It would have been around 2007. I was 15 years old and already a full-on petrolhead. I'd watch Top Gear endlessly and even back then I'd spend my time searching a new website called YouTube for grainy camera phone videos of supercars.
My Dad had decided to sell the company he owned and take semi-retirement and I vividly remember that once the deal had been done he came in and told me he had finally decided to purchase a new car, and a nice car. Knowing I was car mad, he asked me what I thought he should buy. There was only one car that jumped immediately to mind, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. I remember seeing the concept on Top Gear a couple of years earlier and thinking it looked amazing, even better than the DB9. It was the first car that I remember being super excited about it actually being launched.
The old man agreed that this was a good shout, and said that he would have a think about the matter. A short while later, he declared that he had been in touch with a friend of a friend who owned a Vantage and who had kindly agreed to show him the car and give advice on buying one. He didn't even need to ask me if I wanted to accompany him on this one, we jumped into the er, Peugeot van, and hightailed it over to Surrey where we met Tom, the owner of the Aston at his rather lovely house. After the introductions were over, we paced around to the back of the house and Tom opened up the double garage doors to reveal the stunning shape of his early V8 Vantage Coupe. I remember exactly how the early summer sunshine glinted back at me from the Tungsten Silver paintwork, and I also remember the sound that filled my ears when Tom climbed in and woke the snarling 4.3-litre engine up from its overnight slumber.
I thought I had known what to expect from my endless and comprehensive YouTube and TV research but the deep rumble of the Aston at idle was so much fuller and more guttural than I could have possibly realised through the medium of a 240p video clip. Tom back the car out onto the driveway and Dad jumped in on the passenger side.
Shit. Having not really been around that many high-end cars until this point I hadn't thought about the fact that the Aston only had two seats! No room for me then, and I resigned myself to waiting in the garage looking at the cool old classic car posters affixed to the wall as Tom roared off to educate my Father in the finer nuances of Vantage ownership. I remember thinking as I heard the twin exhausts of the Vantage crackle and pop, reverberating off of the local scenery as Tom gunned it out of the driveway, that the "finer nuances" of having an Aston in your fleet seemed to mainly involve hooning about the place and having a bloody good time.
They say you never forget your first...
I hung around for maybe twenty minutes, probably playing Snake II on my Nokia phone or whatever it was I did back then until I heard the now familiar roar of the Vantage tearing back down the lane. What I hadn't expected though is that when they pulled back into the driveway and Dad jumped out, Tom leant over and asked me if I would like a ride in the car. Now I know its considered unwise to get into cars with strange men. But I reasoned that most child-abductors don't tend to roll around the joint in £80k supercars, and if they did then they'd probably be able to afford to get me a PlayStation 3. To put it another way, I got in the car. I'm glad I did as well because what happened next was probably one of the most important and formative experiences of my life.
I can recall thinking how close the ground I was as we burbled down the lane from the house to the main road. I was in fact still busy taking in the fantastic interior trimmed in lovely soft leather and aluminium when Tom pulled onto the main road, told me to simply "hold on" and floored it.
"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST." This was acceleration like I had never felt before, the road itself was a long dual carriageway, and it honestly felt to me as though if it were long enough we would take off and gain the power of flight. I was so intoxicated by the sound of that 380 BHP engine as Tom let it extend itself through second, third and fourth, letting that beautiful chronometer style rev-counter swing right around to its 7200 RPM limiter. A barely muted growl down low that swelled and rose to a howling, thunderous full-bore aural assault that will stay with me until the day I die. A day that seconds later I thought may well be about to become very much closer as I got my bearings back and realised that we were already topping 140 with the end of the road and a roundabout coming up quick.
I hadn't counted on the simply ferocious braking ability of the V8 compared to regular cars though, and as Tom anchored on and the Aston scrubbed off its speed almost as quickly as it had gained it, we were treated to yet more sonic pornography as the Vantage crackled and banged its way down through the gears and the sound ricocheted off the surroundings.
After what can only be described as a full on power slide around the entirety of the roundabout and another land-speed record run back down the A24, we arrived back at the house with Tom commenting that he thought the clutch would need changing soon (no shit, Thomas) and me a changed man (boy). We thanked Tom for his time, and climbed back into the Pug van which now felt even slower than usual and made our way home.
Since that day I've been privileged enough to ride in and drive other Vantages and other supercars, but I'll never forget that very first ten minute thrash in the early V8 Aston, and thats why I was saddened to hear that after twelve years the Vantage has finally gone out of production. It was a testament to the simple beauty of Henrik Fiskers original design that over the course of its life, where it evolved into the 4.7, V12, S, GT8/12, and AMR models that the evocative silhouette of the 2005 original never really changed. The concept of a small sports coupe with a big, brawny engine in the front and rear wheel drive is as appealing as it has always been and thats without the additional cool of the Aston Martin wings (nowadays available in carbon fibre, sir) glued to the bootlid.
The looks were just the opening gambit though, the sound be it from the was V8 or V12 was always eviscerating, the hydraulic-assisted steering gave the sort of feedback the owner of a new Huracan could only dream of, the manual gearchange was almost Brunellian in heft but so positive and direct that it could never be unenjoyable. Yes the sat-nav was crap and some of the buttons were from a Fiesta, but so what? The steering wheel controls in a Chiron are just chrome versions of the ones on a Golf but you still want one don't you?
And if you're anything like me, you'll still want an Aston Martin Vantage. It will always be the first one. The first car that showed me what true performance was like, and who knows? If I hadn't been out in it that day I may have lost interest in cars and grown up to be a doctor, or an accountant.
Dad never did buy one, he used the money to buy a house in France and kept his Scirocco. Boring bastard.
It's been emotional. Goodbye old friend.