Category D cars, are you saving money or cutting corners?

Not once in several months and 3000 or so miles across the UK did anyone say something negative about the looks of my Aston Martin. In fact it was quite the opposite, random compliments approving gazes and the odd candid picture. What if I told she’d had a crash? Back in 2013 my Aston Martin had a shunt of some sort which resulted in it needing basically a new face. A pair of wings a bumper and I think a bonnet, nothing important just the fleshy bits. Funny how the atmosphere in a room will change when you tell people that isn’t it? it’s like announcing your girlfriend has an STD no-one in the pub would’ve known until you announce it to the world.

We in the UK are a funny bunch, we’re so protective of our cars, we demand flawless service history, low owners and even lower mileage. Yet it’s very rare anyone actually looks through the invoices when buying. My usual kink was high-milers, take a clean Audi RS4 add 150,000 miles and drop the price and you’re right up my street. I never understood why people worried so much, my RS4 was 13 years old when I got it and if I’m honest it was probably going to break anyway regardless of miles. I would go to car shows and have the same conversations and receive the same praise as cars with half the mileage that cost £5-10k more. Apart from resale taking a little bit longer (nothing with a V8 moves that quick anyway) I wasn’t losing out at all. Champagne lifestyle on lemonade money as a naive 20 year old waving around my 4 door penis extension.

I’ve never had a problem with Cat D or N cars because as a rule what you’re getting is a car that’s 20% cheaper, has newer parts on it and is usually in better condition than its counterparts. Imagine a 15 year old car with virtually no stone chips and brand new headlights that’s also several grand cheaper. Yet most will turn their noses up at them. VinWiki founder Ed Bolian summarises it as “the nice examples are too nice to stick a bunch of miles on” get a rough one or one with a bad title (written off or stolen) fix them up and use them for as many miles as you want guilt free.

I took my Aston Martin part ex against my Audi RS7 with a great big lump of cash. This enabled me to do two things, first of which was relax. I had a big barrier of cash to enjoy life away from cars. Secondly it meant the car owed me very little despite being an Aston Martin. This meant I could attack a twisty road a lot harder than I would otherwise be inclined to do so while enjoying myself so much more. I was able to accumulate a few thousand miles on the Vantage very quickly, because the worst thing that could happen had already occurred 7 years prior.

What is CAT D/N? Category D and N cars in the UK are cars which have been written off by the Insurance company as uneconomical to repair. Sometimes this is because the parts are difficult to acquire thus being very expensive. Others are due to the painting costs associated with the replacement panels. Cat D is the old name for what is now Cat N which means Non-structure damage. This means the vehicle underneath and it’s chassis are perfectly intact, however cosmetic body panels will need replacing. It is the lowest form of insurance Write-off category and stolen recovered cars will also sit in this bracket.

But what about resale? The Vantage is the only car I’ve had that’s been an insurance write-off and it didn’t take any longer to sell than any of my high-mileage cars. If you’re only worrying about resale values then I feel you’re somewhat missing the point. Most of my cars are worth nothing in relative terms because I drive them so much, hence I try and buy cheap shitters to start with. My first R35 GT-R was a cosmetic dog but with a heart of gold and comprehensive service history I was able to enjoy some of the best 5500 miles I’ve ever covered. If you’re budget only allows the lower market cars like the high-mileage or Cat D/N cars then I say you’re splitting hairs buying either. It’ll all come down to which has the best maintenance records and the spec you prefer. If I could go back in time and have the same £12k sat in my pocket 5 years ago, I think I’d still drive that RS4 saloon home with a proud 140,000 miles on the clock. But I get it if that’s way too many for you , if there’d been a 50k miler Cat D with wingback buckets for the same money I may have been tempted to stray.

To summarise then it’s like buying any performance car. Do your research and see what’s in budget, don’t turn your nose up at the Category cars if they’re clean and well presented. You could use that few grand elsewhere and 9 times out of 10 your experience and fun behind the wheel won’t be less than anybody else’s. It just cost you a little bit less to get there.

How to buy used performance cars without being a dick.

