We all spend more than planned from time to time, but the QV8 is an extreme example. Although it started life as an Aston Martin V8 Coupe, it has since been given a revised exterior and a completely new interior by consultancy ‘Design Q.’ The private customer who commissioned the work had originally only wanted new audio equipment, door handles and switchgear but enthusiasm got the better of him!.
Design Q was founded in 1997 by car designers Howard Guy and Gary Doy. Based in Redditch, Worcestershire, the company has established a reputation for developing exclusive transport products. Their first project was the Jenson SV8 roadster and, although this unfortunately never made full production, other clients have included Spyker Cars, Princess Yachts and Boeing.
Today 60 percent of Design Q’s work is automotive, 20 percent marine, and the rest aircraft interiors. “The automotive work is where the passion and knowledge is, but we use that to bring a fresh perspective to yachts and aircraft,” explained Guy. “The car industry has also started looking to other areas, so ideas are now flowing back the other way.”
The QV8 came about when they presented photo-realistic visuals showing the desired changes combined with the more ambitious modifications. These involved changes to lights, detailing, and more significantly a new glass area and body shape. As part of the new interior, an innovative full width storage unit was proposed in place of the pointless rear seats.
Such work obviously doesn’t come cheap, and most people would rather not start chopping up their Aston Martin, but Guy can be very persuasive. While a student at the Royal College of Art, he convinced Portmans in Mayfair to lend him a Lamborghini Countach to photograph for the degree show poster. At that time it was probably the most expensive car on the planet.
Guy and Doy met at Jaguar, where both made their names. During his ten years there Guy led the design teams behind the XJ8, XJR and S-Type, while Doy worked on the S-Type and XK8 in his seven year spell with the company. “Sketching a design is only a small part of the business if you are going to get an idea into production,” Guy told us. “There are thousands of people at a company like Jaguar, so you have to be politically cute. Market research is usually a waste of time in our business because the customer doesn’t know what they want until they see it.”
With the Aston's owner having agreed to all the proposed ideas, the car’s body was cut and removed forward of the front wheels and rearward of the rear wheels. Areas around the door handles and windows were also cut away, and the bonnet and boot lid were binned. Automotive modelling clay was then applied to these areas to establish the shape of the new car. The interior was completely stripped out and the same clay process was used inside.
Moulds were then taken off the redesigned areas, some of which provided patterns for Pilkington Glass. This was the only work done outside Design Q, and is a process usually reserved for production manufacturing. Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) panels were taken from the large exterior body moulds to produce hammer forms for panel beaters to replicate the shapes in aluminium.
The end result is a refined exterior shape that has 70 percent new body panels. Much of the detailing has been improved, with the most successful aspect being the new glass area. This features the distinctive Zagato style quarter lights found on early Aston Martins and the new Vanquish. On the standard car this area looks far to similar to an old Vauxhall Manta. The car rides on 19 inch alloys from an Aston Martin Vantage and, as an example of how no expense has been spared in the search for the right parts, the rear lights are from a Ferrari 550 Maranello.
The new interior is dominated by what Design Q call, ‘a secure electronic bureau.’ This is a fancy name for the in car storage that has replaced the rear seats, allowing valuables to be covered at the touch of a button. Guy sees this as a feature with a future on mass production models. “With convertibles particularly, there is a need for somewhere to leave your valuables. You can get to this from inside the car, but it is secure and only opens with the key in the ignition.”
The rest of the new interior is as you would expect to find on a luxury car, combining leather, burr elm and deep pile wool carpets. Components from the parts-bin are hard to place, although S-Type owners will recognise the steering wheel. The amplifier, one of the clients original requests, is a one metre long bespoke unit positioned in the base of the boot and cooled by four fans.
Air conditioning and entertainment are now controlled from a touch screen mounted in the centre console. Designed to cut down on the usual array of buttons found in luxury cars, it is a variation on BMW’s iDrive system. Guy insists that unlike iDrive it is straightforward to operate. Other switchgear and the new bevelled dial surrounds are in stainless steel, while a particularly nice feature is the door trim grab handles, which echo the exterior side vents found on many Aston Martin models.
The one area of the car that has been left alone by Design Q is the engine. This means it is an unblown version of the Vantage unit, producing 349bhp and 369lb-ft of torque. It is enough for 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, and Aston Martin claim a top speed of 157mph.
The exact cost of the conversion has not been revealed, but it has been estimated to be in excess of a million Pounds! Guy admits, “We spent about £10,000 on Jaguar parts, and the development cost for the electronic bureau must have been around £40,000.” The project was finished in less than 6 months and the client has since asked Design Q to consider another similar project.