Source: Road & Track Magazine
Written By: Ian Adcock
Photos By: Ian Dawson


Announcing your intention at last year's Paris show to build 77 $1.7 million supercars just as the global economy went into freefall, seemingly without a parachute, struck many as the height of folly.

Fast forward six months and photographer Ian Dawson and I are in Aston's eco-tech styling studio with Design Director Marek Reichman to get an exclusive first look at a car he describes as "being as close to automotive art as we could get."

Ahead of us is the Paris styling buck, but now in all its naked bluish gray glory. The first production version is being hastily built to meet the looming deadline of the Villa D' Este Concours in Italy, where it would win the top design award.

Notwithstanding that I wouldn't see a real car for a few weeks, the clay, even in the design studio's close confines, immediately impresses with its muscular stance. Its proportions are sleek and wide: It's nearly four inches lower than a DBS, yet it's almost 79 in. wide, which should make parking bays at the local JCPenney seem a tad on the tight side. Although it is 4.7 in. shorter than the 186-in.-long DBS, it gains nearly two inches in its wheelbase. "From very early on it had to have perfect proportions and fit inside the Golden Section," explains Reichman (the Golden Section being a rectangle of aesthetically pleasing proportions first proposed by the Greek mathematician Euclid and subsequently used by architects and artists over the centuries).

"I wanted to send a signal that was about making a beautiful design and from an engineering point of view, above all, it would say 'Look, Aston Martin is at the cutting edge of leading technologies,'" adds Engineering Director Ian Minards.

A key target from the beginning was chassis balance so Minards ordered a V8 Vantage mule to be built with the front suspension moved 2.0 in. forward to bring more of the mass within the car's wheelbase and give program manager Chris Porritt an idea of the car's dynamic potential. "The proportions we were after suit the driving dynamics," Reichman explains. "Getting the engine to sit behind the front wheel center from a dynamic perspective is very important. And what that allows us to do from a visual perspective is to have this glorious bonnet and this fantastic wheel to body relationship and front wheel to windscreen relationship."

Because the engine sits lower in the chassis it means that, for the first time on an Aston, the hood is lower than the fenders. Does that point to a new design direction for the marque? "It's a hint at where we could possibly take it. This will form part of the message of future products in terms of its visual aesthetic," is all that Reichman would concede.

Mechanical Bits
The One-77 is a fusion of high-end technology and traditional craftsmanship and that is illustrated nowhere better than in the sumptuous lines Reichman and his design team have created for the aluminum body. In an echo of how Aston body panels were once hand-beaten and rolled in the days of Newport Pagnell, so is it true of the One-77. This is particularly evident around the front gills and the C-pillars where the metal has been formed into an impossibly complex series of negative and positive forms combined with razor fine lines that can be achieved only through superforming and then hours of hand shaping and finishing the aluminum. Astonishingly, Reichman tells me that not only is the rear deck from C-pillar to C-pillar a single piece of formed aluminum, but so too are the doors, which have elegant, flower stem-like mirrors (that may not meet regulations).

The driver and passenger are ensconced in an enclosed F1-quality carbon-fiber monocoque with a "monstrous" level of stiffness, says Minards, more than 22,000 lb.-ft. per degree.

"We set that target because it has race car potential, but we don't want it to be a bone shaker," comments Minards. "It has to have long-distance capability and an extremely rigid chassis, which allows us to compromise on suspension settings for a compliant ride at low speed combined with track capability. We're pretty good at achieving those balances."

It's only when Chris Porritt explains to you that the herringbone design on the central tunnel and the apparently seamless sculpted indents behind the seats are in fact individual pieces of carbon weave that have been meticulously cut and mated up that you start to appreciate why it takes four men from Canada's Multimatic three weeks to lay up one tub. "It's about distilling everything we know about engineering, design, materials and stretch it right out there," says Porritt.

The tub itself is protected from costly low-speed damage by replaceable aluminum crash cans, front and rear, derived from Aston's current product range. Cleverly, the "shotguns" that act as part of the front impact structure double up as air ducts to the engine and brakes.

Wherever possible, Minards and Porritt have utilized known systems and technologies, so it uses DBS-sourced double wishbones and uprights operated via pushrods to inboard springs with two-spool Multimatic dampers. The One-77 also uses a hydraulic rear anti-roll bar.

While components such as the wishbones and disc brakes are identical to those on the DBS, the kinematics, brake pads and ABS have been tuned to accommodate the One-77's lighter weight (about 3300 lb.) and considerably more fearsome performance.

At the time of writing Porritt hadn't had the opportunity to verify the car's performance but he confidently predicted a 212–220 mph top speed, 3.5 seconds to 60, approximately 7 sec. to 100 and 13 sec. to 150. Cosworth, says Minards, was the obvious engine partner as it has experience working on the original Aston V-12 and had worked on the S version. The brief was simple: Make the engine 10 percent lighter, produce 750 bhp and 750 Nm (553 lb.-ft.) of torque.

It starts life as a DBS block and is then bored and stroked out to 7.3 liters with plasma-sprayed bores. Cosworth redesigned the cylinder heads with larger intake and exhaust valves operated by direct-acting cams, with Denso variable timing for the inlet side. Lightweight Cosworth pistons are employed, as are new Siemens injectors together with an in-house reprogrammed ECU.