As I wrote about last week with “the trials and tribulations of selling cars privately” there’s a certain amount of bullshit present on both sides of a sale. This unfortunately can interfere with the buying process. A disgruntled seller who’s put up with months of “low ball cash offer today” and being offered rotboxes part ex means they’re at times almost unapproachable. I’ve had sellers pull listings, trade cars in and some who have just kept theirs to save themselves from complete throbbers. I myself have been very rude on multiple emails to terrible offers from people who’ve no intention nor the money to buy my cars. Only two words 7 letters 3 of which are F.

I’ve always tried to be totally honest with sellers about my intentions for their pride and joy, the amount I’m willing to pay and why. We all know I love a car with a backstory and I’ll not lie I’ve shortlisted a 109,000 mile V10 Audi R8 for my next potentially stupid purchase. I’m a strong believer in good Karma and that what goes around comes around. I got messed about for weeks with my Aston Martin Vantage, it was a difficult car to buy and even harder to sell. It’s one of those cars that appeals to everyone as it’s not just beautiful , but in relative terms it’s pretty quick, yet also brash and ostentatious thanks to the Larini exhaust. Fighting fair is always my goal, COVID has been a difficult time for people, many have lost homes and jobs and I’m not going to abuse that fact. I’d rather pay a fair price for a good genuine car and know that I’m helping someone’s family stability than snipe the best deal on the market, maybe some good Karma will come my way. Although dealing with lowballing idiots is sadly more likely.

How to avoid being a dick when buying your next car.

Build a rapport. Without being a pen pal or general time waster, ask important questions about the vehicle. But try and personify it, we petrolheads are a soft bunch who want to know our pride and joy will be taken care of. When was “she” last serviced as opposed to “it”. I’m still in contact with most of the owners of my old cars, we aren’t best mates but I know I can drop them a message and see how the cars are getting on. I’m so happy to know my First RS4 has covered another 30,000 miles since I sold it amongst other geeky little facts.

Make a genuine offer. First make sure you’ve the funds to follow through with the offer. If it’s a little low, without being condescending justify it. I’ve knocked a few grand off asking price because there were parts I didn’t want that I knew the seller could shift easily, everybody wins.

Be Factual and commit. If you’ve made an offer, that’s a commitment to buying the car. Put the sellers mind at ease , ensure them you’re not going to spend 12 hours underneath the car and test driving it to go “I’ll see how I feel” have a look round, check the documents and test drive. If you’re happy say “ I will pay you this amount and take the vehicle”. I’ve made offers based off of history , spec miles and cars which best suited my budget. My R35 GT-R was delivered to me from York based on my word. I promised the seller if the car was as described and delivered I would pay the funds and take it that day, so I did.

Do your homework. I had a young lad looking round one of my cars , asking questions which were basic knowledge and covered in my listing. If you’re looking at car you should’ve completed a HPI check, researched the spec, history and market value. Once you’ve done this you’re in a strong position to make a realistic offer. You should know the car nearly as well as the seller by the time you arrive.

Communicate. Regular communication is key especially when asking about a cars history or arranging a viewing. 2020 has been a unique year for viewing and buying cars, but if you’ve got to wait then stay in touch. If you’re not interested say so, if you’re still on for a viewing then say so! The worst thing is bullshit excuses when people will do anything to avoid the truth, if you don’t want to buy my car that’s fine, just say so. Why should I wash and wax my car ready for a weekend viewing when you can’t be bothered to turn up? Sellers appreciate honesty and integrity and we’re always happier seeing our cars drive off with someone we’ve got to know.

Summary. Buying a performance car is only as difficult as you choose to make it. If you’re like me and buy some high milers or one with a backstory then go in with your eyes open do your research and enjoy the process. There’s a lot to be said for reading buyers guides, watching road tests and listening to Automotive journalists. The paying for it and driving it home are the very last steps of many you’ll need to complete. Play nicely and you’ll make some great friendships along the way.

The trials and tribulations of selling cars privately.

Selling your car privately is a brilliant way of making an extra few grand. Research the market, take some great pictures of your car and let buyers know what makes it special and unique. That being said there’s many headaches that come with selling cars yourself. The continuous messages without purpose , insulting offers and general dreamers you’ll meet along the way. Some make for a damn good story though.

