Crouch down low to the ground when beside the AM-RB 001’s elegant nose and gaze along its fuselage and you’re struck by one thing; this is a car that takes minimalist design to new limits. To say there’s almost nothing there is an understatement, for the wasp-waisted form of Aston Martin’s newest and boldest statement to date is shaped by a singular purity of vision.
That vision has been driven by two men: Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, and Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman. Together, the two bring decades of experience and expertise in their fields: Newey the aerodynamicist and Reichman the creator of beautiful form. The AM-RB 001 is the product of that devotion, the answer to a question no one had dare posed before: what would the ultimate synthesis of form and technology actually look like?
For Reichman, the origins of this car go far back to his earliest days at Aston Martin. He even pulls out a sketch for a hypothetical mid-engined machine, surreptitiously rendered in a director’s meeting in 2006. “I thought Aston might one day need a mid-engined car,” he says. Until that point, the company’s heritage of placing the powertrain behind the driver could be traced back to a single spectacular car: the 1980 Bulldog was designed by William Towns to be unlike any other Aston Martin. Billed as the fastest production car of its era, the faceted bodywork enclosed a Vantage-era V8. The Bulldog starred in press adverts and purported to hold production car speed records, although in the end its limited run of 25 never materialised and the solitary car was sold to an overseas buyer.
The AM-RB 001’s closest antecedent dates from 2014, albeit one from the virtual world. The DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo was designed for the PlayStation game Gran Turismo. It remained true to Aston Martin’s signature design elements with a mid-engined layout and highly credible aerodynamic and design details that subsequently emerged in the DB11 and Aston Martin Vulcan. “The DP-100 gave us an opportunity to show what a mid-engined car could look like,” says Reichman.
Aston Martin and Red Bull’s collaboration is one of those rare moments of serendipity, the coming together of desire and ambition. The project’s original codename, Nebula, was chosen to refer to the alignment of stars and working with Red Bull has been enormously fruitful.
“Adrian is an inspiration — the most successful F1 designer ever, having created 10 world championship cars,” says Reichman, but he admits he had some trepidation about their initial meetings. Both companies had created a bespoke car for Gran Turismo and both had shown marked differences in their approaches. Yet when it came to sharing ideas for a collaboration, the direction — both in terms of form and function — was incredibly similar. Overseen by Aston Martin’s Chief Special Operations Officer, David King, the third key player in this project, development is now fully underway on the hypercar.
The road-going AM-RB 001 has a bespoke V12 engine at its heart, part of a technical and dynamics package that promises to make this car one of the performance superstars of the decade. An element in electrification will also feature in the AM-RB 001. To achieve the required performance, the emphasis is on removing weight and channelling the airflow. Yet, as Reichman points out: “The evolution of our design language is also important — how to have a car without a grille. The frontal area has to just be a wing. It’s pure form following function.” Red Bull Technology’s digital modelling skills also helped to take the car from concept to finished model and this extraordinarily sculptural object is the result.
The AM-RB 001 is a car designed not only for the road, but also for the track. The driver and passenger are ensconced with the kind of finishes, comfort and amenities one would expect to find in any Aston Martin. It’s a car that abides by the litany of modern regulations, yet gives its 150 owners the ultimate experience wherever they choose to use it. An additional 24 cars will be finished to track-only specification, promising even more extreme use of components and forms.
“Is it the most incredible car in Aston Martin’s history?” asks Reichman rhetorically. “I think it is. This is the car that sets the tone for the next century in terms of technology and our competitive nature. The one thing we’ve never been recognised for is being the fastest and now this car is opening up a whole new world of clients and customers who want that superlative. It’s the pinnacle.”
The frontal area has to just be a pure wing. It's pure form following function
For Reichman and his team, headed up by Creative Director of Exterior Design, Miles Nurnberger, the form of the AM-RB 001 presented some very unique challenges. To coax out the proportional perfection and rich, velvety surfaces that define every Aston Martin, the designers followed the forms dictated by the packaging and aerodynamics and doggedly honed them to giddy levels of perfection. “Achieving a 1:1 power to weight ratio in the modern age, when legislation is so much more restrictive, is a challenge,” says Reichman. “If we can’t get there after three attempts, we still don’t give in.”
The prototype displays the collaboration in a very visual way: the bodywork, shaped by Aston Martin, is finished in a light green; the shapes generated by Newey’s precise calculations and decades of racing experience, to channel air over, under and through the car, appear in a purposeful dark grey.
The AM-RB 001 is a spectacularly coherent design that combines the raw beauty of function and the extreme attention to detail required to harness Aston Martin’s design language to such an uncompromising form. Although the interior has yet to be unveiled, Reichman describes it as “very minimal. There’ll be a lot of information presented to the driver. Although it’s quite a confined space, I can still fit at 6ft 4in, even with a racing helmet.” A mix of carbon fibre, Kevlar, Alcantara and TFT screens will envelop driver and passenger, taking the digital instrumentation seen in the DB11 to another level of sophistication, with screens also replacing absent wing mirrors. “It’s functionally beautiful. You’ll be able to specify your own seat, your own touch and feel for the controls — it’s not intimidating like an F1 car,” says Reichman. “It’s about making the driver feel confident.”
The AM-RB 001 will be made, like all Special Project cars before it, in the dedicated facility set aside for hand-building a piece of extreme design. As always, Aston Martin will work closely with its customers, with scope for special events, unique experiences and on-track training. They won’t simply be AM-RB 001 owners (there will eventually be a name change to replace the Project code). They will also be exploring new facets of the brand and new aesthetic forms and frontiers of performance and technology.
Not only does the AM-RB 001 cement a crucial partnership and take Aston Martin to the upper echelons of performance, it also sets out a path for one of the company’s “Second Century” plans. “The AM-RB 001 will form the core DNA of our mid-engined cars in the future,” says Reichman, clearly relishing the implications of what that might entail. This car is a very potent statement of intent.