Model Citizen had the privilege of vending at the San Juan Capistrano-CARE Car Show on Saturday, February 6th. Presented by the SJC Rotary Club and benefitting the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort, the show is one of the best in the region, featuring an always-excellent variety of cars ranging from street rods and muscle cars to vintage Euro iron and even a handful of million-dollar hypercars. However, as we padded around the beautiful show grounds, there was one car in particular that grabbed our attention and wouldn't let go: tucked incongrously into a row of Cobra replicas and fiberglass-fendered hot rods was a 1979 Aston Martin V8 Volante, finished in period-evocative Madagascar Brown. With a production run of only 115 examples in 1979, the Series 1 Volante is a rare sight in any specification, but factor in this example's status as a left-hand-drive car with a manual transmission, and you are confronted with one of only three made that year. Clearly, we had stumbled upon something very special indeed, hiding in plain sight.
Owned since 2000 by Mark Rodrigues of Laguna Beach, the Volante has covered a scant 34,000 miles since new. "It's been quite reliable," he said, though did concede that one lengthy service visit necessitated the use of a loaner...merely a new Vanquish courtesy of Aston Martin. A point of pride is the plaque denoting that the engine was hand-assembled by a gentleman named Fred Waters; Rodrigues informed us that owners of Newport Pagnell-era Aston Martin V8s can often tell the difference between engines produced by various individual builders strictly by sound and feel!
Though far from a daily driver, the Rodrigues Volante sees regular (if limited) use for general weekend duties, the occasional Aston Martin Owners Club event, or even more occasionally for photo shoots - it was the subject of feature articles in both Motor Trend and Automobile. Beyond the car's extreme rarity, though, there is another simple reason the Volante spoke to us in San Juan Capistrano: it has an unparalleled mix of elegance and brutality. One could think of it as a musclecar that ended up at Eton instead of juvenile detention. It's also a reminder of a time when craftsmanship and cubic inches could conspire to create something really special, something that can't be replicated by an army of aerodynamicists or software engineers. For that reason, we're calling the 1979 Aston Martin V8 Volante the star of the 2016 San Juan Capistrano-CARE car show.