Over time I’ve come to realisation that most who message you about your sales post are time wasters, or can’t afford to purchase it. You’ll get the “condescending type”, they’ll tell you what’s unappealing about your vehicle, why it’s near impossible to sell and how they’re doing you a favour by lowballing you. Next there’s the “in a rush” I’ll offer you (insert low offer here) cash today. These are often just as insulting as they’re usually aiming for below book price to flip it on straight away. Then there’s my personal favourite the “ambitious part ex guy” I’ve been offered everything from a high mileage Porsche Panamera to badly specced M4 BMW’s. These people are dangerous as they’ll think they’re doing you a favour while lying to you about their cars spec and history. (“Fully loaded swop swop”) The last type I’ve encountered is rare but not isolated to a single incident. The “pen pal” someone who idolises your car for one reason or another, it’s either the perfect spec or right in their budget. They’ll ask you thousands of questions and perhaps make you an offer. Then for the kicker (insert story about funds anytime within 6 months) and they’ll ask to stay in touch to finish the deal. In reality you end up with people who never have the money and just want some cool pictures to show their mates and the story “I nearly bought an Aston”

I’ve had mixed success with selling cars, yet I’ve always achieved the desired result. My best effort was the R35 Nissan GT-R. The R35 had covered 77,000 miles or so by the time I’d finished with it , bodywork was a little tatty but the cars service history and maintenance was fantastic. Freshly serviced, new Alcon brakes supplied and good Michelin’s on all four corners. Must add it was the cheapest on the market at the time. The first “buyer” ignored the entirety of the cars service history, the upgrade TSW alloys, new brakes and fresh service. He instead moaned like a petulant child about the paintwork on an 11 year old car with 77,000 miles on it. He kept trying to knock money and I stood firm before asking him to leave. He had brought 3 mates, (without consulting me) one of whom tried telling me half the car had been painted (it hadn’t) others mentioned it’s debut on Carwow a few months prior. His overall attitude was appalling so I took great pride in denying him a test drive and rejecting his offers. However I digress as within 24 hours the car was sold for exactly the money I asked for. I made £1000 and the GT-R had departed within two days of my listing. The monster is currently being used regularly as a track car by its new owner, which makes me both happy and sad really.

Other sales to note are my supercharged Audi B7 RS4, this took a few months as I did it piece by piece. An unfortunate incident in South Wales and some failed rod bearings made the high mileage example worth about as much as a Freddo in one piece. So I stripped the few month old TTS supercharger kit and sold it for little over £9k (whole car owed me £16k). Soon followed by its bucket seats, carbon fibre airbox, coilovers, Milltek exhaust, ceramic brakes blah blah blah. Thanks to the Facebook marketplace and knowing a lot of people in the Audi RS world I was able to flip parts quickly and easily without paying extortionate fees. I did so well on my last B7 that I was able to settle a small personal loan, utilise my savings and pay for my Nissan GT-R which cost almost twice as much! My first B7 RS4 was a nightmare to shift. From the outside it was an immaculate freshly painted example with new coilovers and brakes. To everyone on the market though it was “moon mileage RS4 saloon £12k”. I ended up removing my Milltek exhaust and selling some of the carbon-fibre additions to make up some cash. £11500 later the car was gone, she’s still running well with around 170,000 miles.

I think to summarise what I’m saying is that selling cars yourself is great, providing you get the sort of figure you’re looking for. However the more expensive my cars get, the more I understand why people part-exchange. No time wasting, no viewers or test pilots. Just a quick inspection agree a number and bang it’s all done and dusted. My honest advice is if your budget is bigger than mine then part exchange. If not then buckle up and enjoy the emotional rollercoaster that is private car sales.

I spanked my Aston Martin around Rutland.

I’ve publicly said I think my Aston Martin is slow when compared to rivals of a similar price point and that when it’s presented with a long straight it can be lacking at times. However last week I dug through my coppers down the back of the sofa and bought some new shoes for the Vantage. The 21s were breaking my spine, robbing me of my soul and making me an overly grumpy bastard if I’m honest, so it was time to change. After finding a cheap set of forged V12 vantage wheels and winning them on eBay for a steal I set about ordering some rubber. Blackcircles had some deals on Goodyear Eagles which I’ve experimented with before and enjoyed. £556 later they were fitted and balanced resulting in a happy Sam.

I can’t put into words the transformation of this car thanks to the revised wheel and tyre setup. The car would crash into its stops on the Nitron coilovers almost constantly with little provocation. The wheels absorbed little to none of any impacts and passed them right through my coccyx. The “fitment” crowd will sob at my 40 section side profiles up front but my god I don’t care, the Vantage feels supple and light on its feet, less susceptible to cambers as well.

