First, we would like to thank Damien and Eric for passing on their passion, for trusting our work, for owning such amazing cars, and for sharing them with us. It was truthfully an exceptional moment that they gave us the opportunity to live.

Owning a sports or collector car is a privilege. And at Automobili Eleganza, cars are often a family affair. Bertrand has his father and before him, his grand-father, owning the same Ferrari 308 GTB Vetroresina since decades. Damien, a true Porsche enthusiast has owned Porsches since many years and Luca has had the chance of building memories with these cars ever since he was a kid, making him a true Porsche enthusiast too. Eric, a speed lover, wanted to own a sports car with the full support of his son Mickael, who always pushed him to take the step, which he did with an Aston Martin for his 50th birthday. So when we got this opportunity to gather two of our long-term cars in Switzerland, we couldn’t resist.

Text: Fabian S., Mickael B. © Images: Thomas Z., Mickael B., Luca W. ©

It occured on a Saturday at 2 PM, somewhere in the outskirts of Lausanne. Hangovered from the past night, my general condition was not the best, to say the least. I admit that, being aware that I have very little credibility, when I say that this very same afternoon has been a very positive and memorable moment of my life. As you might have guessed, it is not hard to figure out, what other than Aspirin makes a hung over car guy happy, despite Aspirin: a car! Not any car, but a very special one. Actually there were two cars to be perfectly precise. The white moving object in front of me was identified as belonging to the population named Porsche. The species: 911. The creature: GT3. (F)

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The newcomer inherited from the best genes the brand holds. Exception made of the Über 918, already sold out, the GT3 is currently the sportiest Porsche money can buy. Only the evolution step GT3 RS, recently presented in Geneva, is even more radical. Introduced in 1999, the first GT3 was based on the 996 version of the 911 and has since then been renewed five times. However, ever since its introduction, this model range never betrayed its racing heritage. Every launch of a GT3 was predated by a sibling car for track use only. These GT3 Cup cars, mainly developed for the brand´s 1993 introduced one make series, the Porsche Supercup, are sold, supplied and maintained by Porsche Motorsport to customers and teams who wish to go racing in a Zuffenhausen-built product. (F)


Although the GT division of Porsche is responsible for the road going version, the similarities between both models are given. This practice of homologating race cars for the street has not been started with the 993 RS, which was the first model, used in Cup racing, but is seen as a core value. The company has always, even before the 911, judged motorsport as the most effective laboratory to develop new technologies, thereby insuring the highest reliability and quality for their clients. At a time, where race cars were still homologated for the streets, the 550 Spyder, 904, later 2.8 RSR could be acquired by John Q. Public. After the oil crisis, customers had more difficulties to homologate cars, such as the 3.0 RSR. Even the U.S. legislation rules had to be changed for the 959 to be homologated, and that was a car which was never intended as a race car. (F)


This approach is rare in the automotive industry, even among sports cars manufacturers. The latter often claims to have derived technologies from motorsport but very rarely is this done so consequently and effectively as by Porsche. Long story short, the GT3 is seen among many as the ultimate equipment for clubsport activities. Although Porsche has always favored the understatement to “show and shine”, true to the motto “form follows function”, its latest iteration is an eccentric creature on the first sight. It might not appear so, when looking at pictures of it in a magazine, but you might quickly make up your mind when confronted to the car in person. It is even more noticeable, as this eccentricity is a product of serious engineering and self-purpose, rather than aiming at being part of a show and to attract attention. It is a pure engineering exercise, where every angle, every screw, every surface fulfills a purpose. A nice purpose: one that tries to make you go faster. (F)


Weather forecasts made me hesitated upon if we were going to be able to get out both cars. On Friday, I recall bad rain, but when I woke up on Saturday morning and saw the clouds moving up to free the blue sky, I was pretty confident we could eventually have a little fun. Temperature was even pretty nice for the beginning of November, as it had warmed up a bit from the previous weeks and melted the early snow we had had. So, around noon, I called my father for a favor. In fact, the V12 Vantage was already on its hibernation mode, but the idea of one last blast before the long winter, with the nice conditions and a potential partner managed to convince him. (M)

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Still lying in the garage beneath, our second surprise of the day was awaiting. Another European car, originally intended to have a similar radical concept to the GT3, which however, in its implementation, were milestones away from its rival of the day. The growling black monster goes by the name of Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Millennium 2010. Based on the chassis of the entry level Aston Martin V8 Vantage, introduced in 2005, the car features the company’s biggest power plant taken from the DBS. But I have to admit, the 5 year difference in age of both of them was a time laps which in terms of automotive technology appeared to equal centuries. (F)


