1966 Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

In 1965, the Aston Martin DB5 was on its way out of showrooms and the new DB6 was being shown off at the London Motor Show. Between these two events lies the shortest-lasting production model convertible ever produced by Aston: the 1966 Aston Martin Volante.

The Volante was based off of the 37 remaining unused 1965 DB5s, but donned the more luxurious amenities of the DB6 . When this model debuted, it was nicknamed the “Short Chassis” in an effort to help distinguish it from the longer DB6. As a result of the name, many people mistook that as meaning it was actually a shortened version of the DB5, which it is not.

Despite its awesome performance for the era, sharp looks, and popularity, the Volante was only an interim car. It was used just to bridge the gap between the time that the DB5 left and the DB6 hit showrooms. This means that production ceased as soon as the 37 unused DB5 chassis were converted.

Coming across a rare Aston Martin like this happens just about as often as you have a chance of seeing a Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. Okay, maybe it’s a little more likely than seeing those, but you get our point. Well, get your wallet and passport ready, as RM Auctions is just about to auction off one of the 37 1966 Aston Martin ’Short Chassis’ Volante units on May 12th, 2012 in Monaco.

So how does this classic Brit motorcar look, feel, and drive?

Click past the jump to read our review and find out.

Exterior

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

The upper grille on this Aston Martin ’Short Chassis’ Volante is the same oddly shaped one that is found on the DB5. The main difference on the grille is that the Volante has a lower grille to provide added airflow to the oil cooler. The bumpers on the Volante are quarter-type, just like what was used on the DB6, whereas the DB5 had all one-piece bumpers.

The headlights are rather modern, with their oval shape and coverings over top of them. Below each headlight is a small circular turn signal. On each of the front fenders there are two small heat extractors with a chrome strip between them, giving this rather flat part of the car a little character.

Unfortunately, the entire side profile of the ’Short Chassis’ Volante is rather bland, but this was not uncommon for sports cars of this era. Fortunately, as you get to the rear of the car, it relearns its style. The taillights are a unique design to the Volante, featuring a thick chrome outline and a chrome strip between the turn signals and brake lights. Just above the license plate is an overhang that houses the license plate light. This overhang is wrapped in a chrome strip and has an Aston Martin logo affixed to it.

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

Around the license plate is even more thick chrome. Right next to the license plate in big, bold, and chrome letters is the word “VOLANTE,” in case you forget what you’re driving. At each corner of this classic British sports car is a factory wire wheel with a three-ear spinner. No, not the spinners you may find on a new Escalade, but the ones used in the 1960s.

As for this specimen in particular, it was beautifully restored back in the early-1990s to a Dark Metallic Green color. For a 17-year-old restoration job, it appears to be in awesome shape. The paint looks nearly new and the chrome looks to be pit and defect free. We are not saying it is perfect, as there are bound to be some issues, but it looks to be pretty close to perfection.

Interior

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

The interior is done up in a green color that is slightly lighter than the color of the Volante’s body. Before you start screaming “Blah, a green interior,” rest assured that this isn’t your classic all green interior that Chrysler – actually all American automakers, we just want to pick on Chrysler – was once famous for in the 60s and 70s. This is a nice balance of green with some hints of black to break it all up.

The seats, door trim, convertible top boot, kick panels, shifter boot, emergency brake boot, and center stack are all wrapped in green Connolly leather. Preventing the Chrysler “Sea of green” effect is a black dashboard, black Wilton wool carpeting, with green outlines, black seat belts, and a wood grain steering wheel. It is all really well done and not as “GREEN” as some may think.

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

As for interior amenities, there are just a few. In the center stack you have an AM radio with a single speaker directly below it, which is more common than you might think in 1960s sports cars. You do get a heater, but there is no A/C on this classic ride. You do get a set of power windows, something relatively unheard of in 1960s sports cars, and an analogue clock.

The wood grain steering wheel appears in great shape and has three long spokes that lead to a horn button with the “DB” horn button. Instrumentation is plentiful on the Volante, as is a water temperature gauge, fuel gauge, speedometer, amp gauge, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, and an oil temperature gauge.

Just like the exterior, the interior was completely overhauled in the early-1990s to the condition you see it today. It is doubtful that this aging restoration job is still perfect, but we are willing to bet that it is pretty close to it.

Engine and Drivetrain

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

Under the hood is a 3,995 cc (4.0-liter) inline six-cylinder engine. This size engine in the 1960s is not expected to be very powerful, but Aston Martin got everything it could out of it, as it pushes out a very 2012-like 282 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. Those are nearing the power of the 4.0-liter V-6 Mustang, which is simply amazing!

