Trochals, Hogs and Whirlygigs

AML’s other transports of delight.

Airbus.com

Conducting a highly scientific straw poll at work recently, my enquiries were to the full dozen souls what car they’d buy with a big lottery win. Some required momentarily longer than others to respond but eight replied with “Aston Martin or something,” two preferred properties whilst the remainders spirit didn’t enter the equation.

Proving to this enthusiast that the Gaydon still makes covetable bolides, regardless of the fact that none of those questioned could name exactly which model would remove funds. Aston Martin’s qualities are second to none. So too seemingly, their lack of financial acumen. For this author, one wonders if the phrase ‘clutching at straws’ derived from the office area of David Brown and his antecedents. 

Hand in glove: car manufacturing, engineering and diversification work better for some than others. Lawrence Stroll’s acquisition may have propped up the bank balance, but in the recent past, other forms of transport have been haphazardly connected with the be-winged AM badge. What time does the Aston Martin number 38 bus show up?

dezeen.com

Once elected Mayor of London in 2008, Boris Johnson opened a competition to create a new bus for the capital. A joint submission of Foster + Partners along with Capoco Design (a bus design firm) along with input from Marek Reichman’s team brought about an enigmatic updating of the once ubiquitous Routemaster double decker, which proved the winning entrant.

Shadowing car formulation, the design nurtured bus user’s needs; layout, excellent lighting, durable wooden floors, reconstituted leather seats all helping create a “living room feel.” The glazed roof had embedded solar cells to generate power, along with daylight filters to control the temperature. The overall design looking rather Toytown to these eyes, their cartouche glazing revealing the staircase.

dezeen.com

Reichman, proud of his team’s efforts espoused how their design language had assisted with this diverse project; they even won £25,000, split between the collaborative, meaning AML probably ended up with a day’s free bus travel. And for winning the competition, Aston were suitably ignored, the actual design being handed to designer, Thomas Heatherwick, which is documented both here  and here.

Back heeling public transport, Aston then turned to something perhaps closer to their own raison d’être; bespoke building of motorcycles. The name Brough will no doubt well tear ducts to those inclined toward two wheeled adventures. Nottingham based George Brough made motorcycles from 1919-40; one particular gent owning seven examples, obsessed with their superior handling and speed and left this mortal coil riding one – a certain T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia). Brough even constructed around 80 cars in the late thirties with no badging; believing his Hudson derived autos were “distinctive enough.

broughsuperiormotorcycles.com

As with many other engineering workshops, war work saw Brough take on crankshaft work for Merlin engines. The company became a casualty itself at hostilities end. Having no motorcycles to work on or build, the company wound up. Resurrected almost seventy years later by enthusiast Mark Upham, later meeting with CEO of Boxer, French bike designer, Thierry Henriette, who constructed Upham a modern Brough Superior in 2013. Interest was expansive enough to set up the Brough Superior factory in Toulouse with series production arriving by 2016.

Aston Martin enter the fray three years later with the AMB-001, the “B” for Brough. A track-only weapon of just 100 are to be made. An aluminium fin provides a backbone for lightness with strength. Titanium and carbon fibre parts abound. Billeted aluminium the front forks and engine covers. Blending austenitic nickel and chromium creates the alloy, Iconel, for the exhausts manifold. The engine (built by a solitary sole whose name adorns a plaque) being a DOHC 997cc, 8 valve, 88 degree V-twin, turbocharged for 180bhp. When dry, the AMB-001 weighs 180Kgs – as is the mouth on seeing the asking price – €108,000 (£93,000). Where’s that bus?

broughsuperiormotorcycles.com

Available in a variety of shades but nutant to their cars, Sterling Green body with lime accents combined with conker leather seat and grips with Oxford tan pads equates to an aggressively handsome beast. The first AM Wings to be found on a motorcycle, Reichman again is justifiably proud, “a design and engineering work of art.” One expects both Lawrences would approve as surely would George. 

And when done pounding the track, hand the bike over to staff and take off in your Aston Martin helicopter. The ACH130 is the product of another Anglo/ French partnership between Gaydon and Airbus Corporate Helicopters, resident of Courchevel in the French alps.

For your $3.5m[1] (add around $640 per hour running costs) the pilot and six buddies can cruise over three hundred miles at a top whack 128knots at a ceiling of 9,700 feet. The Fenestron[2] tail rotor assists with quiet progress as one is propelled onwards in a svelte looking machine painted oddly enough, Sterling Green which graduates underside into Jet Black. Skyfall Silver[3] adding Bond bling to the cowlings.

