It’s only recently (relatively speaking) that the automotive industry has started paying heed to the need for more sustainable methods of production, more sustainable end-products, and bio-fuels. HRH Prince of Wales and the future King of England, Prince Charles, probably can’t help feel vindicated since he’s been campaigning for the same things ever since the ‘70s.
His iconic Aston Martin – and his all-time favorite car in his rumored 100-strong collection – is an example of how he’s always been a man of his word: the kind that does more than just talk, and actually puts in the work. If you ever wanted an example of how to upgrade a classic – and an iconic vehicle – to modern times, Prince Charles’ 1969 Aston Martin DB6 MK 2 Vantage Volante is it.
The fact that Prince Charles owns and drives a classic that runs on wine and cheese is, of course, not a new story. He’s been proudly talking about the conversion since 2008, when he commissioned it, including details about how Aston Martin was initially reluctant to do it because they thought it would ruin the car. We’re talking about it again because Prince Charles brought it up in a new interview with the BBC, in which he says environmentalists need to get into the action, as opposed to just sit around talking.
In a very simplified manner, yes, HRH owns a car that runs on wine and cheese. It smells “delicious” when you drive it, he once joked, and it even paved the way to a favorite joke with HRH’s cousin, David Linley: “How does Prince Charles drive his Aston Martin? Caerphilly.” It’s a very British instance of dry humor, but it is accurate.
Prince Charles got the Aston Martin in 1969, either as a gift from the Queen on his 21st birthday or as a treat to himself. Much like Land Rover, Aston Martin has been enjoying a very fruitful relationship with the Royal Family, one that goes back decades, all the way to 1954. This particular car is a high-output Vantage, one of the 29 Volantes built for the DB6, starting with 1966.
Originally, the 4.0-liter straight-6 engine delivered 325 hp at 5750 rpm (for the Vantage edition), with 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque at 4500 rpm, a top speed of 241 kph (150 mph) and 0–60 mph (96.5 kph) acceleration in 8.4 seconds. The DB6 might not be as famous worldwide as the ultimate James Bond car, the DB5, but it brought several improvements over it. It’s an iconic vehicle and a most coveted classic.
Prince Charles got his in what would ultimately become the Prince Charles Specification, with little custom touches meant to heighten his driving experience. He would enjoy it as it was in 2008, even though his involvement in environmental issues goes back all the way to the ‘70s. This was when he decided to convert it to run on bio-ethanol so as to be able to enjoy it with a clean conscience.
As noted above, Aston Martin balked at the suggestion.However, the maker eventually relented when HRH threatened to stop driving it altogether, and Gloucestershire-based Green Fuels came into the picture to provide the waste-derived bio-ethanol. It’s E85 bio-ethanol, a blend of white wine unsuitable for human consumption, whey from cheese manufacturing, and 15 percent unleaded gasoline.
“When the conversion was done, they had to admit that the car now performs better than ever,” Prince Charles told Wallpaper magazine in an interview in 2018. The Aston Martin was powerful before, so much so that HRH had former Formula One world champion Graham Hill privately teach him how to drive it, but it is even more so now.
The world may joke that Prince Charles’ Aston Martin is just like a bored housewife, surviving on wine and cheese, but that would be minimizing the issue. HRH is a known motorist and car collector, and the Aston Martin is just one of the cars he has converted along the years, though perhaps the most famous. He also owns modern EVs, starting with the first addition to the fleet, the then-brand new Jaguar I-Pace.
And HRH lives him life in accordance with the principles he publicly espouses, as much as possible. Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, has a Home Farm that is organic and agroecological, using homeopathic treatments for the animals instead of antibiotics. The castle is fitted with solar panels and biomass boilers, so most of the energy consumed is produced on site. In addition to driving old cars that have been refitted for the demands of an ever-changing and damaged environment, Charles himself has a strict anti-waste policy that has seen him, for instance, wear the same suits he’s owned for decades.