We saw this coming, right? Even by the standards of the early 21st century, the automated manual was a bit rubbish. The transmissions have their defenders, but it’s hard not to imagine what might have been. Instead of being fitted gearboxes that aren’t as smooth as autos or as engaging as manuals, think of cars like the BMW M3 CSL, Maserati Gransport, Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale and Lexus LFA with one of the dual-clutchers or torque converters that came just a few years later. They’d be even more brilliant.
The market now reflects that, of course. Where conventional manuals were offered alongside automated ones, the former now command a big premium. We’re even seeing conversions now, too, where auto-only models are being swapped for conventional H-patterns or even DCTs. It wouldn’t be fair to say the automated manual cars are languishing, but they certainly aren’t as desirable to those customers spoilt by modern auto boxes. And good manuals are always good…
Aston Martin saw this coming years ago, perhaps because – sorry guys – the V12 Vanquish’s paddle shift auto really wasn’t great, even compared to similar transmissions of the time. Through Aston Works, customers of the glorious VH flagship could have the standard gearbox replaced with a six-speed manual. It cost around £15k, which would always have been at least 10 per cent of the car’s worth – if not a bit more. A significant investment, then, but one it’s believed around 100 customers have gone for. And with good reason; when PH drove a development car, it was described as ‘the car it perhaps ought to have been’. It was better in traffic than the jerky auto, just as fast (if not a bit more so) and heaps more engaging.
This is one of the converted cars, a 2005 Vanquish S, and what a specimen it is. This car was converted really early on, in 2009 at fewer than 12,000 miles, meaning it’s spent a lot more of its life (if not that many miles) as a Works manual Vanquish S. Beyond the obvious appeal of that 5.9-litre V12 in 520hp spec with the six-speed, this is a beautiful example. Still with just 18,100 miles, the ad suggests the paint is unmarked and the interior still smells like new. It has an extensive history from both Aston Works and a main dealer, and will get to its next owner freshly serviced.
It’s for sale at £115,000, which makes it one of the more expensive V12 Vanquishes, though there isn’t a huge premium to pay for the manual. This S, by comparison, is £110k with the standard gearbox and just four thousand fewer miles. Unsurprisingly given its reception and following, the later, more powerful model is highly coveted. Ordinary 460hp autos are from £60,000, for some idea of the difference. What might have been, eh? Perhaps automated manuals will come back into fashion as we crave any kind of mechanical interaction. That’s not clear just yet; but for as long as we can have it, a manual V12 Vanquish S is always going to be something very special indeed.