Prior Convictions: Forgetting your roots

Sound the bells and break out the bunting, Aston Martin production has officially returned to Newport Pagnell. Of a fashion, at least. The first deliveries of Aston's DB4 GT Continuation model have begun.

Some 25 of these new track-only GTs, built to the same specification as the originals, are to be made, in the same location as the originals, and priced at around £1.5m each. Only 75 DB4 GTs were built between 1959 and 1963, and only eight were lightweight models. They won quite a lot of races, and are the specification to which these new cars will be built.

The Newport Pagnell factory was eventually vacated by Aston's production line in 2007, after the business had already relocated to Gaydon, Warwickshire. Today Newport Pagnell still houses Aston Martin Works, the facility that looks after classic Astons.

Good news, then, for fans of classic Astons who can't spare the £3m-plus a period DB4 GT demands. (Well, good news for 25 of them, anyway.) And good news, too, for those who like to see production, such as it is, returning to Newport Pagnell.

Does it matter, this return of manufacturing to an old stomping ground? It's being billed as something historic but I suspect it doesn't really. I guess it's important in which country Astons Martins are made, for the reason BMW makes Rolls-Royces and Minis here. But I doubt it makes the blindest bit of difference which town. Rolls-Royces were never historically assembled at Goodwood and yet they now make more cars than ever. Some Minis are made in Austria but, because the factory in Oxford churns out more than 200,000 a year, I don't imagine most people really notice.

It's only when writing that sentence that I remembered the Aston Rapide was built in Austria for a time, too. And yet still, via Gaydon and Austria, the company turned out more cars than it ever did at Newport Pagnell or, just as importantly, the places it built cars in the 34 years before it moved there. From a historical significance point of view, it might as well return to Feltham.

Anyway, what of the car itself, this DB4 GT Recreation? Curious thing. I'm sure it'll be terrific, and if you've bought one, I dare say you'll love it to bits. That's all that really matters, isn't it? Because whether it says good or bad things about a company rather depends on your point of view.

Do you see it as an important piece of work in reminding people of Aston's race heritage, for example? A way of showcasing the precious, otherwise vanishing skills of the craftspeople who still work over there? Or do you think it's a relatively easy way to pull £37.5m through the door? I suppose it could be both.

Jaguar also does this Recreation thing, but hardly anyone else does, so I wonder if it's a peculiarly British trait. We do like trading on nostalgia, after all. I can't imagine Ferrari turning out a few more 250 SWBs, for example, or Porsche making a 917 Recreation series. They have the vibe of companies who are more interested in creating new legends than reprising old ones. I mean, they'd probably ask you that, given today's cars are so good, why the hell you'd want yesterday's?

You wouldn't, for example, approach Sony and ask for a moderately-sized television, with a convex screen, mediocre picture quality, only one speaker, and a 150kg box the size of a chicken coop attached to the back of it. Ideally clad it in wood and put it on wheels and make sure I can't adjust it unless I get off the sofa while you're at it, there's a good bunch. I mean, how stupid does that sound? I don't know. Maybe only about as stupid as the fact that I still sometimes use a 48k ZX Spectrum simulator on a new £1,000 laptop. It's complicated, is I suppose what I'm saying.

I suspect, ultimately, then, that in all the talk of history and heritage and craftsmanship and so on, there are only two things that really matter: that the skills stay alive, and that they're worth a not insignificant £37.5m.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (22) Join the discussion on the forum

  • oilit 16 Dec 2017

    ref: " .......there are only two things that really matter: that the skills stay alive, and that they're worth a not insignificant £37.5m"

    There is a third thing, which is that there is quite obviously a market for them, and some people somewhere are prepared to part with their hard earned cash to actually have one.

    You also forgot the MGRV8 which was effectively a similar thing - and I am sure there must be others that will come to mind after I have had my 2nd coffee :-)

  • ducnick 16 Dec 2017

    Don’t forget the Lister recreation

  • sisu 16 Dec 2017

    Anyone who has done a serious restoration of something realises that there is a point where building it new is a viable option than the patchwork of repair panels.
    When they are digging them out of feilds it is a bad omen in any car scene.
    Aftermarket manufacturers of repair panels or complete shells for cars always has the shadow of knowing that if the original manufacturer starts supplying it then it becomes not just about who has the better quality restoration/replica, but who is the type of owner.
    I think they are getting the Lads at Aston to pop a brown jacket on to give it that Goodwood Revival romance as most Aston Martins/morgan/Mclaren/Lotus/TVR have servicing done at the factory and this romantic connection far outweighs the quality of this, even from new anyone who has owned a British sports car from new is aware how bad things are for these new cars and that they just wrap themselves in the Union Jack over bits falling off or not working due to barometric variances.
    The question of car manufacturers just building the iconic cars so they can lend them out to car hacks on the Miller Miglia or Classic Lemans to maintain this brand image is more a question of where these car companies see their heritage.
    You need to make non roadworthy variants, as 'track only' gets them out of being sued. So odd ball race homologation versions are what they like. I would think that Porsche would be thinking of something like the 550 or a 911ST, '74 rsr IROC race cars as they are shoving £5 notes in the mouth of the MILF that is early 911 history.
    Ferrari would probably do this, but only after you show you bought every naff model since 1985.
    Lamborghini have just started the polo storico and are looking to show car hacks why they like hexagonal vents.
    I don't think Japanese or Swedish car manufacturers would make a carbon copy of their 60's classic as they are a forward thinking culture.

  • Mike335i 16 Dec 2017

    I like the idea of recreating classics, they hold an appeal over modern stuff that just can't be matched. It would be great if these cars could be sensibly priced and not just billionaire playthings though.

    Why does it matter which country the car is made in, other than that it is made in the best possible way? Seems like patriotic/nostalgic guff to me.

    Edited by Mike335i on Saturday 16th December 08:54

  • grumpy52 16 Dec 2017

    Will we be seeing them being road tested by men in period coats on early mornings in the summer .
    Always a joy on an early morning run to Silverstone to have an Aston blast past on one of the lanes around Newport Pagnell.

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