Thanks to the Master’s unique motorsport connections, our Car Club’s first trip this year combined a tour around the Prodrive workshop at Banbury, with a production visit of the Aston Martin factory at Gaydon. All in one day!
We learnt that Prodrive is a very diversified business, which includes the development of electric vans, auto technology, aircraft innovation, as well as providing the wiring loom for Ben Ainslie’s catamaran, “Land Rover” Our main attention however was taken by the Aston Martin Racing cars, built for endurance racing, and the famous WRC and BTC cars in the museum. To see the Richard Burns Blue 555 branded Subaru next to Jenson Buttons BAR F1 car demonstrated the breadth of influence that their current Chairman, David Richards has had on motorsport.
Our tour Guide, Jackie, was a fount of knowledge, living motorsport history over the last fourteen years, and regaling our members with many anecdotal stories.
After a light lunch, we sped up the M40 to the next junction to the prestigeous building that houses the factory. As we entered the reception the full 2017 range of cars was on view, including the latest DB11, and a lifesize clay model of the Aston Martin Vulcan, so realistic that we missed the telltale sign of no door handles! Once inside, we progressed along a parade of unique models tracing the history of Aston Martin from the early Coal Scuttle (1914), through the examples of the DB6, DB7 Zagato, and the DBs from the TV series, the Persuaders, and Aston Martin Lagonda’s. We learnt the story behind the DB10, only built for the James Bond films.
Behind this line up, there was a timeline of key events starting in 1910, when Aston manufactured a saloon car with a running board can you believe, then the story of the David Brown (of tractor fame) era, who rescued the company pre WW2, and the history of chequered ownership since then including the Ford period, who cleverly retained the trademark rights to the grille, and placed it on the Mondeo!! Current ownership is routed in the Middle East,led by David Richards, whose management expertise and innovative flair has provided a period of stable investment leading to a broadening of mainly limited edition models, like the Rapide, the Vanquish and even a four door version. The final piece of the jigsaw seems to be a prototype SUV on the cards for the future.
The factory was a real eye-opener, with only two production lines, 270 people and four robots. The cars combine production technology with hand-made quality and nothing is rushed. The line moves every 50 minutes, and each car takes 50 hours to paint, of which 25 entails hand sanding! In total it takes 200 hours to build a beautiful Aston Martin, and proud owners can visit the factory at any stage to view their own car being built. These cars are true supercars, and the workmanship is a tribute to British engineering. It is no surprise that cars are only made to order, producing a waiting list of nine to 12 months depending on the options. Special models are normally pre-sold even before production commences.
The Master presented a Distillers Quaich to our guide Jackie for giving us such a memorable visit .and our thanks go to Nick Carr for organizing the day. Aston Martin surely has a profitable future built on a wonderful heritage and success in endurance racing. Long may it continue.
Chris Searle, Liveryman