Last AMOC racing meeting of 2017

Perhaps it sounds a bit dramatic: ‘last’ AMOC racing meeting of 2017, but unfortunately it is true. I wish it wasn’t, because – as always – it was a wonderful event.
I’ve been to quite a few AMOC race meetings now (last year and this year) and I am never disappointed. Some races happen every time, but they also manage to come up with different combinations or add a different race. In this case, for example, the last race of the day was a 3 hour relay.
And, as before, there is much more on track than Aston Martins. So much to see!


This Aston Martin V8 Vantage has a very unusual colour, which came out even better when it was on track racing in the sunshine.
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It’s always a good idea to get to the track early for events like this.
Chances are it won’t be too busy, so if you’re early you have plenty of time and space to walk around the paddock and get a good look around.

Some of the race cars will be in their boxes, with others in tents or in the open air somewhere else in the paddock. Either way: race cars galore!
The cars entered in the AMOC Intermarque Championship, Aston Martin GT Challenge and Pre-War Team Challenge are by now well-known to me. Especially in the case of the pre-war cars I specifically seek them out. These are, as the name of the race suggests, all pre-1940s and without exception stunning. For this day there were 16 cars on the grid, because the pre-war race was combined with the St John Horsfall Memorial Trophy. The majority of cars were Aston Martins and Bentleys, but the others (Invicta, Talbot, Alta and Austin) are equally wonderful to watch.


The Pre-War Team Challenge & The St John Horsfall Memorial Trophy is like stepping back in time.
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Of course the attending AMOC members brought their cars and these were on display throughout the day. They also went on track during the track parade, which is always a wonderful sight. Many, many Aston Martins of all types and ages go around the track for a few laps. In most cars you can see smiling people (no one is in the car alone) and around the track the smiles are returned, especially when the engines are being revved, generating gorgeous sounds.
The track parade is during lunch time, so if you decide not to get a meal you can walk around the paddock again. However this time you can go into the boxes to see the race cars up close, or walk to the pit wall and view the parade from there. The atmosphere is relaxed throughout and the owners really don’t mind if you take photos of their cars during the break. I personally love going into garage after garage and see the cars up close. I tend to find my favourites first and then have a look at as many additional (for me sometimes new) cars.

The first race was before lunch, so after lunch I had to quickly make my way back to the grand stand to watch the remaining races.
This time the afternoon races were a bit eventful. During the Pre-War Team Challenge two cars were fighting a bit too hard for the same part of the track, resulting in a crash. It didn’t seem to serious. The drivers were out of the cars quite quickly and the cars were retrieved later. However it does make you think about the question: should a classic race car be in a museum or should it be raced?
On the one hand I believe they should be raced. It’s what they were built for. But when you see two come together the first thought is ‘they should put them in a museum’. It’s a question that will be answered differently by everyone and, if you’re like me, the answer may change depending on the situation.


The cars are lining up for the start of the track parade.
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Speaking of crashes, the AMOC Intermarque Championship/GT Challenge didn’t even finish one lap. On the first lap several cars came together, causing some serious damage on some who could not continue in the race, and this caused the red flag to come out. Even though these cars are considerably younger than the pre-war cars, it is still very painful to see a beautiful Aston Martin with damage on almost all sides. I saw one of the cars that could not take part in the restarted race afterwards in the paddock and I can confess it almost brought tears to my eyes.
It was also an eye opener, as I could see underneath the car’s bonnet and it seemed the engine was unaffected due to additional bars added to the engine bay.
Also not unimportant: all drivers are fine. Some even managed to patch up the car and still compete.

This particular race was absolutely spectacular. Two Ferraris were battling for the lead, weaving their way through a very large grid. This battle continued until the chequered flag. One of the cars spun and lost the lead quite late in the race, near where I was watching. These people may not be professional race car drivers, but they do know how to race! Traffic was very effectively used to keep the opponent behind and next traffic was the cause of the second placed car catching up. The applause by all the people on the grand stand was very well deserved.


