It’s remarkable that cars once owned by the Brunei royal family don’t come up for sale more often. The Sultan himself is said to have around 7,000 of them, which, for reference, is about 1,000 cars shy of the entire Ferrari 360 Modena production run. Whether he’s in possession of that many cars at once is anyone’s guess, although it’s widely believed that a fair chunk of the collection is owned by his brother, Prince Sufri Bolkiah, who’s the registered former owner of the car we have here.
In fact, the prince acquired and commissioned so many cars in the 1990s that it’s believed to have played a part in bankrupting the Brunei royal family and forcing them to sell off 2,000 cars to pay the bills. Thankfully, this Aston Martin Vantage V550 was able to escape the messy family affair and is in need of a new owner.
Launched shortly before the arrival of the DB7, the Vantage was the beginning of the end of Aston Martin’s V8 bruiser era. It was also the first time the British marque tinkered with the Virage name, using it as the replacement for the old V8 Vantage before ditching it for the V550 performance variant. It retained the silhouette of the Virage, only with vastly more aggressive proportions thanks to wider wheel arches, a deeper, more aggressive front bumper and a slight bonnet bulge with an extra set of vents – hinting at the Vantage’s party piece.
Aston Martin went to extreme lengths to extract more power from the 5.3-litre V8 engine mounted below. The Vantage contains not one, but two superchargers, bringing total power to 550hp – up from 335hp (!) over the Virage – and 550lb ft of torque. At the time, it was the most powerful engine dropped into a production car, with 60mph coming about in 4.6 seconds before topping out at 186mph. They were offered in six-speed manual form exclusively, but this example has been given an automatic gearbox conversion. Normally, it’s the other way around, but Prince Sufri clearly wanted to roam the tiny nation of Brunei without lifting a finger.
That said, the Vantage was no continental cruiser. Its chassis was heavily reworked over the Virage, with a new rear suspension layout and Bilstein dampers on all four corners. The hefty power increase required a serious brake upgrade, with the Vantage utilising 362mm discs up front with four-piston AP calipers and 286mm discs at the rear, setting another record for the largest brakes on a production car. A little-known fact about the Vantage is that Aston Martin called on the services of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Jackie Stewart to sort the chassis out, so you know it’ll drive well.
And this one certainly should, because it’s had £50,000 spent on it. That’s likely because, with so many cars sitting around, the Brunei royal family don’t get around to driving them all – hence the paltry 4,750 miles recorded here. And if you’re not keen on the Brunei connection (what with the Sultan’s somewhat questionable human rights record) then you’ll be pleased to know that it was recently resprayed to remove the royal family’s signature pinstriping. Couple that with the limited production run of just 239 examples, and the £240,000 asking price seems to make sense. Only thing left to do now is whack the manual ‘box back in.