Another first for Aston are the quad throttles. Porritt explains: "The symmetry is very important for intake sound quality, but what we also wanted was to have each throttle feed three cylinders on the opposite side. I wanted them as close as possible to symmetrical to get a very pure intake noise and ensure the back cylinders aren't starved of air."

The cam covers and inlet manifolds are beautifully crafted carbon fiber protected from exhaust heat by 24-karat gold leaf. Although not on the engine I saw, expect 'Minards chimneys' as seen on the Vanquish, venting hot air from around the rear cylinders.

As if to underline that beauty is more than skin deep on the One-77 there is a new engine front cover, demanded by the dry sump oiling system, milled from a solid aluminum billet. Atop that sits an elegant carbon fiber and polished aluminum brace that dissipates crash forces and ties the structure together while acting as a mounting for the front springs and dampers. It's such an elegant piece of engineering I would order two and put the second on the office wall...

The Real McCoy
Two weeks after Villa D'Este I am back in Aston's design studio standing in front of the award-winning One-77.

If anything it looks even more dramatic and menacing than the clay.

As I walk around the car my eyes are caught by numerous details absent on the clay: The side strakes now have LED repeaters sunk into them and the nose badge is milled from a solid piece of metal into a 3-D version of the Aston winged badge, with all its intricate facets, peaks and troughs, while the grille itself is handmade.

Exterior and interior metal work is now a combination of polished trim and polished dark chrome, although Reichman explains that as the One-77 is a bespoke car each customer can choose whatever metal finish is preferred.

The swan wing door swings open and I slide, rather awkwardly, down into the cabin, threading my legs into the footwell and dropping into the leather-lined race-style seat.

Despite the low roofline there's just enough head room for my 6-ft. 2-in. frame, although an individual seat-fitting might liberate a few more fractions. It's only now that I get a sense of the car's breadth and that long low nose disappearing from view. Thankfully, the raised fenders mean you can judge where the front wheels are, but One-77 drivers still must be acutely aware of the long frontal overhang. "Your eye point is three meters (9.8 ft.) from the front of the car," Reichman tells me.

This example is trimmed in a combination of leathers: hard, almost shoe-like black saddle leather on the doors with the inner face of the pull trimmed in soft padded hide; pearlescent leather faces the seats and other areas, shimmering like the underbelly of a shark and complementing the shark-like blue of the body paint. The inner panels of the seats are woven leather for increased ventilation and better grip under hard cornering, while the roof lining is laser-cut black hide.

Dominating the interior is the huge buttress of a center console that swoops down as if it were once molten and has solidified. Reichman smiles when I tell him the upper air vents remind me of the innards of a fish gill. "We wanted very organic, natural forms to counter the car's high technology continuing the theme of advanced and natural materials," he tells me.

Look through the rearview mirror and virtually all you can see are the pushrods for the rear suspension. There's precious little luggage space save for a small compartment that will house a soft weekend bag, says Reichman.

I am tempted to push the start button, but one look at the designer's stern face persuades me otherwise. "When we fired it up the other day in the viewing garden it set off car alarms in the visitors' parking area." Clearly, it's loud.

Once the forward-hinged and gold foillined hood is open you appreciate how far back the engine is; all you can see is what is, ostensibly, a V-6 with 7.3-liter V12 markings on the carbon cam covers reminding you what is powering the beast.

The overall impression is of a car that exudes attention to detail, a car that combines handcrafted materials with space-age technology.

Aston is coy about how many One-77s it has sold, saying only that "We are encouraged by the interest that has been shown in the car," and that "some" will be heading to the States.

Only time will tell whether the One-77 will be a folly or a success. But no one can deny the depth of quality, attention to detail and, above all, the sheer craftsmanship that has gone into delivering this outstanding supercar.

Aston Martin One-77
Specifications

List price: £1,020,000 (with tax and delivery = £1,200,000)
Curb weight: est 3300 lb
Weight distribution, f/r%: 49/51
Wheelbase: 109.9 in.
Length: 180.2 in.
Width: 78.7 in.
Height: 48.2 in.
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: aluminum block & heads, dohc V-12
Displacement: 7312 cc
Bore x stroke: 94.0 mm x 87.8 mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Horsepower (SAE): 750 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Redline: 7750 rpm
Fuel injection: elect. sequential port
Recommended fuel: 93 octane
Transmission: 6-speed paddle-shift manual
Chassis & Body
Layout: front engine/rear drive
Body/frame: aluminum/carbon fiber
Brakes, f/r: 15.7-in. vented carbon ceramic discs/14.2-in. vented carbon ceramic discs; vacuum assist, ABS
Wheels: forged aluminum
Tires: Pirelli P Zero Corsa, 255/35R-20 f, 335/30R-20 r
Steering: rack & pinion, power assist
Suspension, f/r: upper & lower A-arms, push rod actuated shocks, anti-roll
bar/upper & lower A-arms, push rod actuated shocks, anti-roll bar
Performance
0–60 mph, sec: est 3.5
0–100 mph, sec: est 7.0
Top speed: est 212 mph