There are many ways in which Aston Martin design is evolving. The past 12 months have seen a spike in the number of collaborations undertaken by the design studio, all under the careful auspices of Marek Reichman, Aston Martin Lagonda’s Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, and Director of Design Miles Nurnberger. From forays into conceptual vehicles, through architecture, product design and high-profile partnerships with other leading manufacturers, collaboration adds another dimension to Aston Martin’s design language. “It’s important to note that these projects are not distractions,” Reichman says. “They help feed ideas and take us in different directions. It typically takes us 18 months to agree to work with a new partner and we have to ensure that the business model is completely robust.” The design team’s keen eye for developing trends, especially at the upper end of the market, helps identify new sectors and new directions.
“These collaborations allow us to go to those areas of luxury design where our customers already are,” Reichman acknowledges, arguing that in the past, the level of design quality and craftsmanship that defines an Aston Martin didn’t always translate easily into similarly high-powered areas of the luxury market. As Aston Martin’s design language evolves along with the technology and science of materials and manufacturing, such opportunities are becoming feasible for the first time. “Take the Airbus ACH130 Aston Martin Edition,” he says. “Helicopter interiors are usually quite basic. For us, it’s about deploying materials that are bespoke with our of craftsmanship and attention to detail.” The demonstrator has already been sold to a very enthusiastic customer.
Just as Airbus makes the best business helicopters, so Triton makes the world’s most successful high-performance submersibles. Reichman points out that last summer, the company’s 36000/2 model made the deepest ever dive into the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean and he believes that it’s their forthcoming collaboration with Aston Martin, Project Neptune, will redefine the genre.
Brough Superior, on the other hand, is a century-old company with a claim to supplying some of the most exclusive motorbikes on the market. “There’s a great connection with Brough,” says Reichman. “Lionel Martin, Aston Martin’s founder, was a Brough rider — at the time it was the best bike on the planet.” Brough Superior’s long-standing reputation of engineering excellence is partnered with Aston Martin’s design brilliance in the new collaboration, which you can read about in this issue. “We’re starting to develop a language for non-automotive projects,” says Reichman, who instigates, oversees and helps shape all of these undertakings. “While we don’t talk about what’s happening next, our partnerships are always with the best in their field.”
For us, it’s about deploying materials that are bespoke with our of craftsmanship and attention to detail
Meanwhile, over in Miami, the Aston Martin Residences are swiftly rising out of the ground. “We’re very selective. The projects have to fit perfectly with the nature of what we do. We’re not overstretching what Aston Martin can be or where it can go,” Reichman says. “We’ve proved we can translate our language into a skyscraper. Perhaps there are other residential opportunities,” he adds, hinting at future projects with both a leading shipbuilder and an acclaimed contemporary architect.
There’s also shared innovation. In Miami, the Residences were developed using automotive engineering cameras to study the effects of wind noise on the structure, while the reflective film on the thick acrylic canopy of Triton’s deep diving submersibles was applied to the windscreens of Aston Martin’s WEC cars, cutting down on the power needed to air-condition the cockpit. “Triton is the very best at what it does, creating machines that can go as deep as it is possible to go on this planet,” the designer enthuses. “We want to work with the leaders in their fields, especially creatives at their peak. It’s where our customers want and expect us to be.”
We're very selective. The projects have to fit perfectly with the nature of what we do
Aston Martin’s own line-up has been greatly enhanced by the new V12 Speedster, a ferociously lithe and visceral open-topped two-seater. “We have a product strategy that gives us space for two special cars every year,” Reichman explains. “It was always in the pipeline to do something around the short wheelbase platform and the V12. We believe that the speedster market is the next great area of collectability, especially after we got such a great response from the Aston Martin CC100 back in 2013,” he adds. “In some respects, the Aston Martin DBR1 was also Speedster. And we’ve had a Zagato Speedster as well, although arguably that wasn’t a ground-up car like this one.”
The new car is strictly limited to 88 units. “The ethos was to make it unusual and different. There’s also a strong technical link-up with the V12,” the designer says. “At a time when we’re seeing the digitalisation of the world of cars, this is a very traditional, analogue experience. There’s no windscreen, for example, so you have to wear goggles or a helmet. It’s a bit like riding a bike on four wheels. It’s very much the purist view of motoring.” While these “emotional reasons” should be more than enough to build a car, Reichman and his fellow directors must make a sound business case as well. “We know how many cars we need to make and 88 is good number to aim for. It goes without saying that it’s an auspicious number in China, for example, but it’s also a nice continuation from the One-77.”
Perhaps the V12 Speedster foretells other exciting futures. Aston Martin’s acclaimed 5.2-litre twin turbo-charged V12 is carefully installed into a bespoke chassis that, although it draws upon both DBS Superleggera and Vantage components, has more in common with the smaller car. Could a V12 Vantage ever be on the cards? “Our components have a plug and play nature,” Reichman says. “It’s one of our great strengths. This is a bespoke platform, but yes, it might point to a new direction.”
Stylistically, the new Vantage Roadster has a more traditional face, as does the Speedster. As Reichman notes: “It’s especially difficult to design a car without a windscreen, glasshouse or cabin because these balance the form of the body. You have to think about every single line, otherwise the car becomes very low, wide and long.” This partly explains the V12 Speedster’s compact dimensions, but it’s also worth noting that the upper and low surfaces are awash with complex passive aerodynamic systems. The most notable is the double wing at the rear, a feature it shares with the second-generation Aston Martin Vanquish, but is also a “nod to the CC100 and the DBR1”, according to Reichman. “The V12 Speedster is a very muscular car. It’s an excellent demonstration of how our special series projects can develop the themes, forms and engineering of our production cars into whole new realms.”
We have a product strategy that gives us space for two special cars every year
This issue also chronicles the arrival of the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, as well as the first example of a Q by Aston Martin DBX. “Most people associate DBX with luxury,” says Reichman, ‘I wanted this car to show its sporting side.” The Vantage Roadster, on the other hand, is pure enjoyment. “It’s always been part of our plan,” the designer admits. “With this new, more traditional grille, we’re referencing 70 years of the Vantage name. It represents the next level of this car.”
Of course, there’s another collaboration that has endured longer than any other. Aston Martin’s involvement in Bond 25, No Time To Die, will have to wait for another time, but even without the intrigue of one of the world’s biggest cinematic franchises, Aston Martin is alive with possibility, mixing elegance with innovation, along with some of the best design in the world.