When the first Aston Martin One-77 is collected by its new owner – some time in March next year if all goes well – several different ambitions will reach fruition, and all at the same time.
For the boss of Aston Martin, the ebullient Ulrich Bez, it will represent the culmination of a decade of extremely hard graft. Bez describes the £1.2 million ($2m) One-77 as “the ultimate realization of what an Aston Martin can be.” Handing over that first set of keys will be a special moment. By then, he will have been at the helm of Aston Martin for 10 years, almost to the month.
For the 300 or so people who have designed, built by hand, fine-tuned and delivered the first car to its new owner, it will also be a day to remember. In any industry, you don’t often get the opportunity to create something from a clean sheet of paper with zero restrictions to work within, either financially or creatively. And in the car industry especially, it’s virtually unheard of. The only recent examples are when McLaren built the F1 and when Bugatti created the Veyron – and both of those were memorable events, you’ll agree.
Undoubtedly, though, the most satisfied person on the day will be the man – and it will definitely be a man and not a woman, apparently – who has the key in his hand when the sun goes down later that evening. Whoever that fortunate person is, when they insert the “Emotional Control Unit” in the center of the One-77’s extravagant, hand-made center console, they will be the first person outside the factory ever to drive the car – assuming they choose to drive out of the gates at Gaydon at all. Around half of the 77 One-77s that Aston will build during the next year will probably never be driven, according to Bez.
But if they do choose to go for a quick blast down the highway that day, it probably won’t take long to be impressed with their new purchase. The One-77 has a 7.3-liter V12 engine with 700hp and 500lb ft of torque (officially), and thanks to its carbon fiber monocoque it weighs less than 3300lbs. So although it won’t quite be in the Veyron league for pure performance, it won’t be very far behind. And if it sounds anything like the car you see in these photographs, it will make the Bugatti seem like a washing machine by comparison.
Not that the One-77 has been created by Aston Martin primarily to be a high-performance car, you understand. According to Bez, the fact that it’ll get to 60mph “in around 3.5 seconds” and “probably do around 220mph, maybe a bit more than that” is little more than a side issue overall. Some side issue.
What this car is really all about, says Bez, is showing how far Aston Martin can push things creatively. “Of course the car will be fast,” he says. “But that’s not what we set out to achieve in the first place.
“In the end this car will, I hope, show the world where Aston Martin can go in the future, but also where we have come from in the past, because it is entirely made by hand, by highly skilled craftsmen. And if it wasn’t made like that – by hand – it wouldn’t exist, because you simply can’t make a car like this other than by hand.”
The V12 engine alone is something that will not only define the One-77’s personality but also account for a decent chunk of your investment in the car. Loosely speaking, it’s the same design as the 6.0-liter V12 you’ll find in the DBS, but in reality it’s far closer to the motor used to such great effect beneath the hood of AM’s DBR9 Le Mans racers.
It’s dry-sumped, for starters, and has been stretched out to 7.3 liters by increasing both the bore and the stroke. Just about everything that moves inside has been significantly uprated compared with the DBS unit (at both top and bottom ends) and the fuel and exhaust systems are also new.
Unofficially, Aston puts the power output at around 750hp with a minimum of 530lb ft, developed at “no more than 5000rpm.” The redline will be 7750rpm, but it’ll rev to at least 8000rpm before the limiter intrudes; Aston hasn’t yet decided where to set it. But whatever it will eventually rev to, Aston is determined to make the engine as durable as that of the DBS, with identical service intervals.
Power is transferred to the road via a heavily beefed-up version of the Graziano six-speed gearbox from the DBS, but it’ll be paddle shift only. The diff is also a Graziano item, with power reaching the rear axle via a carbon fiber torque tube that helps stiffen the propshaft and reduces vibration through the drivetrain.
As with Aston’s other cars, there is traction control and ESP, but no launch control as such – not yet, at any rate. There may or may not be a Sport button as well, although the throttle response is likely to be reasonably punchy with or without any fancy electronics to bolster the effect.
