Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

When the then Prince of Wales ordered a standard-looking Aston Martin V8 Volante but with a Vantage engine, 22 customers ordered similar cars, creating a now mythical series. We track down a rare example to explain the history and significance of the V8 Volante PoW.



With its high power but discreet looks, the Volante PoW is one of the most desirable but rarest Astons from the Eighties. We discover the model’s royal origins before driving a rare example.

The friends and family of the now HM King Charles III must have found it difficult to buy him birthday presents when he was still the Prince of Wales. What do you get the heir to the throne who has literally everything, including the Duchy of Cornwall’s 135,000 acres, several significant London properties and even the Isles of Scilly?

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

While others no doubt settle on new socks, a novelty tie or perhaps a WHSmith gift voucher, when Charles visited Bahrain at around the same time as his 38th birthday in November 1986, the country’s Emir, Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, offered to buy him a new Aston Martin.

His Royal Highness was no stranger to the brand, having owned a DB6 Volante in Seychelles Blue (registration EBY776J) since 1969. A 21st birthday present from his mother, HM Queen Elizabeth II, the young prince apparently sought the advice of double F1 World Champion, Graham Hill, on how to drive the car properly. The blue Volante soon became common sight at royal functions and polo matches and over 50 years later the now King Charles III still owns it. But for the treasured car to meet the then prince’s goal of lowering his personal carbon footprint, he had the classic Aston converted to run on what he described during a 2021 interview with the BBC as, “surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese process”.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

The then Prince of Wales took the Emir up on his generous off er, choosing the new Vantage Volante that had been recently announced at the 1986 British Motor Show. But while Charles appreciated the 400bhp that the 5.3-litre V8 produced, he felt the styling of the Vantage – which included a deep chin valance, side skirts and a bootlid spoiler – was too extreme for his tastes. What he wanted was a standard-looking Volante but with the higher powered engine.

Aston Martin’s service and warrant department agreed to build such a model with the work overseen by manager Kingsley Riding-Felce. Due to the extra performance, the prince’s car couldn’t appear totally identical to the standard Volante since it needed a special chin spoiler, while slightly flared arches were required for the Vantage’s larger 16in wheels and tyres. It featured the Vantage’s famous bonnet bulge but the model’s blanking plate in the radiator surround was replaced by the same style of simple mesh grille as the standard V8.

The prince himself chose British Racing Green with mushroom leather trim, green carpet and a dark green hood. With Riding-Felce’s team looking after Charles’ existing Aston Martin, they were able to incorporate several personal features into his new one.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

“During the years that the prince had owned the DB6,” said Riding-Felce during a recent interview, “I had always noticed a jar of sugar lumps for the polo ponies in its glovebox. Additionally, we were advised that the prince could never find a suitable place for his sunglasses. We therefore designed the centre armrest to accommodate a leather-trimmed sugarlump jar and music cassettes, as well as converting the ashtray into a storage area with a lid to hold sunglasses.” The car also had a Nardi steering wheel with a gear knob in matching veneer.

Riding-Felce personally handed the unique Volante (now registered D534HYX) over to Prince Charles at his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove House, on 17 July 1987. As with his DB6, His Royal Highness would use the green Volante a lot over the coming years, covering an impressive 46,000 miles.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine - interior RHD

But in 1994 and after being loaned such a car by Aston Martin, Prince Charles ordered another special Volante, this time a Virage that again looked standard but was powered by the 6.3-litre version of the V8. After consulting the Emir of Bahrain, the Prince of Wales decided to sell his birthday-gifted V8 Volante for charity. It was eventually sold by Sotheby’s in December 1995 for £111,500, with all of the proceeds donated to The Prince of Wales Charities Trust for distribution across various good causes.

Impressed by Charles’ original V8 Volante and the discreet power it offered, Aston’s then chairman, Victor Gauntlett, ordered a similar example for himself. With the order book noting, ‘Build to PoW specification’, it’s thought this was the first time this now iconic model name was used. Gauntlett wasn’t alone in appreciating the specification though, since Aston Martin would build another 22 similar cars for UK customers between 1987 and 1989. An additional five examples were then made to US-specification that shared most of the cosmetic features of Prince Charles’ car but had less-powerful fuel-injected engines and rubber bumpers.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

Although a special order and every example being slightly different, meaning there’s no definitive specification, these cars are now collectively known as the ‘PoW’ model. Their perfect mix of discreet looks but high performance have seen them become some of the most highly sought after V8-engined Astons with values to match.

As I watch Neal Garrard from leading marque specialist, Nicholas Mee, manoeuvre the Windsor Blue example, featured here, out of the showroom where it’s currently for sale and into the stark autumnal sunlight, the popularity is easy to understand. The lack of bodykit makes the crisp lines closer to those of the car’s original designer, William Towns, yet the flared arches, big lattice wheels and front valance still give the car an imposing presence. With its perfect proportions, quad-headlight treatment and mesh grille, it’s difficult to think of a prettier car from the era.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

Although the layout of the interior was considered old-fashioned when this 1989 example was produced, as I ease myself down into the large seats that are upholstered in thick Magnolia leather and gaze across the generous swathe of rich veneer that dominates the dash, there’s no denying its atmosphere of handmade luxury that more mass-produced grand tourers of the time, such as the Mercedes-Benz SEC C126 or Porsche 928, miss out on. “It’s all very simple, uncluttered, elegant and couldn’t be anything other than the facia of a traditional British thoroughbred,” said Performance Car magazine in its June 1987 issue about the Vantage Volante. The big V8 rumbles into life the moment I twist the key, soon settling down into a deep, baritone growl. Neal tells me this is the only one of the 22 PoW cars, including Charles’ own, to have been fitted with the three-speed automatic transmission rather than the five-speed manual. So, I ease the chubby lever down into drive, grab the beautiful Nardi wood-rimmed wheel and slowly move forward.

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1989 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

Driving the PoW is a series of contradictions. With the standard Volante weighing around 1,850kg and being 1,829mm wide, it’s a big, heavy and substantial car and even with fingertip-light power steering, I’m constantly aware of its bulk. Driving the blue convertible through the quiet country roads that surround Nicholas Mee’s Hertfordshire premises is like trying to thread a needle with a shoelace. But at slow speeds the V8 is docile and easy to control, which together with the supple suspension easing away any bumps in the road caused by the hard British winter, results in a smooth, easy and effortless ride.

And then, with the road ahead of me clear, I finally gun the throttle hard, the automatic ‘box dropping down to second the instant I do. The resultant acceleration now has the hard edge you’d expect 400bhp to have, the majestic engine in front of me pulling long and hard until the transmission finally changes into top. But even then the power doesn’t end, the car continues to accelerate hard until an oncoming corner means I need to start to brake gently, the now accurate steering enabling me to safely negotiate the bend.

Due to their handsome looks but massive performance, even without the royal involvement, the rare PoW series of cars would be special. But with their origins coming from a car once owned by the heir to the British throne – who’s now monarch – it means the 22 examples really are fi t for a king.

Thanks to: Nicholas Mee (

Prince of Wales standard-looking 1988 Aston Martin V8 Volante with a Vantage engine

The then Prince of Wales at Newport Pagnell in February 1988 with his green V8 Volante

Article type:
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie