Do You Want To Be Rich? Pretending To Be An Aston Martin Owner For A DayWhat if you were rich? Not just first class instead of coach wealthy or Mercedes-Benz instead of Volkswagen rich, but really loaded. Flying around in your Lear jet, visiting your private island, having your bespoke suits made by Savile Row tailors. That kind of rich. What cars would you own?
The short answer, of course, is any car you wanted. There is no shortage of really expensive cars on today's market, and if you have serious scratch you can find plenty of them over $100,000 to prove to the world you have arrived. Ferrari, Bentley and Rolls-Royce are all fine, but maybe you want more than an off-the-rack supercar. You want a company that makes a superb product and then will adapt it to meet your own personal needs. A company with history and style and class, and one that will make you feel a part of the family. If you fall into this category of car buyer, you need look no further than Aston Martin.
Aston Martin has been building bespoke automobiles for the rich and famous for the past nine decades. Its history includes victories at Le Mans and starring roles in the original James Bond movies. If your dream is to have the world sit up and notice when you pull up to the Casino in Monte Carlo, you might just succeed if you are driving an Aston Martin Vanquish. Best of all, new owners are encouraged to become involved in the process of building their cars, and the company even can set up a day at the test track so new owners can become acquainted with the cars before taking delivery.
To find out what it might be like to own a new Aston, I recently spent a day at the Aston Martin Performance Driving Course at the Millbrook Proving Grounds and at Aston Martin's factory in Newport Pagnell in the English midlands.
OrientationThe Millbrook Proving Ground is one of the UK's best known and busiest industry test facilities. Almost every car company that sells cars in Great Britain uses the facility to test handling, powertrains and vehicle stability. Millbrook also runs a major vehicle crash testing laboratory where vehicle manufacturers can ensure their own tests are valid. The tracks consist of a handling circuit, a city streets circuit, a 2-mile circular high-speed banked track, a one-mile straight with looped turn-arounds, and a hill circuit that combines open, fast corners with hairpins and elevation changes. Altogether it is a place well suited to testing the abilities of high-performance cars and drivers.
An Aston Martin day at Millbrook starts out with a classroom session with Les Goble, whose title at Aston Martin is Performance Driving Executive, one we should all envy. In addition to his work-day driving duties, Mr. Goble races a Ford Lotus Cortina in historic races in England and throughout Europe with former Formula One ace Jackie Oliver as his teammate. Instead of talking about turn-in points and apexes, Goble tells us about the controls of the Aston Martin Vanquish and how to use the paddle-shift transmission to its best effect. The session is mercifully short, and soon we are led out to the gravel parking lot where new Aston Martins are waiting for us.
There are an equal number of DB7 Vantage and new Vanquish models at the track. Both are equipped with Aston's V12 engine and both were designed by Ian Callum, who has now gone on to other jobs within the Ford parent organization. The 420-bhp V12 in the DB7 Vantage is a good starting place to learn more about the Millbrook circuits. Students are escorted by instructors, most of which have current or recent racing experience.