QOTW #74 – Buying a distressed Aston, is it worth it?

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Just before I pop up the example of a distressed db9 that’s for sale, I just wanted to wish the seller all the very best luck in selling the car for what he wants to get for it. But the price it sells for must be right for the buyer as well.

The deal must be fair to both buyer and seller. If it isn’t, then someone’s losing out, and that’s just not fair or right.

So here we have a 2005 db9 Valente, and I flipped through the pictures of the interior and exterior, and it does look like a really good car.

However, it’s advertised as having an engine problem. Here we can see from the summary notes that it’s listed as an engine fault, exclamation mark, exclamation mark. And the ad states it needs a repair.

The main advert says the car runs and drives, but the engine is knocking. Sounds like the top end, but can’t be sure exclamation mark, exclamation mark. I’ve got a video of it running; if it doesn’t make what I want, I will get on with fixing it.

Personally, I don’t think it needs an engine; it just wants this one repaired. But it’s being offered as though it needs an engine. Just call for more information. It will make a nice, cheap car with a bit of time spent on it.

Can deliver anywhere in the UK, silly offers will be ignored. So let’s just go through the types of engine problems that this could have. Obviously, we don’t know, and nor does the seller by the looks of it.

Now we could probably surmise from the advert and the wording there that it’s not a catastrophic engine failure, but it’s going to mean that the engine is going to fail pretty much immediately.

And here’s a video clip of what that would sound like. If I had to guess from that video clip, then it’s been run low on oil.

Big M bearings for cylinder 6 and 12 have failed. They’re at the back, they’re the last in the oil chain, oil feed supply. The bearing overheats on the journal, and the bearing completely fails.

Then there’s a lot of clearance between the connecting rod and big-end journal of the crankshaft. Which inevitably means that the piston will start to hit the valves or the roof of the combustion chamber.

In this clip, if the engine was run for a prolonged period or high speed, it’s going to fail pretty quickly. Next clip, we’re underneath a v12 engine and just slightly revving it up, and this is the onset of that big m bearing failure.

You can tell by the noise, it’s nowhere as extreme as that first video clip I showed. So both those are major problems with the engine; it needs to come out and have a complete engine rebuild.

Next video clip is our good old friend, the dreaded db9 tick. So I show a couple of clips here kindly sent in by the customer.

This is where the db9 at cold start will exhibit no tick, and now when it’s warm, and it settles down idle, and you rev it, you can hear the onset of the tick.

And now here is a db9 tick that is getting to the point where embarrassment of the noise prompts you to fix it. So this is pretty much the worst tick that you’ll hear.

The tick is from small end bush wear on the connecting rod and or piston slap because the liner is worn oval. And the piston at every top dead center is rattling in the bore. Whether it is a small end bearing and piston slap, or it’s the more extreme failure because it’s been run low on oil and the big end bearings have failed.

Both fixes require engine removal and engine rebuild. Probably the tick is what’s wrong with this db9 that’s advertised for sale.

If the seller didn’t think it needed an engine rebuild, the only other cause of a harsh noise on the v12 engine aside from the tick or bearing failure will be in the valve train. And this will be hydraulic lash adjuster and the finger follower.

I picture these here, and here is a v12 engine with a cam cover removed, and these components can be replaced in situ. It could well be the case that this db9 has got hydraulic lash adjuster rattle, but I very much doubt it.

Because anybody that’s had the fault diagnosed, and if it was diagnosed as the valve train, are just going to fix that problem because that’s a relatively inexpensive problem to fix. Compared to an engine rebuild.

A complete set of lash adjusters and finger followers is going to come in about a two grand fix. If it was a tick from the little end, and the piston and line are all good, then that’s going to be the cheapest of engine removal repairs, which with all parts, all labor v80 is probably going to be around the 8,000-pound mark.

If the problem was more severe and it was piston slap, so it needed new liners, new pistons, and a full rebuild. Then that’s probably going to come in about 12 to 13,000 pounds.

If the internal wear was just beyond saving because really it was uneconomic to repair that engine.

There is the option of the factory remanufactured engine, which, when purchased combined with installation costs, consumables is going to come in at approximately all up 16k cost to repair.

