To view images from the event click here.
Members and guests gathered at Pall Mall to celebrate an iconic British marque – Aston Martin. To talk about the brand’s design ambitions and business plans were Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman and Director of Special Projects and Q, Simon Lane.
DBS 59 in the Rotunda
To see images of the DBS 59 in our rotunda click here.
In celebration of the dinner, Club member Russell Bamford’s Aston Martin DBS 59 was displayed in the rotunda. It’s one of just 24 limited edition DBS 59 models commissioned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Aston’s famous 1-2 Le Mans win in 1959 with the DBR1. Featuring some amazing design details which nod back to its historic victory.
On top of this it gave the Club the perfect excuse to celebrate Aston Martin as a whole.
The latest generation of Aston Martins to come out of the Gaydon stable is an almighty list, which includes the likes of the Vulcan, DB11, DBS and the incredible Valkyrie. These have all been produced under the tenure of its Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman.
Marek has also helped pave the way for the next generation of Astons, including the Valhalla and DBX, the company’s first luxury SUV.
Former Dealer Principal at the Aston Martin Cambridge dealership, Simon Lane has commissioned several special edition Astons, including the Aston Martin Vanquish S Red Arrows which was featured in our rotunda last year courtesy of Club member Martin Pointon (find it here).
More recently Simon was also heavily involved in creating the DBS 59 cars.
Interviewing the pair after dinner was Steve Cropley, the Editor-in-Chief of Autocar.
Marek grew up in Sheffield. His father was a blacksmith and this, combined with the industrial atmosphere of his home city, meant he grew up with a passion for crafting and creating.
He soon matched this with his passion for automobiles and joined Aston Martin. 15 years later and he has risen to the top whilst playing a huge part in several successful Aston creations. When asked how he has managed such a successful career he highlighted the importance of ‘having your team bought into your ideas’, as well as the vision of the company.
Simon was a successful Dealer Principal before moving to a position within the company at Gaydon.
His father was a fast jet pilot in the RAF, and he grew up with planes from a young age – ‘I didn’t go to football matches, I was at air shows instead’. This meant he was always keen to create projects centred around planes.
His dreams were realised when he worked on the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Spitfire 80. He reflected on the unforgettable customer handover day, with former World War 2 fighter pilots present.
But it isn’t just the cars which come out of his special projects. As part of the Aston Martin Vanquish S Red Arrows project which he worked on, the tenth vehicle was raffled off and the proceeds were given to the RAF Benevolent Fund which provides financial, practical and emotional support to serving and former members of the RAF.
On Q and Aston Specials
Discussing the various Aston Martin specials, the pair agreed that not all ideas work in practice, and many don’t make it to the end.
Marek described the painstaking process of creating a special. ‘It can take three to three and a half years to bring a car from sketch to concept, with many obstacles along the way.’
He gave an example of building unique hides for just 24 vehicles. Unlike larger production processes, the exact specifications have to be found for just the 24 vehicles. ‘It’s really tough as everything is bespoke’. The plus side is it means the company can support the smaller companies who produce smaller batch items. ‘The benefit of Q is you can experiment and try new things that you wouldn’t normally be able to try with normal production cars as you aren’t restricted as much by the ‘business case’ elements.’
The final result is always special – seeing the special edition cars together is a unique experience, and in many cases produced strong friendships amongst the owners who will often spend extended periods of time together when picking up their cars.
The main job for Simon is to grow understanding and encourage other dealers to get onboard with special Aston designs.
On the Current Models and the Future
Currently the DBS Superleggerra is the ultimate Aston Martin, considered even better than the DB11 and possessing the ‘ultimate beauty’. The Vantage is more aggressive in stance.
However, it’s the mid-engined cars and the SUVs which represent a complete change to the brand’s direction, and the next 15 years look very different for Aston Martin.
When it comes to electric, Marek noted that they have little choice but to follow the trend, despite there still being some questions around EVs. For this they’re looking to their newly built St Athan plant in Wales, which will pave the way for their future electric range. So good, apparently, that it’s ‘even better than Gaydon’.
On Creating the Iconic Aston Design
Marek bases his design on achieving the golden ratio. He is convinced you must seek perfection in designs. He also gets quite a lot of freedom in choosing his design, with CEO Andy Palmer happy to give him the final say.
As part of their personalisation offer, they also get some very specific requests – with one customer requesting his car to have ‘Moon rock’ paintwork, which was created by grinding down actual pieces of rock from the Moon that he supplied them and incorporating it into the paint that the car was sprayed with.
Despite challenges in the present, the future looks bright for Aston Martin, and there are clearly no plans to reel in the ambition within their projects.