These two Ferraris were battling until the very end of the race.
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This season has truly gone out with a bang and I am a little bit sad to see the end of it. Thankfully there will be more racing next year and I will certainly be there to watch it!

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AMOC Racing, Brands Hatch, 12 August 2017

At 8:30 the day already promised to be a good one. The clouds were losing their greyness. Soon after the sun was smiling upon Brands Hatch.
The open practice session provided an easy start to this action packed day. After that the rest of the morning was dedicated to qualifying sessions.
I spent the morning exploring the track, trying to find various viewpoints for my photos. Brands Hatch is one of the most accessible tracks in that respect. There are many places you can access and usually you can see about 75% of the track. For spectators without cameras it is even better as the mesh surrounding the track is less of an obstacle.

The track parade during the lunch break was simply magnificent. There were so many cars on the track the first ones were right behind the last ones. Compared to last year there were more newer models, but I certainly spotted a few less common cars.


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The first race of the day was the Pre-War Challenge. It’s one of my favourite races. With one Talbot and several Bentleys and Aston Martins – all built in the 1920s and 1930s – it was nothing short of epic. They used the handicap format for this race: the slowest car started first and the rest were released at different times. These times were calculated with the aim of having all seven cars battling it out at the end. That didn’t quite work out, but it was a spectacle nonetheless.

Next up was the AMOC Intermarque Championship. Very early on there was drama when the #44 and #144 Porsches came into contact. The whole grid was very close together so for the cars nearby this was a near miss. The Porsches ended up in the gravel with damage that looked quite severe. They had to be recovered, so for some laps the rest of the field had to follow the safety car. Both Porsche drivers had by then walked off together, both unharmed.

The single Aston Martin in this race (the #007 V8 Vantage) had been next to the #44 when the Porsche lost control. It seemingly got away unscathed, but did retire from the race later on. I do not know why.
This left the race to the remaining BMWs, Porsches and Ferraris. The race was won by #170 BMW Evo M3 which was clearly going very fast and finished with a 40 second lead.


The #007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage in iconic Gulf livery.
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The AMOC ’50s Sports Cars race was no less spectacular. The yellow Turner Sports (#27) gave the #18 Cooper Monaco good chase, but could eventually not keep up. In turn he found himself under threat from the #26 Cooper T39 Bobtail. The Turner had to come in for an unscheduled stop, but later rejoined the race. The entire race was a wonderful battle until the end in a field with gorgeous cars. The #18 won the race.

More drama happened in the Aston Martin GT Challenge. The #007 Vantage GT4 (known as James) had one car less in front of him due to the #71 Ferrari not making the start. The Ferrari had trouble during the green flag lap and only managed to join the race after a few slow laps and two visits to the pit lane. James had lost quite a few positions at the start and was pushing hard to regain these. However, mere moments before the pit stop window closed it ended up in the gravel, which ended his race.

The #169 Ginetta seemingly had a bit of a misunderstanding with the #71 Ferrari which caused the Ginetta to momentarily try a career as a lawnmower – unsuccessfully. After an unscheduled stop it rejoined the race.
The #199 Lotus Evora was happily going around the track, apparently oblivious to the all the drama and eventually lapped the entire field. It drove off into the distance to victory. Aston Martin team mates #12 and #24 fought over second position as true sibling rivalry, but the #12 car kept his brother at bay and won the second spot trophy.


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The last race of the day was the Innes Ireland Cup. Unfortunately I only caught bits of this race as I was on my way to leave the track, but it was certainly good enough to stop here and there to appreciate the track action. There were only a few cars in this race, all lovely examples. The #85 Lotus Elan was the fastest and therefore the winner.
This fifth race concluded yet another brilliant day organised by the Aston Martin Owners Club.
I’ve been to quite a few race meetings now and I will continue to go, because the racing is superb, the cars on track are gorgeous, awesome or both and the atmosphere is always relaxed and welcoming. Bring on Silverstone in September!

