It must be a record. One week of British sunshine without a downpour. Other than a good BBQ having a decent car to appreciate the weather is essential, well, for us blokes anyway.
As you may know, occasionally other than writing about MTI’s bargain of the week I’ll spend the life savings and for the next month be in the dog house. First up was my trusty Subaru Impreza WRX, which by the way, is still doing well apart from a dodgy alarm that finally gave way last week and had to be recovered to the garage. A simple key re-programme and sixty-quid sorted that little issue out. Next up was the Maserati. I’m here to report that my name is no longer on the V5. I can’t go into too much detail but let’s just say it showed its Italian side and barely turned a wheel all week. So with the Maser down and out, it’s onto the next: An Aston Martin DB7.
The DB7, according to motor mouth Jeremy Clarkson, is the most beautiful car ever made? Not sure I agree either but anyway; the Aston caught my eye for several reasons:
One, the cheap price and…
Two, its ticket into snobbery badge status without breaking the bank plus I don’t have a nice set of wheels for the summer.
When the DB7 was launched in 1996 – and thanks to Ford ownership and money – it moved the British marque out of years of financial difficulty (I’m sure all of the top Ford brass having one as a company car at the time also helped the sales figures). It was also the first Aston to be built away from the companies HQ and instead rolled down TWR’s Oxfordshire state of the art production facility – also home to the Jaguar XJ220.
Having one as an everyday car now has made me think about Ford’s involvement and, just how dated the DB7 has become in just ten years… OK, so my financial means to buy a car at the moment is nil and with our house extension looming, my timing isn’t perfect. Still, having been out with the roof down and now with a bit of badge status on the bonnet, I’ve noticed that the other half wants to frequent the more expensive restaurants and shop for the type of labels which have totally unjustifiable prices. Mind you it’s been three weeks of endless phone calls and more expense coupled with sleepless nights and the urge to take up smoking again.
The latest family member is a 1996, 56,000 mile DB7 auto, metallic green with beige leather. It’s only had two owners from new, one being a senior exec at Ford Mo Co, and the last owning it for over eleven years. It wasn’t the best cared for example I’d seen and appeared to have spent most of its life without any form of a decent clean whatsoever. The paint was faded, the fabric roof had turned white, the wheels where pitted and curbed and the leather had worn a little too well. No wonder is was up for £16,995.
Seventeen-grand is still a good chunk of money for a thirteen year old car but like a run-down property, you have to see past the crumbling exterior and still be keen about its potential. As soon as I turned up to see the Aston I did wonder why I was so drawn to it. Feeling like I could conquer the exterior with a little elbow grease, as soon as I poked around the inside I knew that I’d chosen a project rather that a straight forward drive-away bargain. The carpets were worn and damp had set in, the roof lining was a tad mouldy and the leather covered dash was peeling away. All in all it was bit of a rundown example.
The owner was keen to get shot of it as he had rarely driven it in the last five years choosing to take his bike license and splashing out on a 200mph Hyabusa as his daily transport. He admitted to hanging onto to it for too long and wanted to build a garage in the space where the Aston had been abandoned. It still ran, thankfully, and after a jump start and a handshake on fifteen-grand the first job was to take it to my regular valeter, Steve at Ultimate Detail, for the start of what would appear to be a long journey.
Whilst the paint work and interior was being worked on, trying to source the odd spare part (I discovered that the air con wasn’t working and the fan switch was broken) for a DB7 is harder than you might think. There are plenty of specialists but the costs are outrageous. I can’t see how, as most of the parts are from the Ford parts bin anyway. After a week of internet hunting I found an A/C compressor (£950) and managed to get a fan switch thrown in.
Next on the list was to get the leather sorted. With two front seats, part of the dash and the steering wheel to get re-trimmed it wasn’t looking good on the expenses front. It would need to stay in the workshop for four days as a fantastic trim specialist nearby would be able to fix the years of neglect.
Meanwhile, I was also trying to find out where the water had got into the car which had caused the damp. Having registered on several Aston forum sites I was pointed in the direction of the fabric roof. As it wouldn’t fit flush to the tops of the windows and front screen, it looked like a new hood would be the answer. As I couldn’t stretch the budget any more I found a convertible specialist who could replace all of the hinges which would apparently solve my problem. The work would come in at £250 plus parts but as the hinges would be a special order it would take two weeks to complete the work. Speaking to my trim specialist about the issue, they suggested re-trimming the hood which would tighten the fabric and get it flush against the windows again. That little repair came in at £400, two-hundred less than the hood specialist.
So far the bill came in at just over £1,900 including all parts and labour. To tip the iceberg over the two-grand mark I also had four new carpet mats made as the old ones were rotten with damp.
With the DB7 looking so much better than two weeks ago my last job was to get the wheels replaced. The original alloys where beyond repair and anyway, I had seen a nice set of five-spokes which set the car off perfectly even though it was to add another £700 to the bill. Luckily the tyres still had a few thousand miles left, which was a life saver as they are over £200-plus per tyre.
After three weeks and over £2,000 spent the Aston looks stunning. I could stick it in the trader and get all my money back on it, but as the weather has been so nice recently I’ve decided to stick with it for a while. At least it’s being driven and more importantly, appreciated. Although I miss the Maserati I’m glad I’ve gone for the DB7 even if it’s cost me dearly. Owning a ‘badge’ does have its advantages even though the oil light has just come on and a litre top-up hasn’t cured the problem. It looks like I’m going to have to dig deep again!