There's lots we don't know about this electrified DB6 Volante that Aston Martin has built itself. The company hasn't given us a power output, any performance numbers, an estimate of range or any technical description of the car's new modular drivetrain. But we do know one thing – the company is serious about it.
"We've got a mass of people who want to do it, but it's not quite enough to make me push the big, green button to go to the next stage of the programme," Paul Spires, president of the Aston Martin Works heritage division, tells CarAdvice at the company’s new Silverstone testing facility, where we go to sample what we should probably call the EV6.
"I'm desperate to do it,” he adds, “and my feeling is that the pace behind EVs is such that I'd be surprised if we don't have a proper programme going by this time next year."
The very idea of taking the twin-cam straight-six out of one of the 3000-odd cars that were built with it – the DB4, DB5, DB6 and DBS – and replacing it with a near-silent electric drivetrain likely sounds like sacrilege.
The idea of also charging around £200,000 ($366,500 at current rates, before taxes) for the conversion seems even madder, but Spires insists that there is already a growing demand from buyers keen to either future-proof their classics, or to flaunt their green credentials.
Don't worry, it's not a cut-and-shut; this 1970 DB6 Volante hasn’t been harmed through major surgery. The car I got to drive around the Stowe circuit, which Aston has recently taken exclusive use of, is a concept rather than a prototype.
It's designed to prove the idea rather than the core engineering, which will change substantially. But it has been built around Spires's insistence that it needs to be fully reversible.
The plan is for a modular electric powertrain featuring a battery pack, electric motor and control systems, which will fit into the space occupied by the straight-six engine, will weigh almost exactly the same, and have a similar power output. Everything else on the car stays unchanged.
"I said to the development team, don't make a single extra hole in the bodywork," Spires said, "and they haven't." Jaguar showed off a similar idea last year with the E-Type Zero concept, but Spires says that Aston has been working on its project for longer.
Anyone buying a conversion will be given their car's old straight-six engine, which can either be stored or put into a display case. "Imagine the conversation in a century," Spires says. "Granddad – what's that? That's the engine from my grandfather's Aston Martin, that's how we used to power them."
The basic idea will remain the same if production versions go ahead, but the details will mostly change. Spires won't give specs for the demonstrator's powertrain or even say who has helped to develop it.
But he does admit that the concept uses passive cooling, which isn't up to dealing with the big thermal loads of hard use or fast charging, meaning I'm going to be limited to 80km/h on the circuit. A full version would be actively cooled and therefore more thrashable.
There's another significant difference revealed when I glance into what looks like a completely unchanged DB6 cabin to see the selector for a manual gearbox. The concept car has kept the donor's five-speeder, but Spires admits that any finished version will use a single-speed direct drive.
Other visual changes over the petrol-powered DB6 are minimal. The EV still has a full set of Smiths instruments in the dashboard (although only the speedo works), and there's even still a truncated exhaust pipe at the back.
Spires admits they considered removing it, but decided the car would look obviously odd without it.
Driving couldn't be easier. Setting off means selecting second gear, but then not touching the clutch. The motor's instant torque allows the Aston to be treated like a single-speed EV.
Once moving, I experiment with changing gears, but soon learn that there is no point – the motor stops turning as soon as the clutch is dipped, meaning there's no reward in a well-timed shift. Even changing up from second to third produces the bumping sensation of a poorly managed downshift.
Initial urge isn't as strong as I was expecting. It takes a solid push on the throttle to get the car launched, and the rate of acceleration only seems to build once the Aston is moving at a decent clip.
The concept doesn't have any traction control, but it doesn't seem to need it at the reasonably respectful pace I lap the short, tight Stowe circuit.
There's no noise from the powertrain beyond a very faint electric whine under hard acceleration, but despite the lack of straight-six symphony, there's none of the squeaking or rattling I was expecting from the DB6's elderly structure.
Other settings are as the original DB6: soft springs, laid-back dampers and low-geared steering. You can hustle an open-topped Aston if you want to, but it prefers if you take things more slowly.
As such, it makes a fine basis for electrification. But I'd be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather be listening to the snorting, raspy soundtrack of the car's original engine.
Spires acknowledges that the electric transplant won't be for most. He reckons that a realistic long-term target is to convert about 10 per cent of the cars fitted with the six-cylinder, so 300 in total – a figure that would be more than adequate to justify the costs of developing a full version.
"We need to make sure that we've got the next 100 years covered," he says, "to make sure that cars like this don't become museum pieces."
- Engine: Electric motor
- Price: £200,000 (est, pre-tax, plus cost of donor vehicle)
- Power: c. 210kW
- Torque: TBC
- Gearbox: Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
- Kerb weight: c. 1600kg
- 0–60mph: 8.5sec (est)
- Top speed: TBC
- Economy: TBC
- CO2: TBC
MORE: Everything Aston Martin