This Aston Martin V8 Vantage Is An Undercover Hero

Meet the prototype that kept Aston relevant during its darkest days.

Tim Scott/Fluid Images via J.D. Classics

The Eighties brought dark days for Aston Martin. After enduring a tumultuous ownership change the decade prior, the company’s finances were in shambles, and product development lagged as a result. Things hit an all-time in 1982, when Aston sold just 30 vehicles. One of the few bright spots was the “X-Pack” V8 Vantage.

Tim Scott/Fluid Images via J.D. Classics

Produced from 1986 and 1989, these special-option models came equipped with a so-called 580X powerplant. Using the base Vantage 5.3 liter alloy engine architecture, the package added a high-compression Cosworth piston set, larger intake manifold, and 4x2 Weber carburetor setup. Also redesigned cylinder heads, with hotter intake valves and camshafts, cribbed from the abandoned Group C Nimrod Le Mans racecar. Serious kit, and it paid off. Final output, a stout 437 bhp, bested the Ferrari 288 GTO; the 0-60 mph time, 5.2 seconds, was just one tenth off a contemporary Lamborghini Countach 5000QV. The X-Pack V8 Vantage might not have been an outright world-beater, but it was exclusive, and kept the company relevant during a heady supercar arms race.

Tim Scott/Fluid Images via J.D. Classics

Aston Martin only built 121 examples. The car you see here is the reason those 121 existed.

Finished in Kensington Silver over blue leather, this V8 Vantage Coupe was built to standard spec with an automatic transmission, then shipped to a dealer in Stratton, England, in 1985. But, after conceiving of the X-Pack, Aston Martin Works asked for the car back. It became the engineering team’s own mule, given a special DP (“Development Project”) chassis number and converted to X-Pack trim. As a Works prototype, the V8 Vantage also got unique suspension, plus updated 16-inch wheels, for evaluation.

Tim Scott/Fluid Images via J.D. Classics

It gets better. Aston Martin sold this undercover hero car to one John Elliott, its first private owner, in December of 1988. He then promptly returned it to the Works department and had a five-speed ZF manual gearbox retrofitted. Because Mr. Elliott, too, is a hero.

Tim Scott/Fluid Images via J.D. Classics

Now, the car is for sale through J.D. Classics in Essex. It’s downright gorgeous, and comes with all the paperwork and documentation you’d expect, plus factory goodies, like an original tool kit and Tanner Krolle luggage set. Price is decidedly in “if you have to ask...” territory. But, for a certain kind of Aston aficionado, the first-ever X-Pack Vantage V8—with three pedals, as the Good Lord intended—also falls under “must-have” jurisdiction. Check out the full listing, complete with a high-resolution photo set from Tim Scott of Fluid Images, at J.D. Classic’s website here.