The real-life Q is quite different to the one you see on the big screen. He seems less absent-minded and eccentric, for a start. And, as far as we can tell, his pens don’t contain any explosive devices. Yet Simon Lane, in his role as head of Aston Martin’s Q bespoke division, is in charge of developing cars as creative, bold and deceiving as anything MI6’s Quartermaster might produce.
Having long offered a customisation service through the Works Tailored arm run from its Newport Pagnell plant, Aston launched the expanded Q division at its Gaydon base in 2012 with a licence to produce highly modified and bespoke models as demanded by its most loyal customers.
Most premium car makers have similar operations, but what Lane believes sets Q apart is a more fun approach, as its name hints. “I like to think we push the boundaries more than our competitors in terms of what’s possible,” he says. “And that goes right up to building bespoke one-off cars.”
Q has three main offerings. Q Collection offers special parts and options for standard Aston models. Q Commission gives customers more freedom in terms of customising their cars, with a focus on colour and trim. The pinnacle, and you suspect the service that James Bond would head straight for, is Q Advanced Operations.
Lane says this is for customers “who don’t want anything on the menu and want to do something completely different”. That can range from non-standard powertrains and bodywork to fully customised cars.
To demonstrate what Q is capable of, we staged a top-secret mission to bring together five of its finest creations and asked Lane to showcase their highlights.
A tribute to the 1999 Aston Vantage V600 (one of world’s most powerful production cars at the time), this 2018 special edition based on the previous-generation Vantage was the result of a commission from a single customer.
“He wanted a machine based on the V600,” says Lane. “We have to put every part on a bespoke car through the same testing we would any part on a series-production model, which can be expensive. He said he would underwrite the development and help find other buyers, which means we could split the development, testing and engineering costs across seven coupés and seven convertibles.”
The result was also a run-out special, with the 14 examples the final cars to use the VH platform – which also made them the final Vantages to have a naturally aspirated V12. And the body was extensively reworked in the style of the 1999 V600, which Lane describes as “a bruiser”.
Lane says: “The customer wanted a bespoke exterior using carbonfibre; the only surviving panels are the doors and roof. There are clear design links and some really nice details. We kept the original side sill shape, so it has a real Coke-bottle shape, and the bonnet bulge is a very clear nod to the original V600.”