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Making a 2001 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante V12 Even better.

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Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor

One might say that starting with one of the worlds truly most achingly beautiful cars would defeat the objective at hand – namely trying to improve on modern day automotive perfection. That was my challenge when I decided to buy and improve a 2001 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante V12, with just 15,000 miles and one ‘famous’ Las Vegas owner.

Ian Callum, now head of design at Jaguar and personally responsible for the stunning new XF, was tasked in the early nineties with creating a modern day GT that would save Aston Martin and its dwindling sales. He produced the DB7, first in 3.2 liter straight six supercharged form, and from 2000 in final 5.9 liter V12 configuration, the same base engine that you find in the Vanquish, the Le Mans winning race cars, the DB9 and the latest and very gorgeous DBS. Ian is still very proud of what became Astons best selling car, ‘we really worked on the athletics as much as the driving dynamic, and with the V12 I had to fight to get the more aggressive front, particularly the driving lights which Jacques Nasser thought weren’t suitable for an Aston. But I pointed out that we were using the same approach as they used in the 60’s with the DBR2 and got it pushed through, I still very proud of that car’. He’s not alone as many consider it to be amongst the top ten most beautiful road cars ever made.

After driving the Pentland Green 420bhp Bloxham built beast home to Hollywood from Scottsdale, I realized fast that the sophisticated and rather muffled exhaust note was for more mature owners and not for one who had just traded in a 400bhp Jag XKR with Borla exhaust and racing air intake. Sourcing such an enhancements was the next conundrum. The ‘pimp my ride’ gang seems to have rather ignored the small, but rather passionate and well financed AMOC (Aston Owners club). Why, for every Jap rocket and South Korean dog chasing wagon there are at least twenty exhaust options, ranging from the small bore whiner to the fully blown long range field artillery mortar nozzle. After quite exhaustive searching I came to the website of a small but rather specialized company, the sort that Britain is famous for and how Lionel Martin stared in the first place. LARINI motorsports are based in East London and have been manufacturing fabulous high quality parts for the discerning ‘In the know’ customers for more than ten years.

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After chatting with Technical Director Neil Macauley he agreed to send a mandrel bent high performance, stainless steel exhaust system, with a beautiful cross drilled plaque and V12 engraving on the underside – so cool you want to have a mirror affixed to enable the casual passer by to appreciate what a real exhaust looks like.
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Best of all, it costs a third of the price of the AM dealer exhaust option.

Next up was brakes. Brembo being the OEM very kindly offered to send me some new rotors and disks front and rear, but after 4 weeks they came back to say that even they weren’t able to get a hold of a set and I had to order them (read pay through the nose and lose an arm) directly from Aston Martin. I’m sure you have some sympathy for me at this point, so I moved onto tires and upgrading the already pretty good but worn Bridgestone SE 02. The lovely press department agreed that after 4 years it was time for a new set and duly dispatched a set of their latest and greatest Potenza RE050A Pole Position tires, 245/40 18inch front and 265/35 18inch rear.

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Exhaust, tires and Brembo’s in hand, it was off to Independent Service on La Cieniga Blvd, Hollywood and one of the finest Irish men to ever leave the green isle. Barry runs a real car shop, the sort of place that you actually like visiting just to take a peep at some of the world’s coolest cars. DB4 lightweight? Muira? F50? 246? Yes he’s got them all plus a smattering of ‘stars cars’ too.

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Barry set to work removing six heavy mufflers and fitting the Larini exhaust pieces, Bridgestone’s and Brembo’s, plus some spark plugs as the car wasn’t running as smoothly as the designers intended.

Three days later and the car was ready for testing. Now sprouting a magnificent pair of grenade launchers, I was super excited to see if the vocal cords had been improved, the performance too and the handling to boot.

I was not disappointed and nor were the neighbors! The mechanics all broke into broad smiles as I floored it down the road towards Melrose Place, the engine singing as the revs rose, small children diving for cover into shops and the power forcing me back into the seat. After 10 miles in 1st and second gears only, I knew I had made the right decision, this was a transformed car, engine power and responsiveness had been measurably improved and the exhaust note was nothing short of outstanding. Of course the new pads and rotors needed bedding in and were an improvement over the old ones but the biggest surprise was the ride comfort.

The new Bridgestone’s were at the same time more compliant, softer and more responsive whilst vastly improving the feedback through the wheel and significantly reducing vibrations and skuttleshake, remember the DB7 is a late 90’s designed convertible! They also provided more ultimate grip, both in the wet and dry and improved braking, without any tram-lining and less tire roll, which I can I only assume is a direct result of the massive R&D they have as sole supplier to the Formula One World Championship.

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The final item was of course to maximize the beauty of the DB7’s Pentland Green paintwork. After much time spent on the Aston owners website, it became clear that there was only one option. ZYMOL. After speaking to owner Chuck Bennett, I received a full treatment attaché case of wondrous glazes, waxes conditioners and creams. My favourite is the yellow tub of detail wax, which you literally apply ‘by hand’ as it melts in your hands and then you apply it with your palms, it’s quite a sensual experience as you glide over the body work, feeling every mark and indent. The detail wax comes in a clear air tight jar and is bright yellow. You can chose between many different products, all with different percentages of Carnauba. One of top is the CONCOURS Glaze, which retails at $175 per tub. But it lasts for a heck of a long time, so long as you are waxing a tour bus! However, if you are a serious collector, like say Ralph Lauren (who Zymol developed the Atlantique Glaze to match his Bugatti Type 57 SC ,) then you can spend upwards of $2000 a tub, the most extreme potion is the Royale Graze, containing 70% white carnauba and comes with it’s own lifetime refill. If you have to ask how much – you can’t afford it!

Before applying Zymol suggest you use the HD-cleanse and then once the paint is clear of any old wax, you apply the oil-rich Brazilian Carnauba , it’s fun and the results are flawless. The complete kit also comes with several special microwipe clothes and a special horse hair brush for the wheels, I think you are getting the picture here, ZYMOL take car care very seriously indeed!

Bottom line. If you have a great car or one you want to make greater, then go with the quality suppliers. Now 3 months on the investment has been forgotten and the smiles remain, how can you put a price on highway one from Carmel to Santa Barbara, roof down, sixty five degrees and 450 (I reckon on an easy 5%-10% improvement on the standard 420) thoroughbred horses wrestling under the bonnet and ricocheting off the rock face???

More Information; Larini 'Sports' Centre Section, Aston Martin DB7 V12 … £689.00, including U.S. delivery