-width front wheels – wheels that are clad in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. A set of full slicks is optional and will cost you £5,000. A drop in the £1.8 million ocean. The difference they make isn’t as pronounced as you might expect. During prototype testing at Nardo the Vulcan was only four seconds slower around the handling circuit on the treaded tyres. The time on slicks, 2min 07sec, was, Aston claimed at the time, the track’s outright lap record.
And then there’s the way it looks. Visually it’s so compelling. Like most racing cars, it’s better from the back than the front – there’s just more going on. The low rear three quarter angle where the view is mostly wing, the carbon bazooka that passes for a side exit exhaust, and those lollypop stick rear lights, is sensational.
With the Valkyrie soon to arrive it might seem that the Vulcan has had its day, but this is one of those cars that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Around a track I wouldn’t be surprised if some rivals (a talent pool that includes the Brabham BT-62 and Senna GTR) are faster, but as an event, a spectacle, an experience, the Vulcan takes a lot of beating.
What's the verdict?
In the long term, it’s likely that the Vulcan will play a subservient role to the Valkyrie. That car, with its Newey/F1 pedigree will define the ultimate in road/track ability. But the Vulcan can still hold its head high, not because of its outright speed (although that is nothing short of dazzling) but because of the drama, excitement and thunder of the driving experience.
With its naturally aspirated, sensationally responsive V12 and surprisingly forgiving track manners this is a car that, although initially being fabulously intimidating, soon reveals itself to be a much more open, less savage machine than you expect. Which means you relax and give yourself over to sitting at the centre of this maelstrom.
Yes, it’s a huge amount of money. Yes, unless you pay hundreds of thousands more to an outside company, it can only be used on a track. But just look at it. What a thing.