It takes 4,500 hours to build just one of the new Goldfinger DB5 Continuation models, according to Paul Spires, President of Aston Martin Works. With No Time To Die, the 25th Bond instalment, embarking on the second Continuation project pays homage to a 56-year legacy.
For many Bond fans, there is nothing that quite surpasses the moment in Goldfinger (1964) when we witness Sean Connery race the Silver Birch DB5 past Hotel Belvédère, midway along the Furka Pass high in the Swiss Alps. A moment of cinematic mastery, it would cement the DB5 in the mind of a generation as the iconic Bond car. And while it was armed with a host of villain-repelling gadgets, versions of which you’ll find neatly concealed within the Continuation model too, it is the very craftsmanship and skill that goes into producing these models that the adoring Aston Martin fan will appreciate most.
The very premise of the Continuation project was “a way of taking all the artisan skills that we have on site and applying that to building new cars again”, says Spires. When the final first-generation Aston Martin Vanquish rolled off the line in 2007, many believed it signalled the end of car production at Newport Pagnell. “When I took over leading the business, I really wanted to start building cars here again,” notes Spires. “We couldn’t do a modern car like a DB11 or a DBS, so we had to look at the back catalogue. And that’s why we picked a number of the iconic cars Aston Martin produced over the years here and reintroduced them.”
After the success of the DB4 GT Continuation, and with the provenance of the DB5 — of which little over 1,000 models were produced between 1963 and 1965 — it made a worthy successor in the Continuation project. As Spires tells me: “We build the DB5 Continuation in a very, very authentic manner — we even use the same gauge of aluminium to make the body and the chassis is still made from mild steel on a big jig. However, we’ve added a level of sophistication that means that these will be the most beautiful DB5s ever manufactured.”
It’s a way of taking all the artisan skills that we have on site and applying that to building new cars again
And this comes through a host of techniques. While the construction of the car will be identical and sympathetic to the way the original models were produced, a host of subtle modernisations mean the 25 models will be superior to the originals in both performance and quality. Powder coating the chassis resolves any issues with longevity, double-baking the hand-beaten aluminium body panels relieves all stresses (they were cold-baked originally) and the actual quality of every component needs to meet far more stringent regulations in the 21st century.
“One of the most difficult things to do is take the modern audits and quality standards that we have for a modern Aston Martin and apply it to a 1964 project,” says Spires.
But the fundamental design of the DB5 has also been fine tuned. The project began with a long trawl through archived engineering drawings, as well as all the visual data that could be collected from existing cars. By overlaying the two, any anomalies were quickly discovered. One such anomaly was the original jig, which was not as robust in the 1960s and led to chassis that were not 100% accurate. In 2020, these issues are quickly resolved. And in the perpetual pursuit for perfection, the team also works closely with the design team at Gaydon to digitise it’s research. As Spires says: “We gave the team a whole load of digital information from cars that we’ve scanned over the years and it has taken that and made a symmetrical DB5. We take the best of the best and hone it from there.” For the engine block, the team used a CT scanner and made completely new mouldings — the blocks are even cast by the same people who cast for the Mercedes Formula 1 team. “That’s why we end up with a car that produces more power than it did in its day,” says Spires.
While the provenance and romanticism of the DB5 is blindingly obvious, it falls upon the highly trained craftsmen and women within the Works team to see each one of these nearly £3m DB5 Continuations to fruition. With brand loyalty incredibly high, Aston Martin Works is a decidedly desirable place for the aspiring heritage car craftsman or woman to work, too — one employee moved from Australia to join the team. In September 2018, it also took on 12 apprentices. “It gives us the opportunity to engage the next generation and hone those skills that otherwise may get lost,” says Spires.
And alongside the extensive restoration and servicing work the team already completes each year, it has the added bonus of yet more Continuation projects to look forward to, although Spires says we’ll have to wait a little while longer to discover just what the next mission will be. But the sentiment for every project in the series remains a sincere one. “This is real, authentic stuff,” he says. “We’re literally recreating history.”