Aston Martin makes cars for James Bond: the DB5 in Goldfinger and Thunderball; the DBS in Casino Royale; the Vanquish in Die Another Day; the DB10 in Spectre. DB, incidentally, is Dave Brown, maker of tractors, who rescued the company in the 1940s. Hot cars, like hot men, are always in trouble. Fallibility is part of their myth.
I sat in a cinema for Skyfall and heard cheers for the DB5, which returned to take Bond up the A9, away from a villain. My husband says men drive faster after watching Bond films – 35mph in a built-up area! – but I do not know if this is true. Even so, I like to imagine the Chief Secretary to the Treasury gasping at the cost of such machines for a man who is still, despite the undiagnosed sex addiction and the guns, a civil servant; surely Bond, if he exists, drives a Honda Civic. But the Prince of Wales does not. He has given Aston Martin a royal warrant and drives a Seychelles Blue DB6 that runs on biofuel made of cheese and wine. I’m beginning to think he won’t be such an awful king after all.
Bentleys are luscious; Rolls-Royces are fabulous with their plug-in picnic baskets for champagne and caviar in the desert. Rolls-Royce owners are, in their own way, quite mad, racing to Goodwood with bags of diamonds to be ground into paintwork. But no British car is more beautiful than the Aston Martin. It is low and wide on the road – there is a steadiness to it, despite its looks. It has a perfect arse: defiantly charismatic.
I will risk sounding idiotic – I passed my driving test in my mid-forties – but an Aston Martin changed me. I drove the DB11 Volante – the drop-top – in 2018, and learnt, for the first time – my previous car was a driving school Ford Fiesta with 180,000 miles on the clock – that cars are a drug like any other, but, if you spend enough, they are better than most. That is, I had discovered a superb new stimulant. Perhaps you need a new Aston Martin every year to get the same effect. My son, who was all in at five years old, and had not yet learnt to conceal himself, actually licked the Volante to say farewell, and there you are. There’s not much else to say.
I must be fair and say the Ferrari Lusso also has what Clarkson, the Nero of motoring journalists, calls “the trouser factor” – a description both disgusting and fair – but the indicators are on the steering wheel, which confuses me, and it is an Italian brand. If you want a cheer from passing drunks in the UK it must be an Aston Martin, a brand now so confused with shagging women and executing foreigners, the drunks obviously felt they had done both themselves.
There is probably a column – or doctoral thesis – on the subject of ‘Did Aston Martin Influence the Referendum?’ but I can’t be bothered to write it. Even so, I’m sure it did. A fake spy in a hot, imperfect car can do weird things to a shared national consciousness, where more is imagined than known.
Except, with the DBS Superleggera – it means “superlight”, which is relative because it weighs almost 1.7 tonnes, even with carbon fibre panels – Aston Martin have made a perfect car.
It arrives at Newlyn in a quasi-royal procession: a trailer drawn by a Range Rover. You sense the car before you see it. It attracts a crowd, even at 10pm, and at 3mph. The engine is a 5.2 litre twin-turbo V12, or, in comprehensible language, a beast that roars: 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds; 0-100mph in 6.4 seconds; top speed of 211mph, not that it is legal.
Clarkson, now my petrol-smelling lodestar, thinks the Superleggera is, if anything, too powerful. You’ll crash it, he fretted, buy something else – like what? A Vauxhall Corsa? My current car is a VW Fox, which is for people who find the Corsa too exciting. Not the way I drive it isn’t, so move aside; I was once overtaken at a roundabout by a mobility scooter while driving a Rolls Royce Dawn.
I am safe to drive the Superleggera across the heathland and I do, and I know ecstasy. I ponder: who would buy a limousine – even a Phantom? – or an SUV – even a G Wagon? – when they could have a GT this fine? Nobody needs that much boot space – do they? And for what? Nothing – and I am a late drunk – makes me feel as free – or as transported – as a GT on a clear road to the west.
The front seats are low; the backseats are for people so tiny they could sit in an egg spoon; it only has three doors. It costs £225,000, but what you get in return is something I only lately realised could be bought: everything your sixteen-year-old self ever wanted for you.