The first Aston Martin produced by the company under Ford’s direction was the DB7, which returned to the David Brown-era DB nomenclature, and was launched at the 1994 Geneva Motor Show. The DB7 was available initially as a coupe, and intended to be more affordable than the hand-built Virage, though it still cost £72,000. Nevertheless, Ford’s mass market aspirations were realized, as approximately 7,000 DB7s were built from 1994 to 2004, making it the most popular model to that time. Aston acquired a factory in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, to handle the demand.
Despite its production volume, the DB7 was recognisably impressive. Its styling was developed by Ian Callum, who had worked at Ghia and was invited by Walter Hayes to modernize the DB4, DB5 and DB6. The body was the first Aston Martin to use steel unit construction, but with composite nose and tail, front wings, bonnet and boot lid. Since Ford also owned Jaguar, the DB7 borrowed much of its suspension and drivetrain from the XK8.
The 3.2-litre Jaguar AJ6 DOHC 6-cylinder engine was fitted with a 4-valve cylinder head and an intercooled Eaton supercharger which delivered 340hp. Hydraulic and ventilated disc brakes accompanied all-round independent suspension. Either a manual 5-speed gearbox or a 5-speed automatic transmission were fitted, while paint and upholstery options were virtually unlimited – at additional cost.
In 1996, Aston Martin introduced the convertible Aston Martin Volante DB7 at £78,000, while a Vantage model replaced the standard car in 1999. In Vantage form, the DB7’s 6-cylinder engine was replaced by a 420hp, 6-litre, 48-valve V-12 that produced 400 lbs-ft of torque. The Vantage could manage 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and could reach a top speed of 178 mph, when paired with the 6-speed manual gearbox. A 5-speed automatic transmission was available.
Aston Martin created 100 Vantage Zagatos in 2002, all with 6-speed manual gearboxes. The Zagatos rode on a shortened chassis, with a Zagato signature "double bubble" roofline. Other differences were a huge curved grille, and a shortened chassis. Costing more than £200,000 apiece when new, these are among the most collectible Aston Martin DB7s.
The final version of the DB7 was the GT4, introduced in 2004. Engineers extracted a further 22hp from the 6-litre V-12 engine, pushing the top speed to 187mph. The price was £113,000 against £188,000 for the sister Vanquish model, quite a bargain for the same performance.
In 2004, Aston Martin replaced the DB7 with the new DB9, but the DB7 had raised Aston Martin’s profile for a new generation of enthusiasts. Even though the car is relatively recent, it has quite a strong following. Combining iconic looks with plenty of power (especially in Vantage form), and Aston Martin pedigree, it is an appealing choice for younger collectors. Like any late-model exotic, DB7s can have been both coddled or driven hard. They are complex machines and occasionally suffer from build quality issues, so a full inspection by a recognised specialist is strongly recommended before buying.