Simon de Burton

Inside Prince Charles’s wine-powered Aston Martin

Inside Prince Charles's wine-powered Aston Martin
Image: Shutterstock
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James Bond might have served as Aston Martin's greatest ambassador for the best part of half a century, but the Prince of Wales isn't far behind. He's been an Aston man ever since mum and dad gave him a Seychelle Blue DB6 for his 21st in 1969, when a gallon of leaded four-star cost a reasonable six shillings and tuppence.

He still owns the MKII 'Volante' (that's Aston-speak for convertible) and allowed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to use it as their post-wedding 'getaway vehicle,' complete with cringe-worthy 'JU5T WED' fake registration and droll 'L' plates with hearts in each corner.

Just four years after acquiring the DB6, the Prince was received into the hallowed fold of the Aston Martin Owners Club - AMOC, for short - and has remained a staunch supporter of the marque throughout the highs and lows that continue to pepper its history.

The DB6 Volante

Notably, he travelled to the Newport Pagnell 'works' in 1986 to collect a V8 Vantage Volante in British Racing Green that had received a range of bespoke tweaks, among which were extra sound-proofing and a lowered centre console (more elbow room) with flush-fit switches.

Outwardly, the car had a shallow front spoiler instead of the more thuggish standard air dam, and a boot lid devoid of the normal Vantage Volante's boy-racer raised rear lip. Although the wheel arches were somewhat rowdy, being flared to accommodate fat tyres.

The resulting look proved such a hit that a further 21 similar cars were created for admiring punters to what has become known as 'Prince of Wales Specification'.

One feature none of the others had, however, was a monogrammed, leather-covered jar nestling between the seats - there to hold sugar cubes for polo ponies.

The Prince covered 46,000 miles in the car before selling it at Sotheby's auction in December 1995 where it fetched £115,500 for his charitable trust.

He later replaced it with a Virage Volante packing a 6.3 litre engine souped-up to 500 horsepower, a car last spotted 'resting ' in Aston's Gaydon factory - but the DB6 is rarely far out of the Prince's reach and he continues to use it for both private and public occasions, loyally drawing-up in it last year to cast his eye over the new Aston plant in St Athal, Wales.

The DB6 Volante interior

But, back in 2007, it seemed that the beautiful friendship between the Prince and Aston might have been in danger when, after feeling pangs of environmental guilt about the DB6's fossil-fuel-guzzling habits, he was led to believe that it could be made to run on waste left-over from wine production.

How they chortled back at the Works saying, in the best tradition of Great British Craftsmen, that such a conversion 'simply couldn't be done'.

The Prince countered with a threat to stop driving the car, causing visions of Royal Warrants being torn up before the eyes of Aston's then CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez (who had been to Charles and Camilla's wedding and had the cake to prove it), prompting a command to the workforce to 'stop whining' and 'get wining'.

After an agonising seven months, Aston's 'Works Service' department duly pronounced the blue DB6 thoroughly 'green' - having rebuilt the engine with an increased compression ratio, replaced the fuel tank, filler rubbers and fuel lines, re-tuned the car's Weber carburettors and consulted extensively with Green Fuels, a Gloucestershire-based biofuel company based in Stonehouse, a short carbon footprint stride from the Prince's Highgrove home.

The firm obtained a consignment of unwanted wine from a Wiltshire vineyard and a quantity of whey from a nearby cheesemaker, converted it into E85 bioethanol specifically for supplying to the Prince, and he has been enjoying guilt-free DB6 motoring ever since - pronouncing the car to be 'more powerful' than it was on petrol and, furthermore, to 'smell delicious'

Beat that, Tesla......