So You Want an Exotic
This is the exact Jaguar XK-E Coupe that was first shown in 1961 in advance of the auto show in Geneva. It had Ferrari performance at half the price. Depreciation brought the purchase price within range of ordinary mortals, but not its maintenance.
In our blog celebrating the Jaguar E-Type’s 50th anniversary, we quoted a Peter Egan aphorism, “All XK-Es have bald tires.” It was a comment on the financial bind buyers of used E-Types found themselves in when they discovered that for instance, you had to remove the entire engine to replace the clutch.
A good buddy who has a small collection of vintage cars once pointed to a Ferrari 308 GT4 at the Concorso Italiano in Monterey and observed, “You could get a nice one of those now at a really good price, but it costs $1,500 a corner to service the suspension.”
I learned recently that there’s a more modern seductive exotic car out there that can be a relative bargain, but if you are tempted, you need to keep in mind the maintenance cost to keep it on the road.
In the Eye of the Beholder
In our humble opinion, the ’60s were a kind of zenith for car design. The Jaguar E-Type and XJ-6 showed the Brits could do it, Italians like Pininfarina, Giugiarro and Gandini produced beautiful Alfas, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, while Zagato created the gorgeous Aston Martin DB4 GTZ. The Germans introduced the timeless Porsche 911, and even American car companies got into the act with the Mustang (We prefer the 1967.), the masterful Bill Mitchell-era GM cars like the Buick Riviera, and the “Bullit” version of the Dodge Charger.
But as they say, what have you done for me lately? Is there a car of the new millennium that deserves the label “beautiful?” Certainly there are some handsome cars now, but beautiful? One could count the cars that fit the description on one hand, and if you did, many would agree that a disproportionate number came from the pen of Sir Ian Callum. The others are from Henrik Fisker.
If we had our way, all British Sports and GT cars would be deep lustrous green with the luscious warm light brown leather they call “biscuit,” like this beautiful Henrik Fisker-designed 2008 Aston Martin DB9.
The Aston Martin Vantage
With base 2016 Mustang GTs packing 435 horsepower, it may be difficult to recall that your choices were more limited ten years ago. Back then the Ford’s three-valve 4.6 liter V8 made 300 horsepower. Aston Martin got 380 out the flat-plane crank, dry sump, 32-valve 4.3 liter V8 in their Vantage.
Take that sweet V8 and stuff it in the two-place Aston Martin in the Henrik Fisker idiom (We had originally attributed it to Ian Callum – mea culpa.) and you get a car to lust after. Of course the base price at the time was about $110,000. Today you could get one for the price of a well equipped BMW 3-series.
Shrink-wrapped around a two-seat package, the Henrik Fisker lines looked all the more athletic on the Vantage V8 Coupe when it appeared at the 2006 Los Angeles International Auto Show.
That buddy with the small collection has had many nice cars in the nearly 25 years we’ve known him. Although I admired and appreciated all of them, until recently we have never actually coveted any of them. Then one day he called to tell us he’d picked up a 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage at auction.
Our friend (who asked to remain anonymous) has specialized in Alfa Romeos for decades, with a Jaguar and a few others thrown in, and one dip into the Ferrari pool. His latest is the only car he’s had that inspired envy in your correspondent, an Aston Martin Vantage V8.
One of the benefits of having a collection of cars that you actually drive is that none of your cars racks up a lot of miles. It also means that you always have a choice of ride whenever you want to go somewhere, and if one of your cars is due for some maintenance, you can schedule it for when you have the time and the money.
You need to plan carefully though.
If you paid $40 for an oil change on your Ford Focus you’d probably feel ripped off. What about a 50,000 mile checkup (basically an oil and filter change and fluid replacement) for $2,300?
That was the quote our friend got from the local Aston Martin Agent. There are not very many of those so you don’t have a lot of alternatives.
Fortunately he is used to performing a lot of his own maintenance, has a lot of resources, and these days you can find out how to do almost anything through websites and specialty car forums.
That’s how he found out why that service is so expensive.
First of all, that dry sump lubrication means there are three oil filters, and two of them are precision machined stainless steel and they have to be removed and cleaned.
To remove the two air filters, you have to remove both wheels, the fender liners and the entire aerodynamic belly pan, which is attached with about 20 precision machine screws. This is a procedure that is almost guaranteed to end up with at least one screw missing. It did.
The manual specifies BMW’s proprietary synthetic oil, and that plus two air filters, an oil filter and the cabin pollen filter were a bargain online for $520.
Don’t Even Go There
Our friend is nothing if not thorough. He’s the only person I know who stands by the mechanic when he drains the oil from his daily driver and has him crank the engine over while he pours oil into the engine, and watches until the oil coming out is clear.
So naturally he checks the other fluids. Everything looked good except the power steering fluid, which had turned from green to dirty black.
Remember what we said about the internet? This is where the “almost” comes in. He could not find a drain plug for the power steering fluid. He checked on the internet – nothing.
As a last resort, he managed to suck as much of the old bad stuff as possible out through the filler neck, and refill it. The issue bugged him so much that he finally talked to a mechanic at the Aston Martin service department.
If you are like us, the answer will sound like an urban legend.
The mechanic told him they never drain it. They just keep topping it off until it fails and replace the entire steering rack!