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Nick Stephens

Customer stories pt. 3: An Aston Martin for the ages

Name: Nick Stephens

The classic: Aston Martin AM V8

‘There’s just something about classic cars, they remind everyone of the good old days, the cars we grew up with, or the cars that our parents bought. It’s wonderful to strike up a friendship because of that, and it’s something I’ll never get tired of as long as I own my Aston Martin.’

A long-time classic enthusiast

Nick Stephens has owned his Aston Martin AM V8 since 2004, having had his eye on one for many years before that. ‘I’ve had classic cars on and off since I was a teenager,’ he tells us. ‘My family and I were moving house a long while ago, and as part of the process I sold my then-classic car, which was a 1971 Mercedes 350SL. The house we were moving to had a garage so small you couldn’t fit an Austin 7 in it!

Nick Stephens
Nick having won 1st prize in the AMOC concours de elegance at Chatsworth House, 2010

‘My plan was to sell the car, renovate the new house and then buy a new – well, new classic – car. However, the contract for our house fell through an hour before it was due to be signed, which meant we couldn’t move in after all. By this point, I’d already sold the Mercedes.’

Having been left without a classic car, Nick started to get restless. ‘My wife noticed that I was fidgeting again,’ he laughs, ‘so she told me to get myself another car. I was surfing the internet when I saw the AM V8 for sale on eBay. I decided that I’d go and have a look at it. Although I wasn’t initially planning on buying it, I just fell in love. But there were still a few niggles with it so I said I’d go home and have a think about it, and in fact, I virtually talked myself out of it.’

For Nick, however, things took a turn for the worse, and he ended up in hospital with jaundice and pancreatitis shortly afterwards. ‘It was gall stones,’ he tells us. ‘I was in the hospital for 10 days overall, and made friends with a few of the chaps in there. I woke up one morning, and the man in the bed next to mine had sadly passed away. He was only in his thirties. I thought ‘life’s too short’, so I rang this bloke up and told him I’d take the car.’ However, Nick was adamant that he wouldn’t pay the asking price. ‘As soon as I got out of hospital, I went down to see him,’ he explains.

Nick's stunning Aston Martin AM V8
Nick's stunning Aston Martin AM V8

‘I knew that it needed some work on the engine, so I negotiated the price down and he accepted. I underestimated how much work it actually needed though – again, it was my heart ruling my head because I’ve always wanted an Aston Martin!’

The restoration

Nick took his new purchase home and within 12 months, he had started work on rebuilding the engine. ‘I found out that in the 1980s, my Aston had been converted to a 7-litre engine by Richard S Williams Aston Martin Specialists, despite the standard engine size actually being 5.34 litres,’ he tells us. ‘I then discovered that my car had actually been the prototype automatic 7-litre and was also used as the press car.’

Unfortunately for Nick, the trouble with the engine wasn’t something that could be fixed. ‘I sought the help of my local Aston Martin specialists Chris and Jean, who own Four Ashes Garage in Stratford-Upon-Avon,’ Nick explains. ‘It turned out that Chris had to completely rebuild the engine, so I decided that we should restore it back to the original specification. It was a far cheaper option than building another 7-litre engine, which can cost upwards of £40k. Luckily, Chris managed to get a donor engine out of a written-off, S-spec car and use parts from that in the Aston. He rebuilt it and while I was actively moving around and not as ill, I decided to do a little more work on it myself. I’m happy to say that I’m still good friends with Chris and Jean; I’m indebted to them for the work they’ve done to get my car to what it is today.’

Nick's Aston winning 1st place at Blenheim Palace for the AMOC concours de elegance, 2006
Nick's Aston winning 1st place at Blenheim Palace for the AMOC concours de elegance, 2006

The colour of Nick’s Aston Martin is certainly one of the most eye-catching things about it. ‘It’s an original shade, and it’s a very rare colour,’ Nick explains. ‘It’s called Kent Metallic Green. I’ve only ever seen one other Aston Martin in the same colour in all the years that I’ve owned it.’ Nick explains to us that the Aston Martin colours are named after counties. ‘There are shades called things like Cornish Gold and Buckingham Green, although I think they changed it to Prince of Wales Green after Prince Charles bought one. When we had ours re-sprayed the colour match was so good that we actually left part of the internal door un-sprayed. Only someone with a very keen eye would be able to tell the difference!’

A classic keeper

‘I’ve cherished the car ever since I bought it,’ Nick tells us. ‘I’ve entered many concours d’elegance through the Aston Martin Owners’ Club, where it’s won three times and been placed 2nd or 3rd about eleven times. It’s won many other trophies, too. At the end of the day, it’s just a beautiful car.

‘Alongside the joy of owning that one, I’ve also had other classic cars such as a 1963 MG Roadster, which was one of the first ones to be produced. It was a one-owner car from new and had only done around 425,000 miles. I had a great friendship with the gentleman who owned it, which was great. He’d used it every day from 1963 up to 2007 and it was still absolutely mint because he’d rebuilt the engine twice. That car is in a private museum in Germany now. I also bought a 1974 Spitfire for my wife; she had one when we got married so I thought it would be a nice idea to buy her a yellow one as an anniversary present, but after a couple of years neither of us were agile enough to get in or out of it!’

Cars have always been important to Nick, and his AM V8 has become an important part of his family too. ‘I’m under strict instructions to never get rid of it,’ he laughs. ‘I’ve got two children who’ve put their chalk mark on the bottom of it and so I’ll never sell it. My grandson always asks ‘can we go out in noisy car?’ – he loves the sound of the engine.

‘At my last house, there was a lovely lady who lived in a bungalow next door. Her uncle had been an Aston Martin racing driving, and her bedroom was about 10 feet from my garage. Whenever I went to classic car shows, I’d tell her ‘Sue, I’m sorry but I’ll be leaving very early in the morning’ and she’d reply ‘no, it’s the best alarm clock ever!’ She’d come out in the morning in her dressing gown and watch me go off. There’s just something about classic cars, they remind everyone of the good old days, the cars we grew up with, or the cars that our parents bought. It’s wonderful to strike up a friendship because of that, and it’s something I’ll never get tired of as long as I own my Aston Martin.’

Ian Cook's live drawing of Nick's Aston Martin
Ian Cook's live drawing of Nick's Aston Martin

Would you like the chance to be part of our Customer Stories project?

If you’re a Heritage Car Insurance customer and you’d like your classic drawn on one of our live drawing sessions, please send a maximum of 150 words about what your classic means to you and at least 2 images to marketing@heritagecarinsurance.co.uk

You can also submit your classic to our project by filling in the contact form below: