What is it about Aston Martin? How does this iconic British car manufacturer manage to reimagine itself over and over again every time it creates another classic car? Perhaps it has something to do with its base of loyal followers, but more likely it is the result of an uncompromising attitude to design perfection and a commitment to excellence in every field. Nico Kos Earle investigates.
Chief Creative Officer of Aston Martin, Marek Reichman thinks it has a lot to do with patterns. For the past ten years he has been at the design helm of the legendary heritage brand, started in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. Marek describes excellence as the capacity for repeatable process, orchestrated harmoniously with a hand-picked team. Success itself is a pattern. He adds, “Design is a fundamental of who we are: it’s part of the Aston Martin DNA. From those first very pure performance cars in 1914, to the iconic years of the DB4 with Tadek Marek’s engine and the body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, via the upgraded DB5 and the race wins of DBR1 and DB3S.”
Aston Martin has been part of Marek’s life for many years: as a child the classic James Bond car, the DB5 that can be seen in Goldfinger and Thunderball, was the most prized piece in his toy car collection. During his prolific tenure at Aston Martin, Marek has grown and developed the brand but his cars remain as recognizably ‘Aston Martin’ as the first DBs: his designs include the DBX Concept, Vulcan, and ultra-limited edition Vantage GT12, unveiled at Geneva International Motor Show in 2015.
So, given the company’s long relationship with the Bond franchise, it must have been both an affirmation of his work and a dream come true when he was tasked with the creation of a car to rival the DB5 for the recent Bond film Spectre. The result was the DB10, and while it was never meant to become a real car, it gave Marek the opportunity to push certain design parameters. “It taught me it could have this forward movement with an elegant falling line at the back plus drama, not obvious with a short wheelbase car. I wanted to maintain the simplicity and drama of this line here,” he says, standing in his immaculate design studio and tracing his hand along the silky profile of the car. “This line – which comes so easily on a sketch – it’s a falling line. I was so particular about how and where that highlight was going to fall. I drove everyone insane with that line.”
This fearless design philosophy has led to the DB11’s iconic looks. Underpinned by a new bonded aluminium body structure that combines lightness and strength, DB11 sets a formidable new standard for sporting Grand Tourers and takes the legendary DB lineage to unprecedented heights. Discover the striking new grille, innovative Aston Martin Aeroblade™, a way of flowing air through the DB11’s bodywork, and the car’s extraordinary clamshell bonnet. “We really pushed the limits of engineering with that,” Marek reveals. “It was too large to be manufactured by any existing machine, so we had to make the machine first.” This is another great strength of the company. Design comes before manufacturing – there is no compromise based upon financial or factory size constraints.
The car’s genesis takes place when the sketch goes into clay, with Marek heavily involved from the beginning. “The clay sculpture is constantly being laser scanned, creating a surface that goes to our engineering team and they say, for example, ‘You’re only 2mm away from my wheel envelope,’ and I say ‘deflate your tyres!’ We do not want to compromise design so we make legislation work, like this patented keystone grille.” Aston Martin can still use real metal bars in their grille because the uprights are not metal. These are fitted with points of weakness so the whole thing collapses on impact. All of these features were made possible with rapid prototyping technologies, and replacing yesterday’s solid machined aluminium parts are sintered elements (the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat without melting).
So what makes Aston Martin’s cars so very desirable and sleek? Marek says, “Proportion is the bedrock of that success, it gives you that timeless quality. We experience pleasure on seeing it – something artists have long measured as the golden proportion. Nature does it perfectly: the nautilus shell follows the golden proportion. Our eyes and brain are attracted to that mathematical relationship.”
It is also a thrill for the senses. The satisfying sound of the DB11’s new twin turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine, signals the most powerful DB production model in Aston Martin’s history. It is this sensational combination of design and performance that prompted Arkitexture to initiate a talk with Reichman and Director of the Design Museum Deyan Sudjic on 20 April, 2016.
But Marek goes deeper even than that. “It is a piece of sculpture to me. One of the challenges as designer for Aston Martin is to understand their core values. They have a mantra: power, beauty and soul. Mine is simple dynamism.”
Limited tickets to our exclusive Aston Martin X Design Museum X Arkitexture event on 20 April available here.