Aston Martin Logo

Aston Martin Marks 30 Years of Super Model

30th Mar 2022

By Chris Russon

Aston Martin Virage Exterior Front Aston Martin Virage Interior Aston Martin Virage Exterior Front
Aston Martin Virage Exterior Front Aston Martin Virage Interior Aston Martin Virage Exterior Front

Aston Martin Works – the heritage home of the British luxury car maker – is marking 30 years since the debut of one of the marque’s most memorable and desired ‘niche’ models - the Virage and Virage Volante 6.3-litre conversion.

Created as a comprehensive upgrade package for the ‘standard’ Virage, the 6.3-litre conversion was made available by the brand’s Customer Service Division – now known as Aston Martin Works – in the early months of 1992.

Embracing the ‘more is more’ ethos of the time, the 6.3-litre conversion made the Virage among the most potent sports cars of its day with suspension, braking and comprehensive styling changes alongside a huge increase in power and performance.

The Virage 6.3-litre has its roots firmly in the marque’s motorsport activities of the time.

The late 1980s saw Aston Martin return to sports car racing after a 25-year hiatus, with its AMR1 Group C machines contesting the World Sports Prototype Championship in 1989.

The racing programme saw the capacity of Aston Martin’s all-alloy V8 increase from its standard 5.3-litre to 6.0-litre and later, 6.3-litre.

When the Virage debuted with the V8 in 4-valve form, it was also offered with the option of 6.3-litre power.

At its launch, the standard Virage Coupé’s 5,340cc V8 was good for around 330bhp at 5,300rpm, and 350lb ft of torque at 4,000rpm.

However, with the 6.3-litre conversion, the Virage's reworked engine gave 500bhp at a heady 6,000rpm, while torque grew to 480lb ft at 5,800rpm – with 400lb ft of that on offer at only 2,500rpm, meaning a largely flat torque curve to boot.

The 1,969kg machine – 4,737mm from nose to tail and a few millimetres shy of 2m wide – could sprint from rest to 62mph in 5.1 seconds. 0 to 100mph took a mere 11.5 seconds, while the top speed was an entirely adequate 174mph.

The engine featured specially manufactured Cosworth racing pistons, a new crankshaft, modified cylinder heads, and new inlet camshafts.

These were combined with modified Weber/Alpha sequential fuel injection, a comprehensively remapped engine management system and special exhaust catalysts.

The 6.3-litre conversion’s increase in power and performance necessitated a corresponding upgrade in the Virage’s suspension and braking capabilities.

The wishbone/coil spring front suspension and the de Dion rear tube with radius arms and Watt linkage, featured newly-designed rose joints all round, with uprated springs, bespoke dampers, a larger front anti-roll bar, and the fitment of an anti-roll bar at the rear.

Detail geometry changes and improved steering rack mountings further improved driver feedback.

The 6.3-litre conversion was fitted with ventilated and cross-drilled disc brakes all round, derived from the AMR1 Group C sports car and featuring an electronically controlled 4-channel anti-lock system.

At 14 inches in diameter, the front discs were at the time the largest fitted to any production car in the world and, with their 4-cylinder racing calipers, provided the immense stopping power demanded by physics.

To accommodate the significantly increased wheel and tyre sizes, the standard Virage’s wheel arches were substantially flared using hand-crafted aluminium panels.

These were complemented by extended side sills, a deeper front air dam, an extended rear valance and a prominent boot spoiler.

Interior options included then high-tech features such as a mini-disc player and even a mini television receiver with video monitor for rear seat passengers.

At the time of the 6.3-litre conversion’s introduction in 1992, the standard Virage was retailing at around £140,000 excluding options. The cost of the conversion added £60,000 to that figure.

While the precise number of Virage and Virage Volante 6.3-litre conversions carried out remains unconfirmed, it is thought that as many as 60 conversions were created over the course of a couple of years.

Aston Martin sold a total of 46 cars in 1992 – all Virage – and of those, a good number would certainly have then visited what is today Aston Martin Works for the 6.3-litre conversion work to be carried out over the course of 12 weeks or so per car.

Aston Martin historian, Steve Waddingham, said: “The Virage and Volante 6.3-litre conversion came at a testing time for Aston Martin. The business had experienced a boom in the late 1980s, but with the economic downturn of the early 90s, sales were harder to come by.

“This ingenious offering created by the brand’s Customer Service Division – now Aston Martin Works – not only created a huge amount of positive media interest in the marque, but also provided many of our well-heeled customers with the opportunity to acquire an iconic road car with real motorsport heritage.”

Paul Spires, president of Aston Martin Works, was himself involved in the Virage 6.3-litre conversion project and remembers driving the development and demonstration vehicle, affectionately known today as ‘Minky’.

He said: “The Virage 6.3-litre conversion was, and remains, a superb example of the capabilities of the department that is now Aston Martin Works.

“The car was comprehensively re-engineered, and restyled, right here in Newport Pagnell. It remains a true testament to the ingenuity and vision of the Aston Martin business, and I am thrilled – but also a little shocked from a personal point of view – that we are re able to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2022.”