Unlike any other Aston in history, the One-77 uses a fully enclosed carbon fiber monocoque, which means its tub is essentially just one ultra-strong, extremely stiff compartment, much like you’d find in a custom-made racing car (like, for instance, the DBR9). The One-77 makes a virtue out of the fact that its entire passenger cell is made from carbon fiber, and as a result much of the raw material is clearly on display – not just on the center console but also around the doors, beneath the hood and in each footwell. Everywhere you look you can see evidence of what the car is made from. That means the craftsmanship of the carbon fiber weave has to be of the highest quality, which is a skill in itself.
In theory this should provide the perfect platform from which to hang the suspension, and Aston has been clever in this instance. By using as much of the regular hardware as it can (it uses the same wishbones as the V12 Vantage, for example, and has the same basic passenger cell, albeit stretched by nearly three inches) it has saved time and money. But it has also designed the car with a custom pushrod setup front and rear, again much like you’d find in a racing car. The inboard dampers are extremely sophisticated, made for Aston by Multimatic, and in this particular area owners will be able to have their car fine tuned to suit their needs.
When customers come to collect their cars from Gaydon, they’ll be invited to go on a test drive with Aston’s engineering chief, Chris Porritt. The idea is that Porritt will work out what sort of setup is best for each owner and then adjust the suspension accordingly.
Originally, it was reported that owners would be able to tailor the mechanical specifications of their cars in all sorts of ways, perhaps even by being able to alter the power delivery and gearbox ratios, but this was never Aston’s intention. Apart from anything else, were the specification to change significantly from car to car, Aston would have to start re-crashing them to meet safety regs. Given that it is already going to have to crash two or possibly three whole cars at $2 million a pop, you can understand why the idea doesn’t add up.
Braking will be by the same carbon-ceramic discs developed for the DBS and Vantage V12, but because the One-77 will weigh just 3300lbs the system has required almost no modification at all. The wheels will be 20in forged alloy items all round, wearing 20in Pirelli P-Zero Corsas.
Where owners will be able to go their own way, at least to a certain extent, is with the cabin design. It’s hard to imagine why you’d want
to change any part of its dramatic two-seat-only interior, other than perhaps by increasing the luggage area somehow. There is no trunk as such, the only stowage space being behind the seats – into which it will be possible, says Aston, to squeeze a small amount of custom luggage.
The dashboard, if you can call it that in the traditional sense, is an extraordinary-looking mixture of conventional dials set into 22nd-century cabin architecture, and the overall effect is startling. You climb aboard and can’t help but smile, and the smell is similarly endearing.
The seats of the car you see here still needed a bit of work (they had no padding) but their style is now fixed. Having said that, owners will be able to change the amount of support, the location of the seat, certain elements of the dash design and all the colors of the leather surfaces.
What if someone asks for day-glo green leather on the seats, blue leather on the console and totally different instruments?
“Up to a point we will do whatever the customer wishes,” says Bez. “But ultimately we are selling them an Aston Martin. If they want to change the design completely then they are welcome to go to one of the styling houses, such as Zagato, to turn the car into whatever they wish. But we are not going to do that here.”
It’s fair to say that the visual splendor of the One-77, like that of many other ground-breaking designs, doesn’t fully translate into photographs. But in the raw it is a stunning piece of work to behold, as beastly as it is beautiful. The front end treament is especially beguiling.
It’s all the work of Aston’s design chief, Marek Reichman, who has been with the company since 2005. Ultimately, you will make up your own mind about the car – if and when you are lucky enough to see one in the flesh. But the fact that it has just won the top prize at the recent Villa d’Este show for concept cars and prototypes proves what an amazing job Reichman and his team have done with the hand-made aluminum bodyshell, and in such a relatively short space of time.
It would be easy to be cynical about a car like the One-77, to accuse it of being an overpriced irrelevance, introduced at a time when such obvious excess is the last thing the automotive industry needs. But one look at this incredible car and all that goes straight out of the window.
It is not the answer to many of the problems we face right now, but neither is it the cause of them. And anyway, sometimes you need something extraordinary like the One-77 to provide the world with some perspective – and to give us car fans something to smile about. It is a ridiculously magnificent machine, and for the 77 lucky people who will get to own one, it will truly be one of a kind.Words: Steve Sutcliffe/Autocar
Photos: Stan Papior/Autocar