Currently, the cheapest new Aston Martin costs just shy of $150,000 — and it’s certainly amazing enough to fetch that. If you’re depressed about the stylish new Vantage being well out of financial reach, there’s no reason to be upset, because there’s an affordable used Aston Martin for the average person — and that’s the DB7. I’m a below average person, and even I was able to buy the cheapest DB7 with a manual transmission available in the U.S., but considering its background, can you even call the DB7 a real Aston Martin?
The DB7 is credited with saving the Aston Martin brand, as the company was barely selling a car per day before its inception. Ford had recently acquired Aston, and created the DB7 by stealing the XJS replacement from Jaguar (which Ford also acquired). So Jag was forced to continue with their ancient XJS for several more years while Aston got its first real mass market car — which, in addition to being primarily comprised of Jaguar bits, also had a sprinkling from the parts bin of Ford and Mazda as well.
So is the DB7 really an Aston Martin? It’s strange to think the design that defined a company for the next 20 years was originally intended for Jaguar, and the DB7 was built in a Jaguar factory, and the engine itself is basically from a Jaguar XJR. They did modify the supercharged inline six for a bit more horsepower, and eventually gave the car its own V12, but overall, the car screams "Old Jag."
Other than the styling, when you look at a 1998 Aston alongside a same year Jaguar, the DB7 seems like a dinosaur in comparison. The engine covers are missing in my Aston, which shows all the exposed, loosely fitting relays lying about with seemingly no organization. Inside is even more primitive, with a digital clock and climate control stack that would even look dated by the mid 1980s. To start my Jaguar engine, I have a barely disguised Jaguar key — and even more embarrassing are the interior door handles, which are interchangeable with the first generation Mazda Miata. That’s not a joke…
So it’s easy to think this upgraded platform from a 1970s Jaguar with a hodgepodge of outdated bits from various manufacturers would make for a total disaster of a car, but it’s actually fantastic. Personally, I like the smoothness and the substantial feeling of older cars, and when you couple that with a bit of performance and fun, well, I really, REALLY like it. The DB7 is sort of like Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" — a mashup of genres that seems terrible when you describe it, though it’s astonishingly good when you actually experience it.
The 335 horsepower supercharged engine is perfectly suited for the somewhat noodly manual transmission, and the chassis is set up to be a smooth grand tourer first, but it’s still lively enough to handle twisty roads at speed with confidence. Modern touring coupes tend to get this concept backwards, which leads to fantastic handling cars that are also miserably uncomfortable for normal use. Driving the DB7 is a bit like driving an old Jaguar E-Type, except it has most modern conveniences, and the car actually seems like it would be reasonably reliable.
That may seem like a laugh, but the ancient inline six has proven to be pretty solid in old Jaguars, and this Aston lacks most of the modern electronics that sent the old cats limping to one garage after another. Now, there are a few things not working on my Aston, such as the air conditioning and the radio, but I doubt these will be very expensive to solve.
So my first impression of my cheap Aston Martin is pretty good, but I haven’t taken it up to my mechanic, the Car Wizard, for his assessment. He’s a little busy right now trying to put some of my other projects back together, but we’ll have it up on the lift soon to see how good of a purchase this really was. Wish me luck…