All is not well with Richard Hammond’s off-road Aston Martin from the movie Special Work. | Taza Khabre

Key findings

  • A tough ride through the Moorish desert demonstrates the extraordinary durability of the Aston Martin DB9 Volante.
  • Aside from some cosmetic damage, the engine appears to be in good working order, extending its potential for restoration.
  • Aston’s experience draws parallels with other supercars designed for the desert, reflecting new trends in the industry.

No one would intentionally abuse a supercar. Well, maybe someone would – specifically, that one Grand tour brigade (prev Higher gear glory). Recently taken Richard Hammond “cheap” Aston Martin DB9 Volante to the African continent in a special episode titled Sand work – along with two selected other leading sports cars.

On the agenda was an extremely challenging drive through the desert in Mauritania to roughly mimic parts of the historic Paris/Dakar route. Although the Aston was a high quality premium car, it didn’t die, it came home. YouTube channel DRIVETRIBE is on hand to show how bad the car looks after its tests.

Hammond Gets Real And Talks Cars

Richard Hammond unleashes his inner car-roasting critic at a DriveTribe event

The former Top Gear presenter took a stroll through the car park for ideas and sarcasm.

Aston Martin sand work takes a historic course

Formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally and now known simply as the Dakar Rally – or variations of that name – this international event has inspired many competitors to take part in the rally competition over the years. Although it hasn’t followed the iconic line from Paris to Dakar in Senegal for years, it continues to happen, this time in Saudi Arabia.

The special Grand Tour focused on the team acquiring relatively affordable sports cars and using simple techniques to modify them, hopefully improving their chances in the harsh terrain. It ran through Mauritania, a desolate country in West Africa with Senegal (and Dakar) to the southwest.

Jaguar and Maserati join Richard Hammond’s Aston Martin, and the episode is predictably full of literal and metaphorical bumps in the road. DRIVETRIBE now welcome Aston to the garage to check the extent of the car’s damage and consider which direction the car might be heading now.

Highlights from the film Sandwork of the Grand Tour.

  • The journey, which mostly takes place through the Moorish desert landscapes, is a tribute to the Paris-Dakar Rally
  • The journey is tough for high-performance cars, but Aston Martin still arrived in England in one piece.
  • The Aston Martin DB9 Volante is highly unoptimized for harsh desert terrain, and is likely to suffer a lot of dust from the convertible.

A view of the DRIVETRIBE garage

These are all the great cars currently in the Drivetribe garage

Mike Fernie and Richard Hammond give us a great overview of Drivetribe’s current collection of cars.

A look at Richard Hammond’s Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Mike Fernie, host of DRIVETRIBE, is with the Aston Martin DB9 Cabriolet at HQ to check out the car, its modifications and the damage. He says it doesn’t look too bad from the outside, but it’s still caked with sand and dirt. Among the modifications the production team made to the car to give it a viable chance in Mauritania was to increase the car’s ground clearance and fit it with ‘Baja-spec’ road tyres.

With these mods, it no longer has the appeal of a sleek road-going DB9. Some other more aggressive measures include a hood with vents removed to let as much heat out as possible. But on the outside, the car is still a lifted DB9 with off-road tires. But there is visible damage to the car, starting at the rear, where most of the persistent cosmetic issues can be found.

Hammond’s Aston Martin DB9 was beaten

Above, we see various parts of the car that appear to have been scratched and damaged. According to Fernie, the bolts in the trunk lid were damaged on their own when Richard’s hiking gear was attached to the car.

As for the hood, the cutouts were probably the best option for getting heat away from the engine, which overheated at various points in the trip. Despite this, Mike Fernie manages to start the car and it comes to life in the video, it seems still in good shape and ready for more.

Not all Hammond cars are super

Richard Hammond’s Opel Kadet Oliver has finally returned home to Drivetribe

Richard Hammond’s Opel Kadet, better known as Oliver, has undergone a wonderful restoration and Drivetribe’s Mike Fernie goes to check it out.

