They used to call it ‘sunny side’, for obvious reasons, even though there’s not much sun on this photo.
This was the old reception in front of the factory at Newport Pagnell, which is no more. All the cars you see on the photo (and there were more than I could fit on the photo!) were built there. Aston Martin Works is still there today together with the flagship dealership.
I was at the old factory on 19 May 2007. The very last Aston Martin to be built there was completed on 19 July 2007. When I returned for the 50th anniversary of the DB4, in June 2008, the old factory had been demolished.
For an Aston Martin enthusiast like myself a visit to the factory is, of course, absolute heaven. Not only did I get to see the entire process, it also attracted other Aston Martin enthusiasts who brought their cars: more Aston Martins!
The tour of the factory, where they were building the last Vanquish S cars, started in the panel shop. The panels arrived partly pre-formed and were finished by the panel beaters. Yes, beaters. They used to shape and perfect these panels by hand.
The next stage was body assembly. At this point it’s still hard to tell what you’re looking at, but this was basically where the basic part of the body was put together. At the end of this line there was, of course, another thorough check to make sure everything fitted together neatly and that everything was in its proper place.
A bit later on in the process, still in the hall where the body was assembled, it was a lot clearer what they were doing.
The main assembly line was divided into 15 stations, among which electrical, suspension, engine and transmission. This was also the point where the engine and transmission would be tested for the first time.
Attention to detail has always been a typical trait at Aston Martin. It’s therefore not really surprising that only two people worked on the stitching of a Vanquish S. This ensured consistency throughout the car. So, if you want to, find a Vanquish S and compare the stitches. Of course, no one would, but it’s nice to know, isn’t it?
The story goes that cows were specifically bred for Aston Martin in fields without barbed wire to ensure their skin didn’t get damaged in any way. I have no idea if that is true and I haven’t been able to verify it. Oh well, it’s a nice story, so why won’t we keep on passing that on?
The ‘end of the line’ was (and still is, at Gaydon) a very exciting business, I think.
This is where the Aston Martin gets thoroughly checked and tested. Only when it passes the test will it receive its wings. Remember, the car is not an Aston Martin until it has earned its wings!
Even after all that some cars didn’t escape yet another audit: the final vehicle audit.
Things have changed considerably and yet they haven’t.
I was lucky enough to also visit the factory at Gaydon. Unfortunately, but understandably, photography was not allowed there. However, I can tell you it’s bigger, it looks more streamlined and efficient, and more is done automatically. There will always be manual work, though, and the same amount of care goes into making the newer models. The interiors are still hand-stitched, the cars are still manually checked after every phase of manufacturing. And the cars still have to be 100% in order before they get their wings and become true Aston Martins…