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Seen, but not touched: Aston Martin Valkyrie

We get to specify our dream Valkyrie at the factory. Sadly we were a bit short of the asking price...

By Mike Duff / Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Forget dusty pot plants, over-hot coffee or the need to bat away increasingly insistent offers of paint protection and tyre insurance. Ordering an Aston Martin Valkyrie is a different and - you'll be unsurprised to hear - far more agreeable experience.

The 150 buyers who are both rich and lucky enough to have got their names on the list for what looks set to be the world's fastest road-legal car get the chance to order their vehicles via a personal audience with one or more of the company's senior design team and a private "specification room" that has been built at one end of the lobby at the company's Gaydon HQ. Which is where I went for my own Valkyrie specification session last week.

That felt so good to type that I've got to do it again: my own Valkyrie specification session. But before the Inland Revenue gets too excited, I have to admits that I'm not in this particular VVIP area, being pretty much exactly $3.2m short of the Valkyrie's $3.2m base price. There was still no chance of passing up the chance to visit and see what the chosen few will experience when they come here to specify their own cars, with the bonus of getting a chance to see the finished version in rendered form.

The big news here - beyond the fact the Gaydon lobby now has a live share price tracker following Aston's recent floatation - is that Valkyrie buyers will be able to order their cars with an optional AMR Track Performance Pack. This will move the road-legal Valkyrie somewhere closer to the ultimate performance of the track-only AMR Pro version - 002 in Red Bull Racing speak - which will follow it. This is certainly more than a sport button, or even a set of stripes; rather it's most of a separate car, a kit that will allow the Valkyrie to be transformed with a new front clamshell featuring much more aggressive wingwork, a 50mm suspension drop, lighter titanium brakes, firmed up everything and carbon 'aero discs' for the wheels to help reduce drag.

Converting the car to its full-fang configuration isn't going to be the work of a minute, or even a couple of hours; Aston admits it will take a fair amount of labour to switch a Valkyrie to track mode - and the car won't be road legal once transformed. But it will produce what is claimed to be an 8 per cent improvement in typical lap time compared to what we can be certain will be the already blisteringly quick Valkyrie, and the different bodywork means it will be possible to choose different colour schemes for the same car. So I'm going to get to specify two cars, rather than just one.

According to Aston design director Miles Nurnberger, who comes by to introduce the car, the first Valkyrie validation prototype hasn't even been built yet. The Cosworth-developed V12 engine is already being put through its paces in the back of an old LMP racer, and chief test pilot Chris Goodwin is spending most of his life in Red Bull's F1-grade simulators working on virtual versions.

Design for the core structure was 'frozen' last year, but details are still being worked on. Nurnberger says it is the most complicated project that he and his team have ever worked on. "The most difficult, but the most rewarding as well. The tub is the structure and also most of the interior and the exterior as well," he says, "your styling work is also your structural work, normally you have a structure and then a beam and we work on the outside of that. But this is total integration in the way the car world doesn't normally do... it's much closer to an F1 car than a conventional road car."

Although the original Valkyrie concept sits on one side of the Specification Room, pretty much all of my attention is drawn to the crisp renderings that are being shown on the display screen. Strangely, they look almost more real than the motorshow car itself, possibly because the prominent gap between the original concept's wheel arches and the central tub has now been covered by more air-flowing bodywork.

This certainly isn't a bog standard configurator. The models I'm looking at are coming from a professional-grade Autodesk CAD system, with Q-Division CGI specialist Stuart Boote on hand to spin the car to a chosen angle, zoom in on details and - ultimately - to give me a full virtual reality walkaround. I'm also joined by Thomas Leret, Aston's senior colour and trim designer, to give some much-needed advice on what goes with what.

While Aston designers have created various different themed specifications, the anticipation is that most owners are going to be making their cars as individual as possible. According to Leret, some know exactly what they want and have already pretty much decided on final specification based on the information that has already been shared; but most will be making use of Aston's bespoke Q-Division and the huge number of possibilities to customise the car further.

These range from the sublime to the close-to-ridiculous. As I reported from the Cosworth engine test, any owners sharing Valkyrie designer Adrian Newey's passion for minimalism will be able to forego lacquer on the V12's carbon fibre air box, saving 80g. A titanium Aston Martin badge is 99 percent lighter than the standard badge, but if that's not enough it will be possible to specify an even lighter mesh design that will be put under the topcoat of the paint. Alternatively, three shades of ultra-lightweight paint will be offered - blue, green and grey - each adding just 700 grams to the weight of the naked carbon fibre shell. It will also be possible to get exposed tinted bodywork, as well as a variety of different finishes for other carbon surfaces; the milled 'mokume' style bits look particularly good.

Of course, there's no such thing as bad taste, only other people's, and it will be possible to go - how should I put this? - more 'Mansory' if the mood takes. From a relatively restrained 24 Carat 'Gold Pack' which puts precious metal under the paint lacquer through to the sort of extreme paint finishes and graphics which a YouTube supercar vlogger might regard as a bit much. It's even possible to change the colour of the front suspension arms, which are visible through the bodywork.

My plan for 'my' Valkyrie was to stick to a relatively unobtrusive road livery and then push the boat out with a Track Pack colour scheme bright enough to get slower-moving GT3 racers darting out of my way. The only problem is that the dark blue I choose to work with the blue tinted naked carbon roof looks a bit too self-effacing once I'm seeing it on the screen. Leret offers recommendations in the respectful tones of a Saville Row tailor advising a well-upholstered client on how to minimise the profile of a bulging gut: white cant rails and some matching contour-following lines at the front in the same colour break things up nicely. But it takes the sudden arrival of Aston's Creative Director Marek Reichmann, drawn to the Specification Room expecting to find an actual paying buyer, to suggest something a bit jazzier with the blended dark-to-light paint finish. Be rude not to.

The extent of the changes allowed by the track pack are clear by just how different my choice of Maximum Orange looks: beyond the basic tub most bodywork is swapped over, and it even gets front wishbones to match the detail stripes. It's only later I realise that I've pretty much created an inverse version of the Gulf GTC livery that the McLaren F1 wore in 1996, which has always been a personal favourite. I keep the cabin relatively subtle with blue 'laser etched' Alcantara, optional titanium rocker switches for the steering wheel and mokume carbon details; and yes, it really does have four separate display screens.

Finally there's a chance to get closer to my finished Valkyrie by donning a pair of VR goggles and having the car dropped in front of me. The graphics aren't as crisp as those on the display screens - and I keep tripping over furniture as I move around - but it feels genuinely amazing to have a chance to see a car that doesn't physically exist in what feels like three dimensions.

There's just one unanswered question: how much is all this extra stuff going to cost? This isn't one of those configurators with an auto-updating price field. "We would have to consult with the different teams to get an exact figure," Aston's PR tells me. I bet it wouldn't be a small one.


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