Whether Carroll Shelby or Roy Salvadori worried about the weather conditions when driving an Aston Martin to glory at Le Mans in 1959 is unclear. Some 150,000 people watched their open-roof DBR1 claim a famous victory, the first and only outright win for the marque in the history of the 24-hour race.
A roof wasn’t deemed practical back then as it would only add unnecessary weight in the battle for supremacy over Ferrari and Porsche. The David Brown Racing Department finally got it right that year, with Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frère driving the second DBR1 to a podium place, ahead of four Ferrari 250 GTs.
At least the victorious DBR1s had a windscreen of sorts — unlike the stunning new V12 Speedster. The breathtaking two-seater is, to date, the most radical design created by bespoke customisation service Q by Aston Martin at the company’s Gaydon base.
Summer 2021 proved to be particularly wet in the United Kingdom. However, I imagine any red-blooded driving enthusiast would be prepared to endure a downpour of biblical proportions to sit behind the wheel of the V12 Speedster, as I am at Silverstone today.
As I barrel across the Northamptonshire countryside, it’s lashing with rain and a flash of lightning only adds to the drama. The last thing on my mind is the water dripping from my helmet on to the seats as the roar from a scintillating 5.2-litre, twin-turbo engine is left in the wash behind me.
Looking resplendent in optional DBR1 specification, too, the model I'm driving is decked out in Aston Martin’s trademark Racing Green livery, with white roundels on the bonnet and doors. It looks even more exquisite parked next to an original DBR1, with a silver anodised grille and luxury trim inspired by a car that was revered in motorsport 60 years ago.
A limited-edition model of just 88 examples, the V12 Speedster draws inspiration from the aeronautical design of a F/A-18 fighter jet and Aston Martin’s rich racing history. This is perhaps the ultimate driver’s car, created for purists who aren’t bothered about having to don a helmet or destroy their well-coiffed hair at speeds of up to 186mph.
An engineering tour de force, the V12 Speedster has been beautifully crafted from carbon fibre and advanced materials to create a design masterpiece. It has what can only be described as the ‘wow’ factor. Whichever way you look at it — in profile, head on, from the rear or above — any onlooker would know this is a truly special car.
As Chief Engineer Matt Becker explains: “For raw driving thrills the Speedster is unparalleled. The open element of the car adds a new dimension to the experience. It engages on every level, delivering a precise, involving driving experience, with agility and poise.”
The 0 to 62mph dash is dispatched in just 3.5 seconds, made all the more thrilling by an explosive rush of wind against my helmet. I’d recommend the optional, full-face version that Aston Martin offers because a bee in the face at 70mph-plus really is a stinger.
Today is a good example. The English countryside is alive with insects as I blast down a B road, and both rain and airborne creatures of all shapes and sizes make kamikaze assaults on my splattered visor.
That said, I’m seated low in the cockpit, as in a Formula One™ car. Most of the wind is channelled across the bonnet and over my head. It swirls past the twin glass humps behind me, cleverly designed to stash a pair of those carbon-fibre helmets.
There are no windscreen wipers, of course, while all-round visibility is exceptional without pillars to disrupt the view. Driving the V12 Speedster is similar to riding a motorbike in that respect, although considerably more comfortable and practical.
Elsewhere, the interior is equipped with some familiar Aston Martin switchgear, while the driver and passenger are separated at neck height by an eye-catching carbon-fibre blade running fore and aft that could have been borrowed from a futuristic Batmobile. It’s quite a talking point and cocoons passengers in their own separate space.
Back at Aston Martin’s Test and Development Centre at Silverstone, I’m surprised to discover that when I reluctantly step from the V12 Speedster my clothing isn’t as soaked as I imagined it would be. In a traffic jam there would be no escape from a downpour, but the slippery, streamlined design has done a fine job at speed.
Whichever livery you choose — Skyfall Silver with fighter motifs has proved popular — the V12 Speedster will always be the centre of attention. A showstopper in every sense, all that’s needed is some good weather, although don’t let that stop you enjoying a truly visceral driver’s car. Motoring really doesn’t get much purer than this.
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM48 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.