What’s that?” James Bond director Sam Mendes asked of a sketch on the studio wall of Aston Martin design chief Marek Reichman. He was pointing at an early drawing of the Aston Martin Vantage sports car replacement, not due until 2017 at the earliest.
No longer, though, for ‘that’ has now become the Aston Martin DB10, James Bond’s new car for the upcoming Spectre movie. It’s the first time that a car has been specifically created from scratch for a Bond film.
Mendes had come to Reichman’s design studio along with Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli from Bond film production company Eon in April 2014 to look at “what was cooking in the kitchen” of the Aston Martin design studio as a new Bond car was sought post-DBS and the destruction of his DB5 in the previous film, Skyfall.
Reichman had shown them everything he was working on and assumed that the team would go for the DB9 replacement (the DB11, due to be launched next year) as a replacement for Bond’s DBS. “They loved it,” Reichman told me of the DB11, “but then, as we turned to leave the design studio, Sam Mendes pointed at the sketch on the wall and said: ‘What’s that?’
“It was a sketch, but Sam loved it and instantly had a vision of it as an icon for Bond in the same way the DB5 was. It was exactly what he was thinking about for Bond in the movie, making him a little bit more naughty. He asked if we could make the sketch, and I said of course we could…”
The usual time taken to get from a sketch to a car finished to the DB10’s standard is around three years. After Eon commissioned the DB10 in April 2014, Aston handed over the first working example bang on time for the start of filming, just five months later in September. It was straight into action, taking on jumps on two-metre ramps.
In total, just 10 DB10s have been made, and there will never be another one. Six and a half of them have been left in various states of disrepair (two of them ending up in the Tiber river in Rome following mishaps during filming) after the kind of heavy filming workloads that you’d expect in an action movie where all the stunts are real.
Remaining are three ‘hero’ cars, one each to be kept by Eon and Aston and the other to be auctioned for charity for what will probably be a seven-figure sum.
Reichman says creating a car that was fully resolved in its design and engineering was a challenge not only because of the short time they had in which to do it, but also because it went against usual business instincts, given that it wasn’t destined for sale.
But he points to the fact that the DBS, Bond’s most recent car, was in fact the most successful Aston in history as proof that normal rationale doesn’t apply here.“How much of the DBS’s success can you put down to Bond? There’s no equation to it,” says Reichman. “It’s just a car that looks right, is exceptionally well proportioned, sophisticated and desirable. And James Bond drives it. We had it with DB5, now DBS, and that works for a lot of customers.”
The DB10 is underpinned by the firm’s current VH architecture rather than the next-generation one that is being readied for the DB11 onwards. It is longer thanthe current Vantage and has a longer wheelbase, and it uses the V8 Vantage’s 4.7-litre engine rather than the 5.9-litre V12 from elsewhere in the range.
It’s hooked up to a manual gearbox – Mendes wanted Bond to drive a manual – and the cabin in which he sits is much sportier and more driver focused than the current Vantage’s, a clue to the future interior direction of Aston’s sports cars.
Of course, the DB10 does have some ‘extra features’, after a visit to Q, that won’t make it into production, but you’ll have to see Spectre to find out what they are. Rest assured, though, that there is no CGI in this film involving the car. Even the flame thrower out the back is real.
The DB10’s sportier, more aggressive look is the first clue that Aston will have greater design distinction between its future DB GT models and the Vantage sports cars, creating two visually distinct lines. The brief to Reichman from new Aston boss Andy Palmer is simple: Palmer’s mother must be able to tell the difference between a DB model and a Vantage.
“It’s a process we’ve been doing outside of our core models with cars like the Zagato, Vulcan and One-77, but now we’re changing the core models, they’ll be getting the same treatment,” says Reichman. “Andy says he wants to be able to bring his mum into the design studio and have her tell the difference between models. That’s how he is: down to earth and gives clear briefs.”
