Like most blokes I’ve always loved Astons. It’s not just the obvious connection to you-know-who, more of which later, but for most of my life there was always something special, rarified, exclusive about the cars that few other marques have achieved. Ferrari carried a whiff of the playboy, Lamborghinis were too nouveau and Maserati similarly past its prime but Aston Martins simply oozed a quiet reassurance, always carrying plenty in reserve while keeping the breeding tucked away out of sight and never frightening the horses. If they were people they would all have been perfect gentlemen, the type who bears his weight on his elbows…

Of course the first thing that comes to most minds when you mention Aston Martin is that man from MI6. Fleming first put Bond into a DB3 in the late 50s but it was a few years later with the words “Ejector seat? You’re joking?” that DB and 007 would be forever intertwined.

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Like the character Fleming created Aston Martin has always been flawed, troubled, in danger of extinction. Bond, over the years, has had to rely on rescuers in the form of Felix Leiter and a bunch of GIs or Tiger Tanaka and his ninjas to get him out of the odd scrape just as Aston Martin has lurched from one financial meltdown to the next, each fresh owner vowing to take the firm into a new, profitable era as surely as each new actor strapping a Walther to his body has done for their own incarnation of the world’s most famous spy. Their histories are eerily similar; rescue, reinvention and quiet revolution are hallmarks of both with the only difference being that while Aston has frequently floundered 007 has remained as profitable as ever.

Finally though it would appear that Aston Martin is also enjoying a period, if not of rude health then at least one devoid of life-threatening injuries. The DB7’s sales eclipsed all previous DBs combined, annual volumes have climbed from the low hundreds well into the thousands and while the premium luxury sector has expanded and weathered the storm of the financial crisis of the late Noughties there seems to be no shortage of people with the means to enjoy the trappings that success brings, be that in finance or on the football field. They’ve earned it and by God they’re determined to flaunt it.

For me though I find it all a bit sad. Not because I am no closer to owning an Aston than I was when my sole source of income was a job in a pub but because I feel that the name of Aston Martin has lost a great deal of what made it special. It has been sullied, defiled, diluted. The very thing that has ensured its continued survival is, ironically, the thing that has tainted it. The phrase “victim of its own success” really does apply. Time was when seeing any Aston Martin on the road was an event, an occasion so rare that entire streets of people would stop, stare and in some cases drool, but these days the sight of a Vantage or a DBS simply leaves one wondering which soccer team the driver plays for.

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I’ve also found myself wondering whether their management are aware of this fact and more importantly whether they even care. The answer came this week in crystal clarity as transparent as the start button on one of their own dashboards….

The DB9 is, by now, 12 years old. It’s been around for half as long again as the average production run of most cars. It is, to flog the 007 connection, Roger Moore, hanging on grimly in front a green screen trying to convince the punters that it can still handle itself when in reality it can barely handle a trip to the bathroom. Car companies however, like film-makers, know the value of a swan song and Aston is no exception. They have announced the release of a final DB9, the GT, which will be sold in limited numbers for the eye-watering price of £150,000.

That, of itself, isn’t a problem. This is, after all, a business and wringing every last cent of return out of your R&D budgets and tooling before they are pushed aside in favour of a new product make sound fiscal sense but it’s what came on the back of it which is such a bitter disappointment. Within the GT production there will be an even more limited run, if 150 examples of any six-figure car can be called “limited”, of the DB9 GT 007 Bond Edition for a 15 grand premium over the standard model. Yeah, I choked on my coffee too, not because of the price but the premise.

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With their rich and combined history together James Bond and Aston Martin will be linked for eternity. Producing a “Bond” edition Aston Martin is about as classy as those idiots who put a vanity plate on their car proclaiming what it is even though it emerged from the factory with its name already tattooed on its arse by the manufacturer. It is, quite simply, wrong and it is the final clinching proof that Aston Martin has completed the descent from “dream” to ”brand”.

I’m looking forward to the release of Spectre next month however if my numbers ever do come up on the lottery and I am in the market for own gentleman’s express I won’t be forking out £165,000 to indulge in some automotive cosplay. I shall be beating a path to a completely different door… Maserati’s, probably.

 

 

 

 

 

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