AMOC Racing, Snetterton, 8 July 2017

The sun was blazing over Snetterton yesterday, the sky a beautiful blue and white blanket over the track filled with a large variety of cars, old and new.
Since I have now attended a number of AMOC race meetings, I being to recognise some of the cars out there. It just makes it all a bit more familiar. The turnout this time was absolutely amazing. This was possibly the largest number of Aston Martins (racing and attending) I have seen, apart from the Spring Concours, of course.

A (presumably nearby) dealership brought in a ‘few’ Aston Martins for everyone to enjoy. Very cleverly, they also provided a marquee where you could ask about any of the cars for sale and a financial plan, if you require one. It was tempting…


This is the Aston Martin I really want, the DB11. I will keep on dreaming…
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The day was filled to the brim with track activity. Practice first thing in the morning, qualifying sessions immediately after, race 1 before lunch. The other 5 races were in the afternoon. It simply never stopped. Just how we like it, right?
The AMOC Intermarque Championship and GT Challenge were of course the main races, but the other races were certainly just as entertaining and enjoyable.

I have to admit that my favourite non-Aston race was the MRL Historic Touring Car Challenge. I have been car crazy since a very young age (approximately 4) and to see a few Ford Capris out on track absolutely made my day. The MKII Capri was my first car love and I still turn around in the car (only when I’m a passenger of course!) when I see one out and about. In addition there were some Rovers out there too. I remember a neighbour had a big Rover when I was about 8 and I loved it. Add a Mustang and an old Alfa Romeo and you have my attention. It was a wonderfully diverse grid with some astonishingly beautiful and well kept machines.


Another favourite is the 1954 Austin-Healy 100M, driven by Paul Kennelly. He races this car in the AMOC ’50s Sports Cars and it’s always a delight to watch. What a beauty!
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When you go to an AMOC race meeting you’d better skip lunch. Because lunch time is parade time!
I was lucky enough to be part of a parade as a passenger in a beautiful DB7 at Brands Hatch last year. There were about 70 cars on track that time. It seems there were more at Snetterton yesterday, but I honestly didn’t count them. They only got three laps, so I spent all my time enjoying the view and trying to photograph as many as I could.

I did just say that the Capris made my day, but the Capri is no longer my absolute favourite. Aston Martin has the largest part of my car loving heart.
One of the reasons I keep on attending AMOC race meetings is because of the DB4 Lightweight. I cannot express how much I love that car. For a long, long time the DB4 (series 1, I should add) was my favourite Aston Martin and this particular one is just that bit more beautiful.


A firm favourite: the DB4 Lightweight.
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Apart from all the wonderful cars, Aston Martins or otherwise, the races themselves are great fun to watch. I have said this before: it does not matter what level people are racing on, they take their racing seriously. It just makes it great for the spectators as well.
You can see a car lock under braking and the next time they come through the same corner they almost lose the car, just as if they did not already have a moment the lap before. These cars are all being pushed as hard as their drivers can push them.

There’s one more car I want to mention. I am not a big fan of the V8 Astons. Don’t dislike them, but their looks are just not my favourite. And then this one appeared:


The 1972 Aston Martin AMV8 driven by Simon Watts and Roberto Giordanelli.
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Now, is that car not absolutely stunning? I had never seen one of these as a race car before and I think it carries the racing look very well!

And this is another reason AMOC race meetings are the thing for me. In short: AMOC members bring their cars, the racing is amazing and some of the race cars are stunning. What more could you possibly want?

British GT, Oulton Park, 17 April 2017

After three days at Silverstone I decided another day trackside wouldn’t hurt and I travelled to Oulton Park for British GT’s race day.
British GT has some very nice supporting races, my favourite being the Ginettas. Call it luck if you will, it was raining. Somehow these cars just seem to enjoy a wet track. The action doesn’t stop at all. They’re all racing as if their lives depend on it (the drivers, of course, not the cars).


The Ginetta G40 of Jose Antonio Ledesma during the Ginetta GT5 Challenge
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Another support race is BRDC British F3 Championship which is also always good to see. With fewer cars on the track it seems a bit less tight, but the racing is equally passionate.

