MAY 2014 – Take innovative design, advanced engineering and faultless craftsmanship, add a bespoke personalisation service, and what you get is the characterful elegance that is Aston Martin.
It’s almost impossible to separate the name James Bond from that of Aston Martin. After all, Bond loves Aston Martins as much as he adores beautiful women and martinis. Almost… This is a car that epitomises luxury. It oozes elegance and enchantment – much like Mr Bond himself. But, unlike 007 – who has evolved from a suave man-about-town into a more real, raw character – Aston Martin has not changed the lavish personality of its quintessentially British brand. Throughout the company’s 101-year history, it has consistently produced a sports car that boasts the ultimate in bespoke luxury.
This commitment to luxury is clearly evident at the company’s head office in Gaydon, Warwickshire, in the heart of the British Midlands. Comprising an office block, adjoining production facility and state-of-the-art design studio, its dynamic architecture is an embodiment of the quality design aesthetic that underpins the 4 000 sports cars produced here every year. From initial concept to final finishes, the production process combines cutting-edge technology with traditional hand-craftsmanship. The fabrication of perfection can never be rushed, and it takes around 200 hours to produce each vehicle – just painting a single car is a painstaking 50-hour process. The results are superlative. The paint finish boasts an unrivalled lustre that has won accolades around the world – and puts this British automotive legend in a different league.
Compromise is not part of the Aston Martin lexicon. When the designers of the Vanquish came up with a spoiler integrated into the boot lid, the production team had no choice but to invent a new technique for lacquering and polishing. It took months to perfect, but resulted in an industry first that is typical of this ground-breaking marque. The same dedication applies to every single component of the car – even though production-line ‘perfect’ isn’t part of the package. Take the interior, for instance, where leather comes courtesy of between six and nine hides and all stitching is done by hand. This level of hand craftsmanship means no two cars are alike – and that’s part of the charm of buying an Aston Martin. It’s a work of art, not just a car. It’s a level of individuality that extends into the range of vehicles on offer, too. Aston Martin recognises that high-end buyers, willing to spend six figures on a car, shun the idea of buying something that feels mass produced. Which is why there are 3.5 million choices in the ‘standard’ Aston Martin range.
If you’re not content to settle with one of these fine choices, then there’s Q. Much like 007 went to Q-branch whenever he needed a customised vehicle, car connoisseurs can go to Aston Martin Q to get the vehicle of their dreams. It’s a unique personalisation programme offering a tailored approach to luxury that is as simple as it is ambitious. With Q, an Aston Martin becomes a blank canvas that customers can transform into a car that truly reflects exactly who they are. From the simplest colour change and trim amendment through to wildly ambitious one-off commissions, it inspires Aston customers to let their imaginations soar. ‘The service is a natural extension of what many of our customers have expected of us for many years,’ explains Dr Matthew Bennett, General Manager of VIP and Q by Aston Martin. ‘The process of creating and specifying a new Aston Martin can take some time – time that our customers rightly expect to savour. What Q by Aston Martin adds to that already exciting process is the freedom to think beyond specification sheets and options lists – to challenge the designers and engineers here at Gaydon to use their talents to produce something truly remarkable, and unique.’
The Q by Aston Martin Lounge, unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March, is now making its way to Aston Martin dealerships around the world. The new Beijing showroom, on the ground floor of the five-star Regent Hotel, has been the fi rst to roll out a fully operational Q Lounge, featuring a selection of paints, leathers and veneers that customers can apply to their ‘blank canvas’ car. The Q process has already resulted in some beautiful customised vehicles, two of which starred at the Beijing Auto Show in April. The Q by Aston Martin Rapide S creation was finished in a lustrous burgundy paint called Divine Red and featured an interior trimmed in an espresso coloured leather with a metallic finish. Other customised features included a wood veneer with a metallic pinstripe on the upper facia and door inserts, and a worsted-wool suiting cloth featuring pinstripes in platinum and 24-carat gold. The Q by Aston Martin Vanquish Coupe, meanwhile, adopted an extreme sports theme. The exterior, painted in Meteorite Silver, boasted an eye-catching stripe of exposed carbon fibre running from nose to tail, over the bonnet, roof and boot lid. It was complemented by a vivid red interior, with more carbon fibre seen on the facia and gearshift paddles.
Aston Martin Design Director, Marek Reichman and his team are intimately involved in the personalisation process. ‘Q by Aston Martin is really all about freedom. The freedom to work with us here at our Gaydon headquarters to create something really special. Something that uniquely demonstrates a customer’s attitude, their personality and their taste,’ he explains. ‘My team and I are excited to be leading the design inspiration innate in this service and, working closely with the engineering and manufacturing teams, and their suppliers worldwide, to be helping to deliver levels of personalisation that have not been widely available before.’
Another innovation not seen in the luxury car market before is fixed-price servicing, available on selected models more than four years old, including the DB7 Vantage, the V8 Vantage, the DB9 and the original Vanquish. This is the brainchild of the team at Aston Martin Works, the brand’s sales, servicing and restoration centre at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. Customers from around the world bring their cars here to be serviced, sometimes by the very technicians who built the car when Newport Pagnell was Aston Martin’s centre of production.
At this facility, cars – and their owners – are pampered to the nth degree, with a dedicated service reception engineer to monitor the car’s progress through the Works. Cars can be collected from and delivered to any convenient location in Europe using purpose-built transporters, and the centre may even fly a team of expert technicians out to customers’ homes to service vehicles in situ. Each service is recorded in the car’s service history and features the sought-after Aston Martin Works service stamp – the ultimate sign of quality and craftsmanship.
Aston Martin Works is also the maestro where restoration of vintage Astons is concerned. The company recently unearthed a treasure trove of old moulds, which means heritage specialists now have the original moulds for many vintage models at their disposal. The painstaking restoration process involves assessing each component, from engine and chassis to dashboard clock, and rebuilding anything that needs to be replaced to its original specifications. The leather department is key to this process. With just three staff, it’s tiny, but it’s offers comprehensive restoration of all interior leatherworks on vintage models, referring back to an archive containing original patterns for all models to ensure interiors are remade with total veracity. Witnessing this team of master craftsmen at work is nothing short of inspiring. Re-assembled, repainted and retrimmed, a vintage Aston Martin emerges from the Works looking as good as it did when it first came of the production line.
It’s all par for the course for a brand that is anything but ordinary. And while its seductive sports cars can now be as unique as you want them to be, they do still have something in common. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr Ulrich Bez notes: ‘An Aston Martin combines three important elements: power, beauty and soul. Aston Martins are truly special – they always have been and always will be.’