The Aston Martin DB9 Volante is a great risk

Aston Martin DB9 Volante Rear Quarter Stratus White Driving Aerial Angle
Via: Aston Martin

In the video, DRIVETRIBE reveals several possibilities for Richard Hammond’s future Aston Martin. There is obvious cosmetic damage to various parts of the car, but it looks mostly aesthetic. However, chronic damage can be hidden under the body panels and hood.

The engine starts freely but may need cleaning and even rebuilding due to dirt and overheating issues. Its suspension and chassis would also suffer from impacts, and other components such as brake lines, fuel system, brakes, exhaust, sensors and other parts may need to be checked.

Official specifications of the Aston Martin DB9

Aston Martin DB9


5.9 liter, NA V12


503 hp

A turning point

457 lb-ft


Engine front, rear

Average auction price

$47-64,000 (automatic and manual Volante versions)

Specifications are provided Aston Martin,

Three options were proposed; first, the possibility of restoring the car to factory condition. It would be hard work, of course, but not impossible. As for the other two options, the team can keep the Aston Martin in its current state, even applying varnish to keep the sand and patina in that state. Finally, a third option would be to turn this car up to 11, Mad Max style, making it even more extreme.

Even a standard DB9 that hasn’t survived a Paris-Dakar-style trip can also pose a financial risk to the owner. High maintenance and repair costs, depreciation, insurance and fuel costs can take a toll, but that doesn’t mean the car is inherently unreliable.

Conclusions from the above breakdown of Richard Hammond’s DB9

  • Richard Hammond’s Aston Martin is in what appears to be acceptable condition with only minor cosmetic damage to the engine
  • This could have hidden unseen damage, and the displaced roll arc that shattered the rear window suggests the car’s structure needed repair
  • The average auction value of a first-generation Aston Martin DB9 is only around $47,000.

Lamborghini and Porsche have their desert supercars

Although it’s still a relatively new fad, the stylish and tough-looking supercar is a design that’s taking off. This is probably due to the trend towards crossovers and SUVs, an industry that also produces premium and exotic cars. The Porsche 911 Dakar and Lamborghini Sterrato show that there is a market for small supercars, but it’s not just that.

Both the Porsche and the Lamborghini feature a uniquely tuned chassis and advanced features for added durability on sand, gravel or dirt. Of course, the aesthetic side of these cars is probably where much of the real appeal lies. Even so, there’s no denying the allure of dirty, dusty exotica that’s been used and abused in the real world. Below we can see the main characteristics of both cars.

Hammond’s Aston is a bit more DIY in its approach, but has a similar approach to those cars, at least when it comes to the important hardware: suspension and rubber. As he told Mike about this British supercar hero, the car has been through a lot and now it has a story. It has a soul that sets it apart from other DB9s that live in garages or make short trips to business parks. We would agree, and his soul is most beautiful when covered with sand and dirt; leave as is, DRIVETRIBE.

Characteristics of Lamborghini Sterrato and Porsche 911 Dakar

Lamborghini Sterrato

Porsche 911 Dakar


5.2 liter, NA V10

3-liter twin-turbocharged I6


602 hp

473 hp

A turning point

470 lb-ft

420 lb-ft


Rear-mid engine, AWD

Front engine, AWD

Method of transmission

7-speed automatic

8-speed automatic

Figures courtesy of Lamborghini, Porsche

Highlights from the section above

  • DRIVETRIBE Aston Martin DB9 Volante has similar concept to Lamborghini Sterrato and Porsche 911 Dakar
  • Compared to the traditional road-going versions, these cars have slightly increased ground clearance, specially tuned suspension, special tires, improved driving modes and new cosmetic features.
  • Thanks to the proliferation of crossovers in today’s culture, there is a trend toward “off-road” versions of sports cars and supercars.

Sources: DRIVETRIBE, Aston Martin,, Lamborghini, Porsche

Leave a Comment