Inside, one can spec up to pure black ultra-suede although cormorant, ivory and perennial favourite, oxford tan leathers are available. The headrests wear the wings, the seats all very much inspired by the cars. To the rear of the front seats, identical brogue patterns as found in your DB11. The ‘copters doors reflect the trim of your motor, “a pleasing touch point for passengers.

airbus
Airbus.com

There’s room to store your £475 Monogram canvas bag and your £3,055.10 Aston Martin Racing helmet[4] along with breathing in the aesthetics and rigorous attention to detail. This time the plaque contains both brand names, aircraft registration number and optional pilot name. Reichman offers staff plaudits once more and wishes to see “everyone’s reaction.” Be careful what you wish for, Marek.

All which must keep employees in gainful work but at what brand cost? Only the super-wealthy gravitate to such opulence – just how much sterling green does anyone need? And we’re only now mentioning inclusion of Mr Stroll’s Formula 1 pass, a club that requires almost limitless funding. The price per championship point will be astronomical as they chase mid and back field places.

We conclude with returning to my opening gambit and response, Aston Martin or something. Not only to these eyes but mainly the heart, AML, akin to Ferrari have become diluted, a spidery framed pastiche of former glory (but financially hopeless) days. Should the lottery finger point my direction, Gaydon is no longer my first port of call. I reckon it’ll be the pub and a period of deep cogitation.

[1] Starting figure.

[2] An Airbus patent, a ducted fan. Safer and better handling come at a cost of greater weight and power requirements over standard rear propellers.

[3] ‘Skyfall Silver’. For a helicopter. Have the product team lost their minds?

[4] For car rather than motorcycle racing but again in Sterling Green with lime accents.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

13 thoughts on “Trochals, Hogs and Whirlygigs”

  1. Good morning, Andrew. To be blunt: I have never been an Astons man. I don’t see the appeal of most of them. I know a lot of people who like the DB7 for instance, to me it has an amateurish kit car feel, I just don’t get it.

    I liked the DB9 a lot, though, that was until I sat in one. Bad driving position, too little headroom. It was uncomfortable and for a GT that is unacceptable. The particular example had done 70,000 kilometers and was 10 years old, but the interior looked rather tired given that use. Having said that, you never know how the owner took care of it. And I still like the way it looks.

    Off all the non car Astons posted here I was only vaguely aware of the helicopter, the rest is new to me. I do miss Astons collaboration with JLC, here.

    1. Leather boxer’s shorts…what were they thinking, diversifying into fetish-wear? 😝

      I’m afraid I regard most automotive-branded accessories as a bit naff. Do you really need to turn yourself into a walking advertisement for the car drive?

    2. I hope not, Daniel: I have severe doubts about the ability of a lot of fetish wear to perform well in a EuroNCAP crash test!

  2. Morning Andrew. Well, I never knew that. The only collaboration I was aware of before was with Toyota and their iQ. AM called it a Cygnet. Only ever seen one when I visited their heritage site a few years ago. I never really saw the point. Great article though Andrew, thank you for broadening my knowledge. 👍🏻

    1. The point – however strange it might now appear – was to have a tiddly-engined ‘Aston’ to enable the comopany to reduce the nominal average fuel consumption over the range (and number of cars sold). Despite myself, I find it quite appealing to have a Noddy car with a sybaritic cabin of the finest leather and Wilton carpet.

  3. Good Morning Andrew. It’s amazing what you find out via DTW so thank you for enlightening us all. I really had no idea about any of the items you have described. I have also learned what “nutant” means as well!
    One minor point if I may. Boris Johnson was Mayor of London and the leader of the Greater London Authority. It is an elected post for 4 years.
    The Lord Mayor is a ceremonial role and relates only to the City of London – The Square Mile. The appointment lasts for 1 year.

    1. Good morning Mike. Duly noted and amended, thank you.

    2. Thank you Daniel. An easy mistake to make if you come from “ up North” which Andrew does!
      Have a merry Christmas 🎄

  4. I’m confused about the motorcycle angle – are they resurrecting ‘Brough’ or ‘Brough Superior’ , as they were different entities.

  5. Lovely article – all news to me. I can’t help thinking that all this stuff is really aimed not so much at James Bond type figures, but more the at the ‘Dr Evil’ in one’s life.

  6. I’m mystified as to how such a design oriented company can turn out so many uninspired interior designs (basically the same design for DBX, DB11, and Vantage… outdated, but hardly “classic” or even characteristically British). If they must serve up Mercedes’ leftover table scraps (the old Daimler-Chrysler recipe), then at least could they present them more artfully?

  7. Aston Martin pants…

    I think that sums up a lot. And I’ve had a drop to enjoy at this hour, too. Thank goodness!

    I’m no motorcycle enthusiast (though the AMB-001 does look the business) but perhaps this link reveals more :

    https://www.broughsuperiormotorcycles.com/en/

    And now to imbibe some more; if only to erase these oddities. Jeeves, the helicopter, if you please.. Jeeves? Oh, I’m not waiting for the bus, I’m walking…

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