This engine features twin cams, something not too often heard of in inline engines. It also features triplet SU carburetors feeding fuel to it.

This engine is no slouch in the looks department either. It features a set of chrome cam covers and a chrome radiator fan shroud. A really useful and neat feature is the spark plug wire routing tube. This brushed metal tube carries all six of the spark plug wires and has an individual exit hole for each wire, just above its respective spark plug.

Transferring power to the rear of this sports car is a rare-for-the-era five-speed transmission, which is supplied by ZF. Fortunately, this particular model does not include the automatic option available in 13 of the 37 Volantes. Granted, that would make it worth more, but it kills the driving experience.

Handling and Braking

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

On the front end you have a rather modern independent suspension system. It includes upper and lower A-arms with coil springs and shock absorbers. You also get an antiroll bar linking the two sides of the suspension to prevent excessive body lean. The steering system is a rack-and-pinion variety, something only seen in top-level cars in the `60s, plus this Volante was delivered with power steering, which was optional in 1965.

On the rear end you get a live rear axle with a Watt’s link, which allows the rear axle to move up and down, while also limiting its left and right movement. You also get a coil spring suspension with a radius rod to prevent fore and aft movement of the wheels.

The braking system is an impressive four-wheel hydraulic disc brake system. There is no indication as to whether or not the brake system is power assisted or not, but we do not see any evidence of a power brake booster in the engine compartment. At 3.232 lbs, this could involve you doing brake stands in emergency situations to bring this Aston Martin to a halt.

Pricing

Keep in mind that this is a 1-of-37 model that was only available for a single year… RM Auctions expects a winning bid somewhere between €720,000 ($932,400) and €820,000 ($1,061,900). That’s a ton of money and the high end is nearly double the actual value of a mint condition Volante. Per NADA, a mint 1965 DB5 Volante – yes, NADA lists it as a 1965 – is worth $553,300.

We would be shocked to see RM Auctions pull out of this Aston Martin what it anticipates, especially given the age of the restoration.

Competition

Ferrari 225 Sport Spyder "Tuboscocca"

There’s really not much competition for this classic Aston Martin, but there’s one that is pretty similar and that is the Ferrari 225 Spyder Sport . The Spyder Sport has a 215-horsepower 2,715 cc (2.7-liter) V-12 engine and a five-speed transmission. While they do match up in gearboxes, the Ferrari just can’t hang in overall power.

Ferrari 225 Sport Spyder "Tuboscocca"

Though it may not look like it to today’s eyes, the Spyder Sport was a pure racing setup, so it lacks all of the modern amenities that the Aston Martin has. It even lacks some of the most basic drivability items, like a top.

Where the Ferrari comes out on top is its rarity, as there were only 12 of these machines built, whereas the Aston Martin had 37 examples built. With the rarity comes a higher price tag, and in the case of the Ferrari, a much higher price tag. RM Auctions anticipates the Ferrari going for over $2 million in Monaco.

Conclusion

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante

We absolutely love this high-powered classic sports car. There are very few cars from that era that could squeeze that kind of power out of an inline six-cylinder. The restoration job is absolutely stunning and the interior is very well done. Add in the fact that it has just a tick over 7,600 miles and we fell head over heels in love with it.

That was until we hit the anticipated price tag. Where exactly RM Auctions is getting that estimated value from baffles us, as NADA is a pretty reliable source for classic models and they call for about half of the estimated final gavel value.

We give this car our TopSpeed “Condition-Based Buy” stamp. The conditions being that the final value does not exceed $600,000 (€776,518). Yes, this car is going to continue to go up in value, but they cannot expect to reap the future value at today’s auctions, that just doesn’t make sense.

Then again, if you really need this car and are willing to toss double its value at it, that’s your decision to make. With the money you’ll lose on that deal, you would be better suited to go blow a million on a Bugatti and eat the instantaneous depreciation.

Aston Martin 'Short-Chassis' Volante
LOVE IT
  • 282 horsepower from a six-cylinder
  • Awesome looking interior
  • Sharp looking front and rear end
LEAVE IT
  • Very bland side profile
  • Old restoration job
  • Extremely high estimated price

Chassis No.
DBVC-2325-R
Estimate:
€720.000-€820.000
AUCTION DATE:
To be auctioned on
Saturday, May 12, 2012
282 bhp, 3,995 cc DOHC alloy inline six-cylinder engine, triple SU carburettors, ZF five-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper/lower A-arms, coil springs and anti-roll bar, live rear axle with Watt linkage, radius rods and coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,490 mm (98")

• One of the 37 Short-Chassis Volantes built; original RHD example
• Accompanied by a copy of the Aston Martin build sheet and service records
• One of the finest and most attractive DB-Series Aston Martin models

The image of the quintessential British GT car is exemplified most aptly with the legendary Aston Martin DB series of sports cars, especially in glamorous open-air convertible form. As production of the new Aston Martin DB6 was heralded by the display at the London Motor Show in October 1965, an initial batch of 37 convertible models was initiated on the last remaining shorter chassis of the outgoing DB5. These were christened simply ‘Volante’ by factory man Kent Monk, meaning, literally, “flying” and marking the first such Aston to carry this nomenclature. Ever since, this exotic appellation has been used to identify the open Aston Martin cars.

Although they were built and marketed alongside the contemporary DB6s and embodied all the DB6 refinements, progressing from the DB5, the Volante was, in fact, destined to be an ‘interim’ model that was built on a left over DB5 chassis. As a result, it is the lowest-production convertible Aston, and it remains one of the rarest and most coveted of all Aston Martin road cars today.

An evolution of the iconic DB5, made world-famous by a certain secret agent in her Majesty’s secret service, the Volante utilised the same 2,490 cm wheelbase, and today, it is routinely referred to as the ‘Short-Chassis Volante’, in order to easily distinguish it from its longer DB6 and DB6 Mk II Volante successors. The Short-Chassis Volante carried on with the race-proven all-alloy, twin-cam straight six powerplant, in its 4.0-litre form, with triple SU carburettors and rated 282 bhp at 5,500 rpm. The gearbox was the robust ZF five-speed manual unit introduced midway through DB5 production, which greatly enhanced the comfortable highway driving experience over the prior David Brown-supplied four-speed unit. A Borg-Warner automatic option was also available, which was installed in 13 of the 37 Short-Chassis Volantes produced. Rack-and-pinion steering and dual-system Girling hydraulic disc brakes on all corners completed the impressive mechanical specifications.

The aluminium body was constructed using the patented Touring of Milan ‘Superleggera’ process of wrapping the panels around an open lattice of small-diameter steel tubing, resulting in a structure that is exceptionally rigid, as well as lightweight. The Short-Chassis Volante is visually distinguished from the DB5 convertible by the front valance grille for the oil cooler, accentuated by DB6-type quarter bumpers on the front and back. The taillight treatment is also unique, creating an attractive finishing point to this elegant and handsome car, set off by the first use of the ‘Volante’ logotype, applied to the boot lid.

The SCV’s interior accommodations reflected the DB6 restyle, with V-pattern stitching on Connolly leather, in place of its predecessor’s pleats. Plush Wilton wool carpets were supplied, as per usual practice. The lined convertible top was made of high-quality Everflex material and pebble-grain vinyl, also used by Rolls-Royce. Power steering was available for the first time with the introduction of the DB6, and it was offered as an optional extra on the SCV.

The stunning example presented here, chassis DBVC-2325-R, was finished in California Sage with beige trim and hood and left the Aston Martin works on the 3 June 1966, registered KLE 461 D. According to a copy of its original build sheet, it was fitted with such desirable “Non Standard” original features as chrome wire road wheels with three-eared wheel spinners and a power-operated radio antenna. The Aston was supplied new, via H.R. Owen, to the late Sir John Clark, CEO of The Plessey Co. Ltd. of Ilford, Essex, who was well-known for his love of automobiles and registered the car as KLE461D. The documentation on file also shows service work carried out by the factory into 1967, where the mileage indicated was listed as 6,792 miles. Subsequent owners include P.J. Brookes and K.K. Kathcart, who acquired 2325-R in 1971 and 1981, respectively. During the 1980s, 2325-R was sold to a collector in Paris, France, under whom it was restored in the early-1990s, and then sold in June 1995. When restored, DBVC-2325-R was refinished in Dark Metallic Green with green trim, the colours it continues to sport today.

Next, DBVC-2325-R returned to England, where it was registered OGC289D, the number it retains today, and it was sold to the current owner in 1998. As one of the premier cars within the current owner’s collection, 2325-R was comprehensively sorted following acquisition by him and fastidiously maintained by Aston Martin marque specialists, with numerous invoices corroborating the care lavished on this immensely rare automobile.

There are few cars from the 1960s with as much visual appeal, brute performance and sheer exclusivity as the Aston Martin Short-Chassis Volante. Simply lovely and virtually immaculate throughout, 2325-R is offered with a current MOT, with UK taxes paid. Ready to drive, it will make an ideal, not to mention chic and comfortable, entry into any concours d’elegance or classic touring event. Its offering is a unique opportunity to purchase a “blue chip” automobile whose rarity and desirability are in a class all their own.


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