Sometimes it pays to think big. And when the going gets tough, the big names get cheaper. Something that might have cost a quarter of a million bucks new could easily be a fraction of that now. This is a prime example, but we'll delve into the figures further down the page. For now, let's get our heads around the idea of buying and owning an Aston Martin Vanquish, that wildly attractive machine with a symphonic V12 that almost sounds like "Rule Britannia" played at double speed.

Presumably it was coincidence, but the Vanquish came out in 2001, when Tony Blair was still Prime Minister, entertaining home-grown celebs at Downing Street, and the media buzzword was "Cool Britannia." If anything about Britain was cool, it was (and still is) the Vanquish, a GT car extraordinaire. It looks just fabulous. Styled by Ian Callum (surprise, surprise), it established the design vocabulary of modern Astons and the car deployed new technology such as bonded aluminum and a robotized gearbox. There was also the slightly more hardcore Vanquish S. The Vanquish ceased production in 2007.

What Makes It Great Even though this was an Aston for the new millennium, it was also the last of the old-school hand-built creations and the final model to come from the original Newport Pagnell factory. It also stuck to the time-honored principle of: "There ain't no replacement for displacement." Under that long, majestic nose is a roiling 6.0-liter V12 that develops 450 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (the Vanquish S has 520 hp and 425 lb-ft). Even with aluminum bodywork and frame, the Vanquish is still no lightweight, but it can hit 60 mph from standstill in 4.6 seconds and stretch the speedo needle all the way to 190 mph. But the sound, how sweet the sound. It's a haunting howl that will raise neck hairs many years on just thinking about it. In addition, the interior is far from the disappointment that earlier Astons were and everything seems pretty well put together.

What To Look For The biggest issue is probably that six-speed semi-manual transmission. It's the same paddle-shifting Magneti Marelli system as found in the Vanquish's rival, the Ferrari 575M. For the most part, it works well enough, but selecting reverse is sometimes problematic. Aston Martin did once offer to replace the system, so there might be some examples out there with a conventional manual transaxle. Otherwise, common sense should be the main guide, along with the ability to procure the earliest model possible. Normally such high-end cars are well looked after and serviced regularly, so finding one with above-board paperwork should be simple.

What We Found Think Craigslist is too low-rent for a Vanquish? Not the Los Angeles edition. Best of the west was a 2003 in Solway Grey, 15,000 miles, just serviced, going for $76,500. Yes, that's a lot of money, but it cost $241,800 new. How's that for a saving? Auto Trader had a silver '03 in Oregon, only 4,920 miles covered and a slightly higher price of $95,500. Over in Florida, the Trader advertised another silver model (2004), only 9,500 miles on the odo, and with an asking price of $109,900.

Easy Power There aren't many places a Vanquish owner can take his pride and joy to. Mansory is one of them, with a North American branch in Los Angeles. So that's easy for anyone living in southern California. But it might make a good excuse for a road trip. The Vanquish is about as far from being a boring car as it's possible to get.

For The Money Admittedly, for this kind of sum, the motoring world is virtually one's oyster. Or perhaps that money could be spent on a piece of modern art, a collection of vintage guitars, maybe a cabin in the hills-something that might appreciate in these difficult days. But if the passing of Michael and Farrah taught us anything, it's that life is not a dress rehearsal. Seize that Vanquish, enjoy it, drive the heck out of it. While there's still time.

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