Few marques can boast such a rich and emotive history as Aston Martin. From Lionel Martin’s first hillclimber of 1914, right up to today’s mighty ‘V’ cars and DB7, Aston Martin has become a byword for craftsmanship, speed and individuality On road and track, the cars from Feltham and Newport Pagnell have always been a breed apart, as exclusive as they are desirable.
The mystique which surrounds any great marque takes many inspirations the people, the places, the cars themselves. But racing heritage is especially evocative, and that of Aston Martin IS no exception.1999 marks the fortieth anniversary of the company’s greatest year in racing. Appropriately, the finale of Aston Martin’s great (959 season was played out on the track which had become the company’s home-from-home – Goodwood. Victory at Le Mans had at last been achieved after ten years’ endeavour, with Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby taking the flag in the DBR1. Having also taken first place at the Nurburgring,Aston Martin found itself tantalisingly close to the coveted World Sports Car Championship as the teams assembled for the final round in the shadow of the Sussex Downs.
Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby held first and second in the early stages with the Ferrari drivers unable to match their pace. Aston Martin seemed on course for the title. But disaster struck as the leading car pitted. Petrol spilled onto the DBR1’s hot exhaust pipes and the whole car was alight in an instant, destroying the pit area Had the championship gone with it?
In a sporting gesture hard to imagine in today’s motorsport, Graham Whitehead withdrew his privately entered Aston Martin so that the works team could take over his pit. Jack Fairman’s car was brought into the pits and Moss took over.The drive that followed was one of the finest in a career of epic performances. Quite literally ‘fired up’, Moss charged through the field.The opposition could offer little resistance to the maestro at his sublime best. Aston Martin had won the World Sports Car Championship.
Glory at Goodwood four decades ago is just one aspect of Aston Martin’s unique mystique. The road cars are every bit as much a part of the Aston Martin legend as the great races, drivers and personalities of the past. But while the company’s racing record is preserved immutable, the road cars are subject to the rigours of time. No-one is better equipped to assist Aston Martin owners in preserving their own piece of the legend than the factory’s own Parts Department.
Aston Martin’s Parts Operation has evolved enormously over the last decade. In particular, the last twelve months have seen a tremendous effort to ensure that today’s Parts Operation serves Aston Martin owners and specialists better than ever. “During 1998 we undertook the most comprehensive business review in the history of Parts Operations,” says Simon Thrussell, Aston’s Parts Sales Manager. “We learnt an awful lot some good, some bad. The important thing is what we do with that.The only sure thing is that, whatever we do, our customers will be the key players in the decision-making process.”
This customer-led approach follows a period of great expansion.When Parts Sales Specialist Mark Hewitt joined the Parts Operation seventeen years ago,”the parts department was a little cordoned-off area within the stores. I had a sort of office made up out of plastic sheeting!”
Today’s Parts Operation has grown beyond all recognition.The warehouse facilities were completely refurbished in 1994 and increased in size from 7,500sq ft to 22,000sq ft.All parts are now fully catalogued: the current inventory includes no fewer than 24,000 different part numbers! A complete stock is stored for every Aston Martin model from the DB5 to date. Moreover, the Parts Operation can arrange to resource or remake any part which is not kept in stock. “We have tooling for all the old bodywork and chassis parts,” says Simon Thrussell.”We are fully committed to the older cars.”
As you might expect, the in-house Parts Operation is comfortably the biggest supplier of genuine Aston Martin parts in the world. Simon Thrussell explains: “We have nearly 90 franchised dealers and service specialists worldwide supporting our business, all of whom are extremely important to us as we are the only provider of genuine ‘Aston Martin Parts’. I believe the commitment and focus on supporting them has never been sharper, but that commitment must be both ways. I really believe it is, but then we have to be competitive this is a business, not a given right.”
The whole team is happy to do whatever it takes to keep their competitive edge sharp.” Not so long ago we could qualify every order and ask how the family was! Now most of us only see our own occasionally! “Wherever changes are necessary to meet the expectations of their demanding clientele, those changes are being made.”Over the past year the team have worked hard and made tremendous strides in fully understanding our customers’ and dealers’ expectations,” says Thrussell. “I know there are some exciting things on the horizon as a result.The future is very bright and the business takes a step forwards every day. I guess it’s a modern outlook on a cherished past.”
The degree of expertise and level of service the Parts Operation offers is every bit as remarkable as the size of the global market it serves. Aston Martin has always prided itself on creating bespoke motor cars to meet the most demanding and individual requirements.This proud tradition brings its own challenges which the staff of the Parts Operation are only too happy to meet.The profusion of model changes over the years, together with Aston Martin’s policy of continual improvement, makes finding correct and authentic parts a minefield for the uninitiated. Fortunately for the enthusiast, the staff of the Parts Operation possess an unrivalled depth of knowledge. Between them, the Parts Technicians and Sales Specialists
have enjoyed decades of experience, living and breathing Aston Martin. Nobody knows the cars better.