I always enjoy seeing the Volkswagens race. This year they were joined by two Audi TTs which makes a nice change too.
Quite frankly, there is so much going on on track it would take too long to write about every race in the action filled day. So let’s move on to British GT. After all, that was the reason I went.


There is some incredibly close racing in British GT.
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Last year Jonny Adam became the first driver to win back-to-back championships in British GT. At the start of the 2017 season he had WEC duties for Aston Martin Racing at Silverstone, which meant he missed the qualifying session for British GT. As a result of that TF Sport had to start from the back of the grid in their class – the 11th position overall. Sounds like the ingredients of something very exciting to me…
Together with teammate Derek Johnston Jonny managed to grab a podium spot in both races on Monday. Some start of the season!

This year will very much be about Jonny. As said, he’s racing in WEC and British GT, but he is also joining Oman Racing again in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. I follow all three series, so I will be seeing quite a lot of Mr Adam, I reckon.


The Academy Motorsport Aston Martin lost its bonnet very early on in the race, but they – seemingly quite happily – carried on without it.
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To be honest, there are other Aston Martins in British GT, so I have more than just one reason to go. One of the main attractions I find the sheer variety of cars. The Bentleys are always a joy to watch and even more so to hear. I might not be a fan of Mercedes, but on track they look pretty awesome. The McLarens always look good and you can’t go wrong with Lamborghinis in race attire.
Oh, let’s not forget that British GT also has its fair share of Ginettas.

All these different cars with their different specifications in two different classes make for a spectacular and unpredictable race. Even without the Aston Martins I would probably follow this series anyway. Additional incentive not required…

AMOC Spring Concours 2017

In 2016 Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. told the world that they would open a new site which would become the factory for the DBX. The location was an old MOD site at St Athan, Wales.
In early 2017 the site is still mostly empty so the Aston Martin Owners Club took the opportunity to host their Spring Concours there. Let’s see: AMOC (very good at hosting ‘parties’), AML (very good at being at the right place at the right time) and AMHT (very good at displaying the best of Aston’s history) together at one location. Yes, that’s a must see.
So off to Wales we went.

AMOC hosts a Concours twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. If, like me, you don’t know what that is: the club’s members bring their cars and these cars are judged. In short: there’s prizes up for grabs in several categories. One thing is for certain, you can expect the best examples to be there.
In this case reportedly around 700 Aston Martins were present. Considering several halls were in use, each of them huge, I believe that number to be accurate.


One of the halls was only beginning to fill up when this photo was taken. The entire hall is twice this big.
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The Aston Martin Heritage Trust was also there with, among others, a DBS display to celebrate this model has now been around for 50 years.
As if that wasn’t enough, there were several very special cars to be seen. There was the unveiling of the Red Arrows Edition Aston Martin Vanquish S, while previous special editions were on display nearby.


Red Arrows Edition Aston Martin Vanquish S
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I was very happy to see the Valkyrie. Even though I had already seen her in Geneva, I thought it was very good that people who may not have had the opportunity (or the wish!) to go to Geneva now had a chance to see her to. She got a lot of attention, which is not surprising. This car is something else.

My personal highlight was definitely the CC100. This car was created for the company’s centenary celebrations. Only two were made, so chances are very slim indeed to ever see this one anywhere other than in a magazine. But there it was.
An added bonus is that one of the designers involved in that project was at the Concours. It is a very welcome extra being able to talk to him for a while and get his perspective on the project and the car.


Aston Martin CC100
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And the list doesn’t end there: DBR1, Lola Aston Martin, One-77 and the Vulcan. All present and set up in such a way that everyone had a chance to have a good look. There were several Lagondas and I even spotted two Cygnets.
There was so much to see that after 4.5 hours I had to give up. Not only did I have quite a drive back home, but the sheer number of cars was a bit overwhelming. However, that drive (several hours) was very much worth it.

Just think: that very same evening they probably had to clear everything out, because the next day construction on the factory started. The Concours will very likely never be held here again.
It was an epic and unique event.

