1968 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage Volante
“He then sought his thrills in other directions: on the ski slopes of the Parsenn; at sea, sailing in the waters around his beloved Tiree; and in a succession of open cars, which he drove with great skill and considerable verve…” The Architects Journal pays tribute to Scottish architect Michael Laird – long-term owner of ‘3687/R’ – after his death in 1999.
What better car to please the trained and discerning eye of a famous architect? Or satisfy one’s need for speed and adventure?
Elegance, handcrafted design and genuine muscle courtesy of Aston Martin’s most powerful production straight-six: the DB6 Vantage Volante had it all.
The Aston Martin DB6 Volante
Aston Martin announced a convertible version of its latest DB6 at the London Motor Show in October 1965. It proved to be a stunning success and the model continued in production until November 1970.
For the first time a new name entered the Aston Martin lexicon: ‘Volante’, the title adopted by all subsequent dropheads from the great British company. After an initial batch of cars were completed on the outgoing, shorter DB5 chassis, in October 1966 Aston Martin launched the definitive version.
Complete with ‘Kamm tail’, the DB6 Volante differed little from its coupé cousin and was unusual for a drophead in being slightly lighter (1,466kg vs. 1,474kg) – and that was despite the now standard power hood. Nearly half the 140 first series of DB6 Volantes were automatics, while only 29 carried the powerful, triple-Weber Vantage engine. Towards the end of production, before the Mk 2 was launched in the summer of 1969, a ‘C stage’ Vantage engine was introduced with a reprofiled inlet camshaft. Thirteen DB6 Vantage Volantes were so equipped, their engines bearing the ‘/VC’ suffix.
Production of the final, Mk 2 Volante finished in November 1970. HRH The Prince of Wales’s blue Vantage Volante has seared the model into the public’s consciousness. It remains one of the marque’s most famous and desirable models, equally at home in the hot spots of the Riviera or, hood-up, waiting patiently for its master on a crisp autumn day during a shoot in the British countryside… or at the Guards Polo Club.
This Motor Car
Factory records confirm that Aston Martin DB6 Vantage Volante DBVC/3687/R was completed in early 1968 for a Mr R Leeson of Eastbourne, Sussex. It was registered ‘ULN 453F’, the mark it bears today. The supplying dealer was HR Owen and a 12-month guarantee was issued on 29 May 1968.
The full specification was as follows:
• Type: Volante Convertible
• Engine: 400/3590/VC
• Chassis: DBVC/3687/R
• Gearbox: S5/325/900
• Rear axle ratio: 3.73 P/L
• Tyres: Avon Turbospeed GT
• Body colour: Aegean Blue ICI MO35-4391
• Trimming: Black Connolly VM 8500
• Carpet: Black
• Hood: Black 5442 DH Everflex
• Volante ZF Vantage convertible specification
• Vantage engine
• 3.73:1 limited-slip differential
• Chrome wire wheels
• Three-ear hub caps
• Power aerial
• Two lap & diagonal belts (front seats)
• 7 pints antifreeze
The car’s second owner is detailed as KFJ Andrews Esq of Bramhall, Cheshire. It would appear Mr Andrews bought the car in September 1968.
Entries in the factory service record show that ‘3687/R’ was returned to Newport Pagnell for maintenance in January 1969 (8,698 miles), June 1969 (13,757 miles) and March 1970 (22,476 miles). On the latter occasion, ZF power steering was fitted, a desirable feature then standard on the DB6 Mk 2.
By then, the car was in the ownership of distinguished Scottish architect and academic Michael Donald Laird of Moray Place, Edinburgh – the smartest address in the Scottish capital.
It is quite possible that Laird bought the car in late-1968, but correspondence accompanying the car confirms it was definitely in his possession by early 1970. In a letter dated 26 January of that year, Laird writes to Giles Bradford of Aston Martin to thank him for a new head rest. Laird then promised Bradford that he would be “down at the Works sometime in late March, when I hope to have power-assisted steering fitted to the car.”
In 1985 ownership passed from Michael Laird to his son, Stephen Magnus Laird, of Nisbet House, Duns, in the Scottish Borders. Laird Jnr – generally known as Magnus, a principal of Hyperion Motorsport – was a car enthusiast of note and it was during this time that ‘3687/R’ was entrusted to the care of renowned marque specialists Aston Engineering of Derby, who have maintained the car ever since.
In Magnus Laird’s tenure, in addition to regular service work the car’s engine was rebuilt and its sills – a common issue with DB Astons – replaced. At 6 March 2001, when ‘3687/R’ was in for another service and extensive work to the braking system, the mileage shown on the invoice was 56,632 miles.
Magnus Laird sold ‘3687/R’ to advertising and marketing guru Jon Claydon in 2013, who commissioned Aston Engineering to bring the car up to the superlative condition in which it is presented today:
• 16 June 2015. Five new Borrani wire wheels. Total £7,819.82.
• 4 August 2015. Complete interior re-trim in black Autolux leather and Wilton carpet, replacement Everflex powered hood. 66,780 miles. Total £23,254.48.
• 4 August 2015. Service work including new window motors, one new door glass, new alternator, partial rewiring, convert to negative earth, fit new Becker Mexico radio (£1,450.00 + VAT) 66,820 miles. Total £14,670.05.
• 26 January 2017. Service work including a carburettor rebuild, front suspension rebuild, new rear radius arms. 68,481 miles. £8,916.65.
In late-2017, the current owner, having enjoyed an elegant and invigorating summer at the wheel, instructed Aston Martin specialist paint and restoration experts Spray Tec to attend to minor matters. Then, several years on from its last engine rebuild, it was decided to entrust Aston Engineering with the task of a restoring the triple-Weber straight-six to full health. The instruction was to rebuild the original engine to exactly ‘as delivered’ and the work was completed, at a cost of £24,055.32, in March 2018.
While the motor was out the opportunity was taken to prepare the under-bonnet area to concours standards and attend to other more minor jobs, all with the aim of maintaining ‘3687/R’ to show level. In addition to stove-enamelling and detailing, the engine bay received a new wiring harness, a re-cored radiator, new engine mounts and new carburettor fuel pipes. All four bumpers and boot handle were re-chromed. Total cost: £19,744.37. A further Aston Engineering bodyshop invoice in 2018 for £7,029.10 covered corrective work to the boot, bootlid, inner front wings and rear wing.
The result is a very fine British sports car from one of the most revered marques, one of just 29 built, prepared without regard to expense for many more miles of motoring adventures. Architect and connoisseur of the good life Michael Laird would be proud.