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Aston Martin: Factory Tour

The name’s Neal...James Neal. Somehow it doesn’t quiet have the same ring to it. Pity. crack

It’s not every morning you open your mail and receive an exclusive invitatation to tour the Aston Martin factory at Gaydon and to test drive some of the world’s finest cars. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

I eargerly accepted and cheekily asked if I could take along a client who was actually thinking about buying one himself. Yes, of course you can came the reply.

So, best suit donned we headed off on the short trip to Gaydon. We were greated by security and advised that the ‘VIP’ parking was just on the right.

My colleague, Steve, and I exchanged a glance, VIP? I think I’ve just entered a realm way beyond my pay-grade!

We park in what I can only describe as the world’s coolest car park. Not because of any architectural genius, just simply due to the fact that it was full of Aston Martins. Dozens of them!

The ‘architectural genius’ is the factory itself. But I don’t want to talk about the building or its
phenominal ‘green’ credentials. I want to talk about what’s in it. We walk through the glass doors to reception and into the exclusive world of Aston Martin.

Our tour begins with the history of Aston Martin and a line-up of some of the rarest cars on the planet. One of which has only 5 miles on the clock. It is easy to trace the pedigree back through the decades, the quintessential British design style oozes from every panel on each and every gleaming vehicle.

We round the next corner and reach the entrance to the main production line and step through into what can only be described as an Aston Martin showroom. This is no ordinary ‘factory’, it’s spotless, to the point of being prestine, even the air smells clean.

In fact it’s the ‘atmosphere’ of the place that’s most noticeable. It’s a tranquil environment, an essence of calm reaches out across the industrial complex on a hushed breath that seems to whisper relax, take your time...enjoy.

I realise that it’s these craftspeople themselves that create the atmosphere, they are true artisans
plying their craft and taking great pride in what they do. Creating British masterpieces.

The first thing you see on the production line is the hand-sewn interiors being created. Perfect hides being expertly stitched by craftsmen and women. Contour hugging seats masterfully created alongside the facia of that incredible dashboard, designed to look like a swiss sports watch, that sits coveted in the finest leather, each and every one a bespoke design personally selected by the individuals fortunate enough to be in the position to order one of these hand-crafted masterpieces.

Moving on we see painted bodyshells in racks waiting for their respective drive-trains to be assembled. The paint process being the only thing we aren’t able to see. (For health and safety reasons). I notice that not all are adorned in ‘Quantum Silver’, the coulour of choice for a certain Mr Bond, and aptly named after the car’s staring role in the last film.

A great many, destined for the middle-east, are painted white. A few others look stunning in black and the odd one here and there are painted in some rather garish colours. I ask, “Do you ever refuse to paint any particular colour?”. The rather honest and frank response surprised me, “No, at the end of the day money is money.” comes the response, “And, we’re in business to make money.”

The assembly of the drive-train itself is fascinating, each component is light-weight and yet extremely strong. The engine, torque tube, gearbox, rear axle and suspension all fairly quickly coming together to create a platform that is actually drivable without the body-shell.

Once all of the elements have come together each vehicle is individually and thouroughly inspected, random vehicles are also selected to undergo an extensive measuring process to ensure that every aspect is absolutely perfect. Then, and only then, does an Aston Martin earn its ‘wings’. The final element to be fitted to any one of them is the badge. The marque of true British craftmanship.

After the main tour we were treated to a little lunch and given the opportunity to inspect the new One-77. A truly spectacular supercar with a truly spectacular price. Yours for just £1.2 million!

Next came the test drives of the Vantage, V12 Vantage, DBS and DB9. Each one an incredible experience. I looked everywhere for the buttons to the ejector seat and the guided missiles, but couldn’t find them. Apparently they’re ‘optional extras’ for government vehicles only!

Each Aston Martin is a joy to drive, each has its own unique character, the smell of the cabin, the glorious bellow from the exhaust note, the gorgeous curves of the bodywork. Everything comes together to create the whole, the hand-crafted masterpiece that is an Aston Martin.

I think I’ve fallen in love. I may even be tempted to have an affair... with a beautiful lady called Aston!