87th International Motor Show, Geneva

After a long break I went back to the Geneva International Motor Show last year. Aston Martin presented the DB11 and I thought I couldn’t be more excited. I was wrong.

Initially I was not planning to go to Geneva, but then Aston Martin broke the news they were bringing three premieres to the show. I got the chance to go on Tuesday (press day), which meant I could not possibly resist.
I did mention last year that the show elements I had grown accustomed to have mostly disappeared. This is not the case for the first press day. Everything starts on Monday afternoon, as in the evening the Car of the Year is revealed. On Tuesday the day is filled with press conferences and these are shows! The manufacturers bring often more than one of their VIPs, promotional videos are shown and most don’t shy away from a light show.


The quiet before the storm, or – in this case – the Aston Martin stand before the press conference.
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It is impossible to see all conferences, because they follow each other in quick succession and you’d have to run from one hall to another at times. I managed to catch the conferences of Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche and Aston Martin.
Especially Lamborghini stood out for me. The actual presentation itself wasn’t that long (as in: not a lot of talking). They alternated between live presentation and a few videos and it was one of the videos that got my attention.


Video courtesy of Lamborghini

After leaving WEC at the end of last year’s season Audi Sport have now presented their DTM challenger: the new RS5. They presented the car simultaneously with its road going sibling. In addition they confirmed their manufacturer team entry for Formula E’s 2017/2018 season. There’s a lot going on at Audi.

Bentley presented the EXP 12 which is an electric car. Style wise it fits in perfectly with the Continental and the Mulsanne. It looks amazing and I hope we get to see and hear more about it soon. Between the BMW i8 and Bentley EXP 12 I think we can safely say electric cars are stepping away from looking boring.

I didn’t make it to the Volvo conference, but was right next door (at Aston) when their conference happened. I had already seen all the Volvos were wrapped up in cocoons (different, to say the least). The presentation seemed to focus mainly on how natural the car is, how great it feels, etc. Considering they were presenting the XC60 I think they totally missed the mark.
Having owned a Volvo 440 and test driven the S90 I am amazed at how horrible the XC60 is. However, I should take into account it’s an SUV and I’m not a fan of SUVs in general. There’s only a few I like, for example the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. They at least prove that an SUV can still have nice lines and it doesn’t have to be massive.


Volkswagen Arteon
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Volkswagen and I are not really friends, but there are a few models I like. On trips to the Nürburgring I have driven an EOS and a convertible Golf. I fully believe they should have left the Scirocco alone. I also think the CC is one of the sexiest things on four wheels ever built. Safe to say I haven’t quite made my mind up about VW.
When strolling over their stand I was pleasantly surprised by the Arteon (pictured above). It has all the things I like about the CC while still being recognisably Volkswagen. Very nice indeed.

It was great to see so many race cars at the show. Ford brought their WEC racer, Rebellion brought their LMP1 car. Abt was there with their Formula E car. Toyota had their LMP1 car at the stand including a part-car display where you could have a better look at the cockpit.


A look inside the Toyota LMP1 car.
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Last year Aston Martin shook up the car world by presenting what was then called AM-RB 001. It’s low, it looks mean (yet smooth), its aerodynamic characteristics are created by Adrian Newey, it’s very fast and will be road legal (yes, really).
The day before Geneva they revealed the lady’s name: Valkyrie.

Not surprising then that it was very busy at the Aston Martin stand when the time for their conference came. Even though the car has been shown already and further details have been released in the past year, it still draws the crowd. Who wouldn’t want to see this with their own eyes?
Now I have seen the car for myself I can confirm she’s a sight to behold. I find it unbelievable that you can sit behind the car and look underneath it from rear to front. Especially the rear is quite high, despite the car being very low overall. It will be very interesting to see (and hear!) this car when a working prototype is completed.


