Photographs: Steve Harries
Set Design: Lightning + Kinglyface

The Q by Aston Martin team can offer objects and textures to help in deciding your bespoke styling as well as colour options ranging from Madagascar Orange and Sandstone to Onyx Black and Spectral Blue

Q. IT’S A SPECIAL LETTER.Worth more than most on the Scrabble board, right at the front of the words “quality” and “quintessential”, the heart of “unique”, and famous, of course, for conjuring up images of the remarkable creations that emerge from “Q Branch”, supplier of James Bond’s first Aston Martin (the DB MKIII he selected from MI6’s “pool” in the Goldfinger novel) as well as the rather more lavishly equipped DB5s, V8s, Vanquishes and so on that the world’s least secret agent relies on in the films.

So when a line-up of V12 Vantage S cars was made available to drive in California’s Coachella Valley desert during the model’s recent global launch, it was hardly surprising that the example most people made a beeline for was the one which sported a discreet, heavily chromed letter “Q” on the rear part of its front wings. Even from several yards away, you could see it looked extra special, with its soft, China Grey paintwork and red-tinted carbon-fibre accents.

“Q by Aston Martin allows owners to create unique examples of rolling art that demonstrate their enthusiasm for both their cars and the marque”

It was the product of Q by Aston Martin, a service that was quietly announced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011 and which, until now, has been publicised almost exclusively by word of mouth. The service’s purpose is to take the already rare and special cars which are “standard” Aston Martins and, by working closely with their owners, transform them into unique editions, examples of rolling art that demonstrate, however discreetly, their enthusiasm both for their car and the marque. The “Q” process can be instigated either by direct contact with Aston Martin’s headquarters at Gaydon, or through the company’s worldwide dealership network. In any event, an owner will be led to Matthew Bennett, General Manager of VIP and Q Sales, whose task is to explain what is available and “just what Q can do for you”.

“Those first meetings with the client are really important because it is then we can explain that anything is possible but also, because we know the cars so intimately, what will work and what will not,” says Bennett. “The value in the service is that it results in a unique car, and that can be as a result of instigating even the most minor of changes, such as the colour of the interior stitching. Equally, it can be about creating a one-off paint scheme or even commissioning an entire car. Either way, the point is that it should be a fun and enjoyable process in which we have a very close interaction with the customer.” Visitors to Aston Martin’s W-One showroom in Park Lane will also be shown a variety of sensory, colourful objects, such as those featured on these pages, to help assist them in choosing the look and feel they want to achieve.

Bennett says that only around 60 cars were given the Q by Aston Martin treatment in 2012, a figure that grew to more than 200 in 2013 and which is clearly set to keep on rising as it becomes an ever more important part of the Aston Martin offering. As a result, Q by Aston Martin projects are carried through from start to finish by a dedicated team of around 10 people, including colour experts, engineers and interior specialists. The design team is led by Aston Martin design chief Marek Reichman, whose renowned skills are personally available to Q customers.

“It is very much about personal service, and we would travel anywhere in the world to meet a customer in order to discuss a project,” says Reichman, explaining that Aston Martin’s size and exclusivity allow for a unique opportunity to enjoy a very close relationship with the marque’s customers.

Left: inspirational colours are reflected in a versatile paint palette that ranges from solids and metallics to iridescent finishes and Aston Martin’s Speed Yellow. Right: gold and metallic tones are possible choices for a distinctive leather colour or finish.

“The ability to personalise and tailor-make is really key to the modern perception of luxury. We find that people want to make their cars bespoke because they intend to keep them for a lifetime and therefore want them to look exactly as they want them to look. The only thing we will not do, of course, is compromise the integrity of the marque in any way, so there are boundaries, albeit broad ones.” One area that is generally sacrosanct, for example, is the legendary Aston Martin winged logo. Invariably, the Q department would not consider a request to alter its widely recognised appearance, although one client’s imaginative idea for a truly unique wing badge—substituting the “standard” wings with inlaid and enamelled ones from a scarab beetle—was deemed interesting enough to be brought to fruition.

“The ability to personalise is key to the modern perception of luxury. People make their cars bespoke because they want to keep them for a lifetime”

Usually, however, clients express a wish to have the colour of a particular object replicated in their car’s paintwork—something which can be done exactly using the latest colour-matching technology—or to have an interior fitted with special veneers, coatings (such as ceramic or gold), inlays or monograms. The Q by Aston Martin design service uses the latest paint techniques such as “Chromaflair” iridescent paint or satin to produce bespoke colours to a customer’s precise needs. The specifications can be so exacting that in some cases the project takes an entire year to perfect.

“Often,” says Bennett, “we will send swatch sets to a customer giving examples of upholstery, carpets and paintwork in the tones they are considering, so that they can be happy with the way they work together. Alternatively, we might create a CAD (Computer Aided Design) rendering, which will result in an almost photographic image of the car to the exact specification required.” After that, of course, it’s simply a matter of adding the distinctive badge of honour that is the Q by Aston Martin logo at the appropriate place on the finished car. Or is it? “Not exactly,” says Bennett. “The Q badging is not something we automatically fit to a Q car. It is, rather, something that is made available only by invitation. Which is why you’ll only ever see one on the most special of the special.”