Indeed, the Vantage-previewing DB10 – with its low grille, shark-like face, slim lights, dramatic falling shoulder line and more rear-set cabin – is already a radical styling departure from any Aston, present or past, while still retaining the perfect proportions for which Aston Martins are famed.
But Reichman plans to make the Vantage replacement more radical still and is not tempted to merely create a full-blown production version of the DB10.
“Now we have DB10, we have to use the work and effort put into it to inspire the next generation of future products, which will be even better than the DB10,” he says.
“We’ve only spent six months on this car, but we can put it out there – and to get feedback from millions of different people, rather than just have it internally in our design studio, gives us huge confidence. Maybe we can turn this style up even more. Just as DB9 is a hard car to replace, the Vantage is hard, too. We couldn’t have had a better start than with DB10, and the new car will be even better.
"Tastes will change in that time, and keeping ahead of the curve is the kind of challenge I love. We’ll self-assess and have had a vote of confidence with this, but we’ll push it further still. The Vantage is still two years away…”
There are more clues all over the DB10 as to the future direction of Aston sports cars: the understated finish to the brightwork, the design of the 20in alloy wheels, the low rear that emphasises the width of the tyres, the unusual shape of the rear lights, the slimmer front LED light clusters, cooling holes in the bonnet, and that shoulder line and grille.
But before the next Vantage arrives, the DB10 will exist as a car in its own right. I put it to Reichman that the DB10 is the world’s best concept car, but he believes it to be even more meaningful than that.
“It’s more real than the world’s best concept car. How real is James Bond now? With generation X and Y growing up, it’s a relatively virtual world now anyway, which has generated its own thought pattern. This is way beyond a concept car and is capable of doing movie stuff, which pushes it beyond the realms of even being a car. It’s a product supporting a superhero, and as such there’s an affinity and love for it in its own right.”
So has a precedent now been set for Aston to make Bond a bespoke car for every future movie? “It’s a difficult one,” says Reichman, “but I’d love to. James Bond and Aston Martin are now unbreakable.”
Meanwhile, at a secret facility in Coventry...
“They wanted a supercar for the villain. We had the C-X75. We thought: ‘Why not?’ There wasn’t much persuading.” So says Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations chief John Edwards on the conversation that led to the C-X75 concept car being reborn for a starring role in Spectre.
The C-X75 is the villainous car to the heroic Aston Martin DB10, the pair pitched into battle on the streets of Rome in a dramatic car chase.
Although the C-X75 may look the same as the concept that wowed the world at the 2010 Paris motor show, nothing is carried over underneath. The C-X75 is constructed around a spaceframe built to World Rally Championship spec, at the heart of which sits the 542bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8.
Clearly, the C-X75’s appearance in Spectre got tongues wagging about whether or not the car would finally make production, having originally been confirmed in 2011 and then unconfirmed a year later.
“The film was an opportunity to showcase C-X75, but it doesn’t mean a change in strategy. The decision has been made and we can hold our heads up high on that,” says Edwards. “We know what we’re doing, and that we’ll get a reaction, and [questions on] the relevance. There’s no nervousness.”
The C-X75 is not the only Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) product with a starring role in Spectre. The firm also supplied the Range Rover Sport SVR and Defender for an equally spectacular chase through the snow.
Edwards says the SVR was pretty much standard, apart from its lights on the top and its snow tyres, although the Defender went through more major changes, including the addition of vast 37in snow tyres.
In total, JLR supplied 22 cars to Spectre: seven C-X75s, four SVRs, 10 Defenders and a Land Rover Discovery Sport that pops up briefly. (Another model to briefly spot is the Rolls-Royce Phantom.) “The cars are ours. We get them back,” says Edwards. “But there’s no guarantee as to the condition when we get them back. A couple are unrecognisable.”
Of those seven C-X75s, two are pristine ‘hero’ cars that Jaguar plans to keep, rather than sell. Still, at least the C-X75 was eventually built - kind of.
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