Aston Martin Valkyrie
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Aston Martin also had a surprise for us: AMR.
They took the opportunity to launch a new brand which will be bringing racing technology directly to road cars. The Rapide AMR looks surprisingly sporty for such a big car and wears its makeover quite well. I understand the Vantage AMR Pro will be track only whereas the Rapide AMR will be a road car.
As if this wasn’t enough they also brought a special Q edition of the DB11 and a Vanquish S Volante. I am still drooling now…

Going to the Geneva International Motor Show on press day has been a privilege. It gave me the chance to have a much better look at the new cars and to hear the details from some pretty important people.
I can’t make any promises, but I will certainly try to get press passes to this show and other shows/events. It will allow me to get that just that little bit more to write about.

Aston Martin factory tour no. 3…but why?

A few days ago I went to Gaydon for my third factory tour there. How much can you write about an experience you have just had for the third time? Not much.
So instead I decided to explore my fascination with Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., because my love for the cars goes beyond just that. The company itself is of interest to me, which is why I have recently returned for another factory tour within a year after the previous visit.

Sometimes this discussion comes up: what is it about this company that keeps me interested and makes me want to visit it so often? Most people immediately assume it’s because ‘everyone loves an underdog’. Hold on! What is an underdog exactly? An underdog is a person or group of people with less power, money, etc. than the rest of society. Well, that is certainly not true for this company, is it?
I guess in the world of car manufacturers Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. (also known as AML) is a very small company. It’s also widely known they have yet to make a profit.
However, I would argue that they have a considerable status in this world (equals power?) and it probably requires quite a lot of money to manufacture the expensive cars they create (so no profit, does not equal no money).

The atrium at Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., Gaydon
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The main thing that got me hooked on this small car manufacturer is the fact they are such a commanding presence in the car world, despite being small and not being able to make a profit (yet!).
Here is a company which has survived 100 years, because people believe in it. Because they don’t want to see this brand disappear. Because they want to see these cars on the road.
It used to be quite normal for several people from the same families to work for Aston Martins, therefore providing generations of workers with a passion for Aston Martin. So it is apparently more than a company, a factory. It’s a family too.

They used to produce only small numbers of cars. They even sold cars under production price. From an economic perspective that is unheard of. And AML did almost go bankrupt a few times in its history. Almost.
Because every time there was someone who would buy it or put money into it, so it could keep on going.
These guys just don’t give up.
That is probably the short and narrow of it. They simply do not give up.

The ceiling of the DB11.
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The people who put money into this company are probably not sentimental fools like me. They want something in return…or so I assume. There must be more appeal than just the company’s fighting spirit. Well, there is.
I have not met many people who do not at least like Aston Martins (there are a few, believe it or not). There is something about the cars that makes heads turn. They are desirable.
Even if you can’t afford one, you want one.

I think the combination of style and detail is the cause of this. Aston Martin has stayed true to their heritage. You can clearly see the older models (specifically DB4 onwards) in the new ones. And yet they manage to move on into a new age. Due to some automation they are able to create more intricate designs in the interior (see photo above). The number of items you can specify on the DB11 is huge.

The Aston Martin Vulcan. Even this beast has lots of typical Aston Martin features, yet it looks nothing like the classic models.
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It’s this same combination of old and new that draws in the more romantic among us. Yes, there are machines in the factory. Yes, there are robots. But most is still done by hand, by human beings. The atmosphere in the factory is calm, despite the noise. The people are happily (because there are quite a few smiles) going about their work.
Despite the more modern way of working the factory churns out in a year what other car manufacturers produce in a day.

Let’s face it: if you see two equal products and one was mass produced and the other by hand, you’d instinctively have more faith in the handmade one.
And there is no equal to an Aston Martin.

Aston Martin DB11
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The factory in Gaydon is a great place to be. It is that simple.
You get to ‘play’ with the cars in the atrium, you get told about the history, you get to see these wonderful cars being built by people who love building them.
I’ve been three times now and I will go again, simply because I can’t get enough of it. And I want to see what this second century will bring.
There have already been reports of a big turnover boost and several new models in coming years. There will be a new factory in Wales and the list of vacancies in Gaydon is ever growing.
It seems AML is doing well. Hopefully we’ll see them make a profit one day.