A DAY AT THE ASTON MARTIN FACTORY
Last month I was unexpectedly invited up to Royal Leamington Spa for a money-can’t-buy tour of the Aston Martin factory. Other than the fact that James Bond drives them, my knowledge of Aston Martins is limited – but even I know you don’t turn down an invitation this good. Though how I would fare on a day like this was anyone’s guess.
The purpose of the trip was to celebrate the unveiling of a new speedboat Aston Martin is set to bring out with Quintessence Yachts. On being collected from the station, I had a moment which I’ve been describing to people as my Hugh Grant in Notting Hill moment. Remember the bit where he finds himself at a press junket for Julia Roberts’ new space age film, only to declare in a fit of panic he’s come from Horse and Hound magazine? Similar vibe. I clambered into a car with fellow journalists who each in turn introduced themselves and their respective magazines. Motor Boat and Yachting Magazine… Super Yacht Times…
We kicked off with the Aston Martin hall of fame, with a starry line-up including Sir Paul McCartney’s old car, one from Casino Royale and one from Ocean’s Twelve. We learnt 10 have been lent out for the new James Bond film, Spectre. Appetite whetted, I quickly reverted to a child, at the front of the tour pack, bubbling over with questions. How long has the company been in existence? 102 years. How long does it take to make an Aston Martin? More than 200 hours (a Range Rover takes 17). How many cars are made a year? Just 4,000. How much wiring is there in an Aston Martin? 2 miles. How many employees work in this factory? 2,000. 800 just in manufacturing. We chatted with one of the seat makers and watched her diligently tend to stitches in her seat. How many stitches in each seat? Over a million in the quilting of a Vanquish seat. The bespoke service is limitless. A recent commission included gold thread embroidered dragons, which I’m loving the sound of.
Virtually everything is done by hand – there are just three robots in the factory which are used simply because they still do a better job (the glueing machine is affectionately known as James Bonder). We peered through thick glass windows at artisan painters in the Paint Shop, who work at low temperatures so paint remains soft longer to polish out imperfections. A paint job takes around 50 hours.
Before cars are shipped to their new homes, they undergo a rigorous testing period including being driven at 130mph and drenched with 4,200 litres of water. Which brings me back round to aforementioned speedboat. The AM37 will be debuted later this year: a 37-foot powerboat which features sports car-like handling and interactive voice control with the power, beauty and soul of an Aston Martin. More characteristics and details will be unveiled throughout the summer, including prospective buyers having an early opportunity to take to the waters in an AM37. Very 007. If it’s as ritzy as its land-dwelling cousin, I wouldn’t mind somehow finding my way on board. Room for a novice?
We weren't allowed to take photos inside the actual factory, but these shot in
the drive and reception give a little idea.