Aston Martin only set up a dedicated Technical Publications Department in 1993, so for many models there are no parts manuals to be referred to.The company must rely on the encyclopaedic knowledge of the Parts Operation’s staff.The unique expertise of Mark Hewitt and colleagues like Dave Newman comes into its own when supplying parts for older and more unusual cars. Says Dave Newman, “Much of the detail is not written down in any parts book it’s in our heads!”As Parts Sales Manager Simon Thrussell acknowledges,” it takes years to develop such knowledge. It’s very special.’
This remarkable expertise is matched by a level of service and specialised attention which will amaze owners of lesser machinery Aston Martin is renowned for producing cars as individual as the owners who drive them, and has always been happy to cater for special requirements.The staff of the Parts Operation are equally willing to oblige.
While machine guns and ejector seats may be stretching the the point a little, the Parts Operation has dealt with a number of unusual requests. Simon Thrussell remembers one gentleman who telephoned the Parts Operation offices.”He explained how he had always loved Aston Martins, but thought he would never be able to afford one. Would it be possible to have a ‘bit’ of one?”To most companies, such inquiries would be a nuisance, an inconvenience. Not Aston Martin. “We are happy to deal with a wide range of requests. It’s a part of Aston Martin.When we asked him which particular ‘bit’ he would like, he wanted one of the famous duckdown headrests from the Vantage. We asked him what colour he wanted, and then we made him one.”
Such expertise and service, one would imagine, does not come cheap. But keeping an Aston Martin on the road using authentic parts does not necessarily cost the earth. Indeed, genuine parts are surprisingly competitive on price. Bring value and pride of ownership into the equation, however, and there can only be one choice.
QUALITY NOT COMPROMISE
All parts supplied from the Parts Operation in Newport Pagnell have been produced to the legendary standards of quality and engineering for which the company is rightly famous. Does an Aston Martin deserve any less than the best? Why degrade the originality of such wonderful cars with unofficial parts which may not have been made to the factory’s exacting standards? Genuine parts mean. more than a guarantee of quality and originality: “Using genuine parts can make a tremendous difference to the value of your car,” says Thrussell. If the designers and engineers of the past refused to compromise, why should the owners of today?
The Parts Operation takes pride in helping owners preserve the individual character of their cars.Yet this individuality can also be enhanced. Drivers of the current DB7 and V8 ranges should consider the remarkable range of accessories and enhancements the factory has to offer. Most manufacturers provide buyers with an options list. Where their lists end, Aston Martin’s starts. The Driving Dynamics and Accessories packages are not just about adding to the already luxurious levels of equipment and performance. They enable DB7 and V8 owners to express their individual preferences and tastes in order to create a motor car that is truly unique, even by Aston Martin standards.
In the true bespoke tradition, every aspect of the car can be tailored to the owner’s own personal ideal. Choose from chrome or silver key fobs, a wooden gear knob or wood-rimmed steering wheel. Pure lambswool overmats of the highest workmanship, available in a variety of colours, will help keep the Wilton carpet in prime condition. The finest full grain soft hides create exclusive leather luggage sets, and can be colour-matched to the car’s interior upon request.The list of choices goes on and on..And if a particular accessory or option is not listed, the company will be happy to respond to the most individual of wants and needs.
DRIVING THE DREAM
Few cars can be less in need of uprated performance than the DB7 and V8 ranges. But there will always be those who thirst for the ultimate in power and handling. For these owners,Aston Martin has created their Driving Dynamics packages. Drawing on the experience gained developing the DB7 GT and the racing heritage which has always informed the development of Aston Martin road cars, the factory offers modifications to the DB7 which take driver satisfaction to new heights.
Uprated brakes with larger ventilated brake discs bring extra retardation and fade resistance when repeatedly slowing from high speeds. Uprated Koni dampers and subtle changes to suspension geometry bring even greater levels of steering response and body control without compromising the ride quality which makes the DB7 such a fine tool for fast long-distance motoring. Five-spoke magnesium wheels reduce unsprung weight and enhance handling and looks still furthearaction control is available to assist the driver in keeping the DB7’s prodigious power in check, and a sports exhaust system gives a more muscular exhaust note.A full range of bodywork enhancements are available, perfectly capturing the purposeful and sporting character of the Driving Dynamics car.
Similar packages sharpen the cutting edge of the V8 models. Suspension, brakes, wheels and exhausts can all be upgraded, with traction control giving that extra safety margin. But the discerning ‘V’ car owner can go further still.A close ratio five-speed manual gearbox gives quicker acceleration, while a revised linkage improves feel and precision .An uprated engine endows the V8 Vantage with even greater performance. The revised air intake cooling system unlocks a staggering 600bhp from the twin supercharged 5,3-litre engine to create the ultimate modern Aston Martin, a fusion of technology and tradition without parallel on today’s roads.
Forty years after Aston Martin’s great triumph at Goodwood, the company could be forgiven for dwelling in the past. But Aston Martin prefers to cherish its heritage by safeguarding its values and traditions for the future. Every time an Aston Martin owner settles back in the rich Connolly leather and soft Wilton carpet, fires up their highly-tuned straight six or V8 and feels once more the passion for the open road, the Aston Martin myth comes to life. With the expert assistance of the Parts Operation team, and with the amazing package of accessories and enhancements available from the factory, owners can keep alive their own unique piece of the legend for many years to come.