As I said at the start of this video, we don’t know exactly what the problem with this car is. But someone’s asked me the question, is this car a good buy? If we just have another look at a different car on eBay.

Here you can see a db9 Valente up at 26k. Now the advert for this db9, which is advertised at 20k or make an offer, says all silly offers will be ignored. If we look at the likely rebuild costs that I just ran through earlier and strike an average.

Let’s say that this db9 is going to cost 12k to repair. So take the one that you could have bought; the out of the box is ready to use and is fine at 26k.

Means that if you offer 14k for this 20k red db9, you’re actually no better off for all the hassle.

You know your all up spend is 26k, but you’ve had to go through the hassle of rebuilding the engine, and quite likely, when these cars are taking apart, parts that are working but you have to remove to get out the way.

You know they’ve never been off the car, they’ve never been touched since original production. Means that you have to rebuild with more new parts than you expected. So to get away with your 12k rebuild is probably unlikely going to happen.

Meaning that if you take a relative car that’s of good health in the marketplace and just deduct the basic cost to repair.

So you’re starting at 26k, working down to 14k, then that doesn’t really take into account what could go wrong during the repair and what extra cost is needed.

And also doesn’t take into account any of the hassle factors; it’s going to take a long time to fix this car. Whereas if you paid 26k for the working car, you can use it straight away.

So working downwards from 14, I’d probably say that somewhere between 10 and 12 is an acceptable offer for that car.

Clearly, the seller is unlikely to take that. I feel sorry for the seller, you know he’s bought his db9, it’s suffered a problem that he didn’t anticipate to repair. And now he’s left with a big repair bill.

And obviously, he wants to get the most he can selling the car because he’s bailing on fixing it. But as I said at the start of the video, this deal has to be right for both buyer and seller. And it needs to be priced accordingly.

Unfortunately, this particular problem can happen quite often on the earlier cars. And there are a number of cars that we get offered for sale that are distressed in this way.

And this particular car, you know I wouldn’t even pay 10k for, it’s just a load of hassle, a really big job that has got some undefined cost element to it.

So I just buy the straight one and enjoy it immediately without having to buy something that you then have to turn into a project to fix to be able to use.

Whether it is repair of an engine, or repair of bodywork because the car’s been in a crash, then over the years, time and time and time again, I’ve seen people get totally stuck on this.

And they’re all up priced to fix there’s been way more than the car in the marketplace of relative age and mileage that you could use straight away. I remember one 4.3 v8 vantage that had some bodywork and a little bit of subframe damage.

The subframe, rear subframe is category a part; you can only buy them if you’re an approved repairer. And they’re quite expensive. They’re about three and a half thousand pounds.

With other bodywork damage that this car had, you know the repair bill was knocking on the door of 20k. I mean it’s easily repairable; it wasn’t fundamentally damaged. You know it’s not a car that had a category accident; it was all superficial and just needed parts and labor.

And the car could safely be put back on the road. That car was worth about 30k in the marketplace, and it needs 20k spending on it.

The insurer ended up writing that car off and paying out the owner, and because the car was with us, they asked us if we wanted first refusal of buying it before it went to salvage.

Secondhand parts are worthwhile purchasing, and a tub to use in motorsport is also worthwhile. So yes, this car was of interest to us. But if it’s value in the marketplace without it’s accident damage, it was 30k.

It needs a 20k repair on it, which means that the car is only worth 10k. We offered eight for it, and the insurer says, well, that’s a little bit off the mark, we’re after 18. 18 with a 20k repair almost gets you into the seat of a vantage S.

So it’s really not worthwhile pursuing this car. But lots of people do, lots of people buy what they think is going to be a bargain.

And when you then tot up your all up costs to put it back on the road, realize that you’ve been well and truly stunned.

Perhaps, it’s worth it if you can do all the work yourself, and you’re going to do it all in your own garage and not incur a pro-garage labor charge.

But then it turns into a project, which is more of a hobby than it is making any financial sense.

Which is perfectly fine for those people that want to buy into that hobby and create themselves an Aston from a cheap base point.

But if you’re going to pay garages to bring a distressed car back to life, then it’s better to save up for that little bit extra period and buy a good, decent straight one to start with. Hope you enjoyed that question of the week, and we’ll see you on the next one.

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