After weeks of deliberation it was settled that the Aston would take part in its first road-trip. I’ve always liked the idea of getting a sports car massively dirty and driving it very hard for as long as possible. I genuinely think I’ve found the perfect road for a V8 vantage. The B672 from Morcott to Caldecott is an exquisite piece of tarmac and even better when it’s a little bit wet. You’ve a multitude of tight second gear corners as you row through the gearbox then heel-toeing all the way down again. There’s crests and dips, cambers, slow corners, fast corners and straits long enough for the v8 to sing, yet not so long you’re wishing for more power. I really fell in love with the Aston this weekend it’s softer side made it compliant at speed which meant I could drive it harder and really enjoy the balance the chassis has to offer. She’s a porker at over 1600kgs but apart from a few moments breaking rear-end traction the car behaved faultlessly. Even after several “obligatory” runs along this route at pace.

I’m really proud of this little car, the boot swallowed our luggage,the engine only devoured a tank and half of fuel in just over 350 “brisk” miles and the Goodyear’s were confidence inspiring and comfortable. Overall it’s proven where the cars strengths are. Now it’s soft enough to handle a B-road and my word does the V8 absolutely roar in the upper Rev-range. You get a lot of very interesting looks from people that hear you coming a couple of miles away, I’ve put that down to seldom seeing as Aston getting a good spanking and revving out to deafen the local population. If photos are your thing then Harringworth viaduct is a beautiful spot, I never managed to take my foot out of it and stop but I’ll remember next time… probably.

I tried to buy a high-mileage broken Ferrari

Those of you who know me well, know I’m somewhat susceptible to buying a car with a story. For example a 177,000 mile supercharged Audi RS4 I daily drove before its demise in the welsh mountains. So when I found this black high mileage Ferrari things really got going for me. The F430 was launched in 2005 and I’ll never forget being a 10 year old watching Clarkson skid both the coupe and convertible around the test track. I’ve always adored the looks , the subtle grin up front the perfect proportions and a screaming v8 soundtrack only the boys at Maranello can make. However I don’t currently have £65,000 to go and buy a nice used example. However this 430 was a little rough around the edges and therefore right in my crosshairs.

The “problems” with this car were many. First of all it’s been imported from the UAE, a place where most supercars are thrashed within an inch of their lives. The car was listed for sale in Birmingham , ask any petrolhead if they’ll buy a car from there and watch them wince, next it was a high mileage example with 75,000 miles. Add those misdemeanours together plus that it’s left hand drive, adorned budget tyres and had a knackered clutch and you can see my point. However it was cheap, very very cheap and would’ve saved me nearly £20,000 compared to the rest of the F430 stock. Yes I’d have probably never been able to sell it but what a car to be “stuck” with. The paintwork was crying out for a thorough detailing and protection with the interior desperately needing a clean and repair for the drivers bolster.

Thanks to the F430 being old by today’s standards not all parts are painfully expensive. My original plan was to sell the Vantage to the pack of vultures who message me regularly, purchase the F430, have it delivered to my house and hide it away in the garage over winter. Gather some funds and clarity of mind and set about “restoring” the knackered old supercar. The Supercar Rooms quote around £600 labour for a clutch change with the parts costing around £1500-2000, a set of Bridgestones were around £560 and then a major service by my good man CJ. All in mechanically sound the car would of owed me just shy of £50k. I’ve written time and time again the satisfaction I get of restoring a car, watching it improve both cosmetically and mechanically. I loved the idea of a freshly detailed F430 on my drive with no one knowing it’s knocking on the door of 80,000 miles. I also liked the idea of taking it past 100,000 miles somewhere in Italy then retiring it to the weekend toy and having an old Alfa as a daily driver, I’m a sucker for old Italian cars secretly.

This F430 has since been sold, I’ve no idea where to I assume to somewhere in London as it appeared on the Facebook marketplace. The new owner didn’t seem keen when I asked why it was now listed at £65,000 when still present on budget tyres, high miles and I very much doubted with the new clutch it needed. I can’t describe how much my heart sank when the listing vanished from Auto Trader, just imagine an F430 for less than a v10 R8. I hope to see it litter eBay or Pistonheads some point before next spring when I’m likely tied up in my next stupid financial venture. If you’re going to rebuild something it may as well be a 500bhp v8 Ferrari right?