The Aston Martin V12 Vantage in comparison with the GT3 was not born with a competition purpose. It was more originally the delirium of one man. David Richards. His idea was pretty simple: Put the biggest engine in the smallest chassis. Although it sounds like a terrible idea, it has proven to be historically a very successful with most notably Caroll Shelby and his now world famous AC Cobras, equipped first with a 289 cubic inches Ford V8 instead of their small six cylinder in line engine and fitted later with the monstrous 427. Thus, Aston Martin launched a Concept car back in 2009, called the Aston Martin V12 Vantage RS, which had the most powerful Aston Martin engine at the time. Not one that you could find in any of their road cars either. It was the GT1 Le Mans V12 major winner from the DBR9, which resulted in a 650 horsepower ultra-machine. (M)

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Sadly though, the V12 never came up with that terrific engine in production and Dr. Ullrich Bez decided to put the most powerful production engine at the time, the 6 liter V12 from the DBS, developing no less than 517 horsepower. So basically the final result was just a better DBS, thanks to the very good job from the british with the original V8 Vantage chassis and platform to cope with all the new power and torque from the V12, maintaining the nimbleness and general stiffness of the car. Only available originally with a manual gearbox, Aston martin introduced late 2012 the V12 Vantage S with one of their automated Touchtronic 3 flappy paddle gearbox, which as I’m sure you know, doesn’t work very well. (M)


While I rushed towards my home, telling my father that we would soon depart for the journey, we were a bit caught by surprise preparing the Aston when the white Porsche arrived. Although I had seen the 991 GT3 before, it was the first time I saw this precise one. Luca and myself had talked so much about this car, about the issues his father had with the delivery delay of his car because of all these GT3s which had caught fire, that I was almost apprehending that moment. But when I saw both father and son get out of the car, smiling to their ears, I knew this was it. Simple but efficient, the GT3 had already conquered their hearts. With both cars ready to go, we headed towards the Lavaux region hoping to find a place for a small photoshoot. (M)

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The purpose of this gathering does not aim at comparing the specs of two competitors, in view of a serious journalistic analysis. Let alone the fact that the Aston is 5 years older would yield very unfair and biased results. Rather considering this as a meeting between two outstanding pieces of craftsmanship and engineering excellence, giving a small glimpse at the sheer endless diversity of automotive pleasure, would be more appropriate. The niche market chosen for the V12 Vantage is very similar to Porsche´s. The idea was to conceive a more hardcore sports car for the race track, based on a higher volume GT from the manufacturer´s respective model range. In the German case, the talk is of the 911, whereas from across the Channel, the V8 Vantage was used as the basis. (F)


As opposed to the purposefulness of the Porsche, Aston Martin has approached the exercise from a very British perspective. The company´s marketing department has not been tired to repeat the three fundamentals, characterizing each product: Power, Beauty, Soul. While the first one can easily be confirmed by a look on the data sheet, the second adjective is more of a subjective nature. For my part, however, they really succeeded here. The shape is like nothing else on the plant. Simple, yet drawn with passion, skills and filigree. Although the car was designed for racing, the looks remain understated and classy, without any wings abruptly disturbing the fluidity of the single pencil stroke. (F)

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While the Aston Martin plays the understated gentleman in terms of looks, it awakes is all the more ASTONishing. Being a master of transforming CO2 into loud and beautiful melodies – maybe some of you would refer to it as noise but to me the comparison to a music composition is more striking. The lines of the bodywork have been drawn with an aesthetic right of perfect proportions translated into absolute elegance that makes the sheer brutality of the engine noise become unexpected. Much more old school in its conception than the Porsche, engineers never aimed at achieving the fastest lap times around a track.

First and foremost because engineers knew they would not have the slightest chance against the fierce competition, hence why they devoted a huge part of their effort to conceive something incomparable. Then, it comes naturally that an Aston Martin solely dedicated to grab seconds on track contradicts the philosophy of the brand. Too serious, too clinical, but most importantly something that is not elevated to an artistic level is unconceivable for the Gaydon based firm. After all Aston Martin is a gentleman´s car for the large boulevards and sadly way too often quoted in the same sentence as James Bond. (F)


While we arrived at our usual place in the Lavaux, it was packed with people enjoying the last few moments of sun and warm temperatures, so we made a short stop before moving on further north. Time to reflect on our first impressions of both of the cars, of what they represented, and what they meant to us. First of all, in terms of design, what surprised me the most is that although the Porsche is the perfect representation of form follows function, and the Aston is subtle refinement and elegance, which would mean that both cars would truly have nothing in common, it turned out wrong. The 991 and the V12 both had genes, legacy in their veins, and respected it. Under the GT3 body elements, under the wide 991 Carrera chassis, you could see and feel the original 911 underneath it. Under the V12 Vantage, you could see the muscles of the seventies V8 Vantages, and the refinement of the original DB5. (M)