I broke my Aston Martin …

I’m a special kind of stupid , I buy grossly impractical cars and then insist on using them as my only vehicle. This goes with varying degrees of success and so far with the vantage it’s not going so well.

After a visit to Bamford Rose the Aston independent chaps, the car was behaving better than before. The front suspension was far too soft causing the car to pogo allover the place on Wiltshire’s pothole infested roads, after a subtle adjustment the car feels firmer but more compliant. Fast forward a week and the car felt a little out of alignment, so I had the front geometry tweaked which improved things a little but something just wasn’t right.

So it’s raining heavily, I’m on my way home for a hospital appointment. A droning Larini exhaust and radio cancel each other out along the way. However I feel the car really start to tug to the left. On pulling over I find my 25, yes 25 section rear tyre flat as a proverbial pancake. The Vantage barely has room for two people and a bag of stuff and things so no chance of a spare wheel. Unfortunately it turned out I’d made it to Northamptonshire, so may have been running a slow puncture for some miles. I stop at a BP garage for air but the “universal” tyre pump is garbage. Cue the “who wants to be a millionaire” phone a friend option whilst I settle down with a coffee and play the waiting game.

After being deposited at home I remove the offending wheel and check it over following a good clean. Not only was I greeted by a previous repair I wasn’t aware of but a nice crack next door. Fortunately I’ve a local chap who’s saved several wheels of mine from the scrap heap and he sets about cutting out the bad metal and welding in some fresh stuff. If you want to start your Monday on the wrong foot, throw away a 7mm Michelin Pilot Sport 4S that your Aston has devoured after a flat. As you’ll see from the picture below it really made a mess, my Vantage is metaphorically kicking me in the groin just because.

I’m fortunate the car is running healthily at the moment (touches as much wood as I can find) however I will now being going to an oem set of wheels for peace of mind and better ride comfort. The Aston is a great car but you need the right road the right weather and the correct mindset it’s a total pig otherwise. If you’re ever near Glaston and pass the petrol station on your right, then turn right immediately afterwards and enjoy the twisting cambered roads spilling through the Rutland countryside. Drink in the beauty as you rev match and spear beneath the mighty viaduct with the tight turns up and down steep gradients, it’s helped me remember what this car is all about.

Here’s what 2020 and my cars have taught me about driving.

If you’d said to me at any point during 2019 that I would own 3 of my dream cars in 2020, I would call you a liar and ask for some of whatever you’ve been smoking. However here we are … Things started with a bang as I took ownership of a 640bhp Nissan GT-R two weeks before my 25th birthday and immediately spent those two weeks scaring the absolute shit out of myself. Now I like to think I’m pretty mature for my age, I like to keep ego out of things and learn as much as possible. I can honestly say I was nowhere near good enough as a driver when the GT-R arrived. I’d still get the mad adrenaline hits while spearing off on full boost, slightly misjudging steering inputs and such. My usual style has been smooth but fast, yet my first weeks with the Nissan I just couldn’t modulate my steering inputs smoothly, the car would feel forced into corners rather than persuaded to take them. My only saving grace was youth and very quick reaction times (thanks RAF CBAT) the GT-R’s propensity for oversteer in the cold and damp meant more often than not I was being caught out by slides and terrified beyond belief. Yet once I’d known it for a while I soon realised speed was all it had to offer , yes they handle well but once you’ve adapted your driving style you’re comfortable at much higher speeds and catching the tail when it steps away. I developed a lot as a driver in those 6 months, as I feel big Audi’s encourage bad habits. You’ll find yourself mashing the throttle mid corner to pull out on your desired line without consequence, yet try that in a GT-R and you’ll pirouette through a hedge before you know what happened.

The Audi RS7 made me realise I’m a bit of an old bastard in a young mans body. I found myself wafting about more than driving it hard, it’s an effective way of covering a lot of miles very very quickly. But it is not fun, the GT-R always urged you on like a drunken mate on a Friday night. The RS7 is your accountant, everything is very professional very business like but in no way amusing. I’ve famously said it felt quite slow when compared to my tuned Datsun and it did. I let a friend drive it and from the passenger seat the big Audi felt like a missile but I had the same levels of feel and involvement from the passenger seat as I did when driving. Everything felt very muted, the big RS in undeniably capable but what’s the point when you can’t feel anything? There’s a cheeky chicane on the way to Witney I frequent and the RS7 is easily 10-15mph faster than the Aston. But thanks to the electric steering I’m totally clueless to what’s happening. The sports diff was a decent option at factory but it feels bloody horrid when you mash the loud pedal out of a comer. You get torque steer like you’re in a hot hatchback which in a 2 tonne barge is not the “feel” I want. I think the RS7 would be a much better car with hydraulic steering and more rear drive bias, that being said with the air con on, heated seats and cruise control it’s a luxury yacht for the road. A part of me regrets not remapping it as for £600 and around 140bhp increase and 900nm total is a bargain but would it improve the experience? Not in the bends no. I’ve always been more into a back road blast through the twisting lanes than a 200mph motorway blast.

The Vantage has always been a dream of mine yet one I never pulled the trigger on. The amount of road tests that call it heavy and slow in V8 guise , the underwhelming performance stats and the tax for parts and servicing always put me off. I wouldn’t have bought this car with money not for a second, but taking one part exchange seemed like a safe bet for me to try a small sports car. My supercharged RS4 is the one that changed the direction of my driving portfolio. It gave a manual gearbox and the best part of 650bhp all wrapped up in an unassuming small estate body. My first dream car had become even better, yet when stepping back down to a naturally aspirated RS4 they felt slow and heavy, the magic had been lost by comparison. It was this feeling which always made me doubt the Aston’s credentials. I’m so proud to report how wrong I was, yes mine is completely re-worked from the new engine and manifolds to the £4000 Nitron coilover setup, this is a vantage that goes as well as it looks. Again by relevant terms it’s unbelievably slow but it just doesn’t matter anymore, I feel special every time I go near it. I went for coffee in Burford the other day, the admiring looks and waves are enough to brighten even the gloomiest day. The v8 howls thanks to the Larini exhaust and manifolds, the manual gearbox is heavy like an old signal box and you feel like a proper bloke driving it. It’s like an old Ferrari you can enjoy the rev range and selecting cogs yourself even though you’re not going very quickly. Picture this, a sunny Sunday morning a fresh Starbucks and an Aston Martin to look at it, could be much worse right?

2020 has taught me to embrace new experiences as much as possible and that I can learn new skills simply by driving different cars. Rev-matching in the Aston is totally different to all of my Audi’s as the throttle response is slower. You need to be heavy-handed with it, it’s a grab it by the scruff of the neck type car and I love it. Naturally I’ve already got my eyes on something new but I’m chuffed I finally caved and bought an Aston Martin hopefully there’ll be a v12 in the pipeline soon.

V8 Vantage, 1500 mile update.

So as you may or may not know, 3 weeks ago I became the proud owner of an Aston Martin. An accolade I’ve been chasing for several years, yet I was always sidetracked into other cars. I took it in part ex for my Audi RS7 and I’ve been using it every day, in little over 3 weeks I’ve covered around 1500 miles. Here’s what I think…

This very car was perfect for me on paper, thanks to a power upgrade, facelift and chassis improvements, it goes much more like an Aston should. So how is it to live with every day? In a few words it’s great but there are some limitations. You can’t have more than one friend at a time, you can’t take more than a satchel worth of clothes or luggage with you anywhere you go (unless sacrificing the passenger seat) and it decimates V power like nothing I’ve owned. The alcantara dash helps eliminate glare from the heavily raked windscreen and the cabin is a beautiful place to be. It’s lack of tech is a little irritating but if you’ve got a day to waste use the antiquated navigation and get lost … a lot. Besides it’s appetite for V power the Vantage feels very manageable to drive unless sitting in traffic for extended periods. (Long clutch pedal with a bit of weight to it). I’m fairly tall at 6ft so I’ve got the seat in it’s lowest setting to eliminate the feeling of sitting on top of the car rather than in it, visibility all round isn’t too bad. However I find the Aston is a bastard to park thanks to its massive nose, carbon fibre front splitter and small rear window, I never really know where I am when reversing so I open the door like I’m in a Countach.

I’ve made a few modifications to the vantage already , most of which are cosmetic. I’ve detailed the wrap, toned the brake callipers down in matching grey (from lime green) and added a small pin stripe on the front lip to break up the front end. In the future I’m planning a remap-tweak, alcantara steering wheel and fitting the standard cats for a little peace on long journeys. (The Larini exhaust sounds great, but wears you down after a while) All in all I’m very pleased with the Aston, it’s lack of pace is more than made up for by beauty and driver involvement in my opinion. However I would definitely take a V12 or DBS if in the position later in life.

My favourite thing about this car is it’s ability to capture peoples hearts. People turn around due to the antisocial exhaust note and their scowls quickly turn to a smile, or approving nod when they see that it’s an Aston. The amount of waves and thumbs I’ve had going about by business or a casual chat at petrol pumps is really endearing and I’m honoured to share it with people. It’s a privilege to own something so beautiful that carries a lot of value to people in the UK I just hope they don’t think James Bond got fat.

I took an Aston Martin Vantage in part ex, here’s what I think of it so far.

Passing of the torch RS7 meets the Vantage.

I wrote in march about how the Aston Martin vantage is the ultimate head against heart battle for myself. The time finally seemed right and after being offered one part ex it finally happened. It’s by no means a fast car when stacked up against the RS7 or my GT-R but my god it’s beautiful. I’m yet to find a bad angle on it and after a good detail it looks fantastic. Of course there’s the odd niggle here and there but that’s what buying cars is like.

The Aston boasts a full interior retrim in Alcantara and Lamborghini leather, a manual gearbox, cnc manifolds, secondary decats , Larini race exhaust and nitron coilovers which perfectly frame the 21” Niche Essen wheels. So by no means a standard car. It’s for these reasons I even considered having it at all, I always felt the RS7 looked as if I’d borrowed my fathers car and I was too young to suit it. I don’t think the Aston lads will mind me saying typical owners aren’t the youngest but there’s a few lads my age knocking about and I’ve been welcomed with open arms. You’ll be surprised how many perfectly “stanced” Aston Martins there are in the Uk.

Carbon Fibre buttocks.

So how does it drive? The Vantage epitomises what id expect from a purists sports car, it’s hard work but immensely rewarding. The gearbox is tight but heavy , requiring a firm hand when selecting a cog. Mate this to a heavy clutch and brake-pedal with heavy yet precise steering feel and you’ve got a handful on your plate. The bite point is high as with most astons so rev-matching the first few down shifts was a little tricky yet enjoyable once honed. The steering is delicious you can really place the Aston on the road you really know what the front end is doing and how the chassis is responding to your inputs. A world away from Audi’s electric steering in the RS7. The brakes are the only oddity in my mind, a little tricky to modulate with the pedal feeling so heavy but I’m sure it’ll come with time. The noise my god the noise it’s like an angry Norse god screaming directly in your ear, the Larini race exhaust makes me feel like I’m at Spa in a GT3 racer. Looks of admiration and disgust in equal measure find me leaving the windows open ajar just to savour the exhaust note whilst pissing-off the general public.

Summary so far

This Vantage has been honed for track work so the ride is currently horrific, coupled with 21” wheels I’m feeling a little battered and bruised on Oxfordshire’s roads. First plans are perhaps a set of genuine N430 wheels and softening the damping of the coilovers. I think after that it will be simply enjoying the car as much as possible and a map tweak to cater for the new exhaust manifolds. All in all I feel like Bond every time I get out of it, I feel special and I don’t care how slow it is, tell me it isn’t beautiful I dare you.

Audi RS7 vs R35 GT-R battle of the £35k sports cars.

Now I know what you’re thinking, these cars don’t exactly share a sector of the market when they’re new, and you’d be right. However in the used market a good RS7 and good GT-R both inhabit the £30-40k portion of the market. So they’re both similarly priced, but what exactly are you getting for your money with these two?


The Audi has a v8 compared the GT-R’s V6, both are bi-turbo charged with smatterings of torque and good exhaust notes. The RS7 is down on power to a tuned GT-R but a stage 1 remap would quickly have the Audi surpassing the Nissan. The R35 is held back by its gearbox, you can bolt some turbos on but torque is usually capped at around 620lb-ft. The RS7 on the other hand can safely handle around 800nm in the 8 speed ZF box. Costs of a 650bhp GT-R are around £4700 if done with Litchfield. An RS7 will deliver around 700bhp-1000nm for just £640 (a remap and air filter).


Things unfortunately get a little damning for the GT-R in this section. Early “CBA” cars like mine only offered half leather seats without sat-nav (yes there’s touch screen centre screen) heated seats and a BOSE stereo (if you selected that in a premium edition or above). The refinement is non existent, with tyre roar , stones hitting the underside and exhaust drone the GT-R feels very cheap. I also found the seats very uncomfortable and the ride is ridiculously harsh. Now over to the Audi.

The RS7 has full leather honeycomb-stitched sports seats, with lumbar support both fully heated and electric, Bluetooth phone prep, sat-nav, head-up-display, cylinder shutdown, auto lights and wipers , WiFi, sunroof, lashings of carbon fibre I could go on…..and not a rattle in sight. Everything feels beautifully finished and solid. I especially love the way the top of the dash beneath the windscreen is an arch of carbon-fibre. This is a car you can cruise in for hours and hours in sumptuous comfort and refinement. But the V8 can snarl and sing if you open the valves in dynamic or individual mode.

Driving involvement/fun

The GT-R scores strongly in this sector when compared to the Audi. The steering is still massively lacking in feel but feels direct and compliant compared to the RS7. The GT-R is a much more capable chassis with never a suggestion of understeer on the road, however the back is more than happy to break away under heavy braking and acceleration. I learned a lot about the R35 and it’s ability to pull itself back into line during a slide with minimal steering correction. Something I always hated was the GT-R felt like a pendulum in the bends, after selecting your line and input levels. Mid corner the weight starts to shift and it’s just an unpleasant feeling , not as confidence inspiring as I hoped. The GT-R was originally specced on run-flat Bridgestones, however my car had Michelin Pilot sports and despite dropping a sidewall size front and rear, you could feel the sidewalls flexing mid corner when really pushed , again a worrying feeling through the wheel. (I’m grateful for the knurling on the factory rims.)

The RS7 is a very different beast, satisfying surges of torque and power will launch you out of a village onto any A-road with ease. But what’s it like when you get to a twisty road? Erm……. numb is the word I’m going for. There’s about 2 inches of off centre steering with literally no weight or feel whatsoever. My car is specced with air-suspension, which to it’s credit in dynamic mode really limits body roll and the car feels more composed than I expected. But vagueness is how it all feels to me. I’ve enjoyed mid-speed corners with guesswork, but I took a brave pill and went into a tight right-hander on a B-road and had no clue how the car was going to respond. If you’re slow and deliberate the RS7 can be compliant and communicative, but in all honesty it’s definitely a family hauler and motorway mile-muncher. I’m sure dynamic ride control equipped cars are more composed, but a 2-tonne land-yacht is never going to set lap records. The RS7 will undoubtedly be a rocket when it’s tweaked and fettled with to the tune of 700bhp, but I would rather change the steering dynamics than the power levels and I know other C7 owners who feel the same.


As I began, the RS7 and GT-R have very little in common other than their current price point. But I’ve used both daily and I must admit I wouldn’t go back to a GT-R now. I said when I very first got the R35 that if I’d paid much more for it I would’ve felt ripped off. Yes it could be improved with loads of sound deadening, nicer seats and a more modern infotainment system but then you may as well start over. If driving is all you care about and it’s purely a weekend toy I encourage you to buy one. They’re great fun, you get a lot of attention and they demolish most British roads. But if you need to use it as a car I would stay clear unless you have ear-defenders and a good chiropractor. The RS7 was a revelation to me when I first tested it. That V8 roar on cold-start yet near silent once the doors were shut. Seats that’ll support you and comfort you for hundreds of miles. Yes it’s slow (relatively speaking in present company). But as a package (apart from 5 seats) I can’t think of much the RS7 doesn’t offer the petrolhead. More power can be extricated from the mighty PowerPlant with relative ease (just a remap and air filters up to stage 2). APR reported one of their cars with just filters fitted doing a 2.6 second 0-60 run and 10.6 second 1/4 mile so it can be a nuclear missile if you ask it nicely. Mine will be for sale before spring 2021 so if anyone wants a really rare colour/spec RS7 covered in carbon fibre please get in touch.