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The joyful experience of operating a manual gearbox, like in the V12 Vantage, makes it much more demanding for the driver. Whether this is more rewarding when you master the high art of driving remains a question of taste, the Porsche rather being the scalpel than the precious knife. Turn in and agility cannot probably be topped by any car on the market available today (the 458 Speciale being probably its only true rival). If you were to believe that this last generation 911 has become too clinical and lost its temper, think again. Yes it is true the car has lost its legendary Metzger engine (named after the man who developed it) as well as its manual gearbox. However the brand needs to go with its time and offer customers a modern interpretation of a phenomenal model range. A fact that is hard to accept for numerous car guys used to the golden age of manual gearboxes. However if you listen to GT3 aficionados, you will quickly realize that several little things have remained unchanged. (F)


The crunching breaks during low speed breaking, the rattle in the gearbox housing -you can hear every rack wheel- and the sound of little stones hitting the wheel arches are the little details that remind you all the time that you are sitting in one of Porsche’s most iconic sports car. Inside, one unmistakably notices the unconventionalism. Despite all the luxury equipment on board and the identical dashboard to the 911, it is not a conventional 911, if such thing might even exist. The noise protection is pretty much inexistent, the back seats as well and the ride is quite firm even in the softest setting. Add one of the optional bucket seats and roll-cage, and the racing ambiance is perfect. This is the biggest difference with the Aston Martin, it is a joy ride but more as a track car than a Gran Turismo.(F)

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We finally found an empty place over Chalet-a-Gobet, a very picturesque small ski resort that was preparing itself for the ski season, and started to shoot the cars with Thomas. The ride to there had been thrilling. I mean, how could it not have been? A big powerful V12, a high revving flat-six, curvy country roads and beautiful sights of the shore of Lake Geneva. What else do you need for happiness? Looking at both cars interior, I found out the same thing. Both of them were keeping tight genes to their ancestors. The Porsche, with its five big counters on the dashboard, the Aston Martin keeping the same Connolly suede leather as a touch of the past. And although the 991’s binnacle could feel a little bit austere at first, with time people start to appreciate its simplicity, practicality and ergonomics. (M)

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The Aston Martin is quite different. The most noticeable difference -standing outside- might be the sound. What a sound. Every time the car fires up its goose bumps time! As opposed to the very metallic sound of the 911, the V12 is a melody with a little touch of aggressivity. It appears quite bizarre to hear such a sonorous sound coming out of a car so small. It almost appears to be as if Aston Martin has gone the American Way. The Hot Rod style. Surely not from a design perspective but from its conceptual approach. Employees squeezed the biggest engine they could possibly find in the smallest car of their actual lineup, the entry level V8 Vantage. Much like Carroll Shelby before them. The result is impressive ! (F)


The V12 Vantage’s binnacle feels much more exotic but with its small –almost unreachable- buttons, it can be very annoying. The Porsche, like any 911 can truly be used on an everyday basis, and driven by almost everyone, while the Aston seems too unpractical, and in a way too extravagant. In a traffic jam where the PDK gearbox of the GT3 would be a relief and the touch and widescreen GPS would be suggesting you alternative roads, the V12 would be giving you a hard time with the manual shift, and its non touch small screen would probably manage to get you lost somewhere in the traffic jam. But who said that this couldn’t be charming? (M)

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In the inside of the V12, you still get the impressive feel and touch that goes with every Aston. The leather smells no industrial treatment and the gear leaver is made out of real metal. It is not a Teutonic sense of quality but a more artisanal one. Much like tailored British shoes. Interestingly enough, the vocabulary of Shakespeare’s mother tongue keeps a word in readiness that finds no equal translation in german: craftsmanship. The art of devoting a lot of energy and love into manufacturing a product in order to achieve an unprecedented level of quality.

As it is made by hand, this quality aspires to reach a certain level of perfection, which, however, it does not convincingly achieve. Little drawbacks such as the presence of Ford switches and a cheap Volvo navigation system are always good to surprise the customer but these flaws are the little charming touches. More importantly, to most owners, this however has no relevance. The car is made to multiply the smiles on your face and the eventuality that you could get lost because of the GPS, is actually no bad news. You then get to spend even more time driving it. I even have a slight suspicion that Aston Martin did it on purpose. They wanted customers to spent time behind the wheel and get addicted. What a nice company! (F)

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The trip ends where it started. The sun terminated a wonderful afternoon of meeting two very different cars, both sportive denominations of already very convincing cars. It displayed the huge diversity that exists even in the niche market of track based vehicles. Could we really choose between one of them? I don’t think so. Each has its defaults, its qualities, but more importantly, its soul. The Porsche, light, both in terms of color and weight, revealing its talents, showing you its immense capabilities, distilling pleasure the moment you start it, and the Aston, the subtle, refined, elegant night shadow that you learn to savor throughout time. Between shadow and light…