► CAR builds an Aston Valkyrie hypercar
► Our experience of customisation process
► What do you think of our specification?
Kid, meet candy shop. If you’re the kind of petrolhead that loves spending hours and hours making your perfect cars on online configurators, being invited to Aston Martin’s HQ in Gaydon to personally spec your own Valkyrie hypercar has to be the pinnacle of your car customisation portfolio.
Not least because this is a car you’ll be lucky to ever see in the metal yourself, but because this kind of customer personalisation experience is so exclusive. While some other manufacturers may have a VIP salesperson at a dealer to whisk you through the process of sapping a large wad of cash out of your wallet for some new metal, Valkyrie buyers are carefully guided by the brand’s designers. In our case, it was Libby Meigh, Colour and Material Manager for Aston. ‘What’s quite unusual about this process is actually meeting a designer,’ she said, ‘I don’t think that’s typical of the industry when a customer comes in.’
Everything you need to know about the Aston Martin Valkyrie
That’s just one part of a long process surrounding the whole concept of getting your hands on the Valkyrie that you’ve ordered. Customers are informed of when every tiny step in the process happens; Marek Reichman, Executive VP and Chief Creative Officer, said ‘they get information all of the time. There’s a regular bulletin, and don’t forget that some have deposited fully on this car, and they are not going to see a car for two years.’ Reichman adds that a buyer is invited to a biannual dinner where the Aston and Red Bull teams talk about everything from the highs to the lows of the ongoing project, ‘because everyone knows that all programs have their inflection points where you need to get to this level in order to move to the next step.’
Talk me through the process
Typically, a buyer will come into Gaydon HQ to get building, with a gentle hand guiding them along multi-faceted process of building their 1,000bhp hypercar. ‘We try to push customers to each have a unique theme, and we take them down different avenues to make sure each car is different,’ said Libby, ‘we don’t want too many the same, so each car is part of the history.’
The specification room has everything from a Valkyrie show car and dummy cockpit to swathes of Alcantara material samples, colour tiles and moulds to show off the hues on a miniature scale Valkyrie body to some pre-designed themes from Aston’s designers to get the inspiration juices flowing. Oh, and a giant screen for rendering your car digitally. But this isn’t just any old configurator you can spec a diesel hatchback on; this is millimetre-precise CAD software that Aston actually used during the design process.
Stuart Boote, Q Vision CGI Specialist, said ‘the difference between this and a normal configurator is that this is the very latest CAD data, and a tool for us.
‘With configurators generally, you have to have everything pre-configured. Especially with this vehicle you can have any colour you wish; customers are bringing in cars or other items and saying ‘can you please match to this…’ You’d be there for weeks trying to develop them all.’
After the specification is completed, buyers have a chance to visualise it in VR using a HTC Vive.
Is it really that detailed?
More than you’ll even begin to conceive. Paint-wise, Aston naturally has a huge set of colours itself, including some lightweight ones, but the brand will gladly replicate any colour if you bring a swatch in, or merge two colours together for a half-and-half effect. There are metal types for the switchgear, different wheel types, and graphic packs. We could go on.
Highlights include the new ultra-lightweight Aston wings badges. Stuff your regular enamel ones – they’re too heavy and cause too much drag – so specific under-lacquer ones have been developed: ‘this is less than a micron thick and it sits underneath the lacquer,’ said Libby, ‘this was the kind of attention to detail that we’ve had to pay. With Adrian Newey’s influence, he didn’t want any kind of interference with aero.’
The partnership with Red Bull has really pushed the Aston Martin teams to come up with innovations. Libby adds: ‘Even though it’s a very performance-led project, I think we’re still really rich in the choices we can have and how you can spec it. It’s by no means a compromise, in fact we’ve embraced it and done lots of cool new things. With all of the materials we have to focus on weight and performance. It’s made us work in a way that perhaps we’ve never had to consider before.’
There’s a tricky balance at play here; Aston can’t go entirely bonkers with luxury bits and pieces but Red Bull can’t just make the Valkyrie just an F1 car with number plates. Marek says the two teams have the balance right: ‘it’s about every single decision; take weight out but provide a beautiful material solution.’
‘Everything is a compromise in life, but this is the least compromised. Everything we therefore do has to think about luxury in a way, but it can’t deteriorate from performance,’ Reichman adds, ‘quite honestly, it’s the tenacity of the designer to get to the solution. The beauty there is when Libby and her team come up with a solution and the engineers see it and go ‘wow!’, then you know you have a win because you have an engineer solution that suits the design language. Compromise to beauty and performance.’
Of course, there are still plenty of elements of customer choice in here; that’s why Aston has also dabbled in some more luxurious touches like gold leaf coachwork lines and different patterns in the carbonfibre, with one having a marbling effect first seen on the Vulcan.
Walk me through your Valkyrie specification, then
Exterior first. I had always wanted to see the Valkyrie in a contrasting colour from the metallic grey on the show car or the lime of the AMR version, and I have a thing for red.
Of course, ‘red’ is a bit generic in terms of the Valkyrie builder’s detail. Fiery? Terracotta-like? Matte? Burgundy? I settled on Fiamma Red – a metallic hue with an orange-ish lower layer to bring out so many of the Valkyrie’s aerodynamic curves when light hits it. Upon reflection, it has actually been used on the Vulcan to similar bulge-showing effect. Good.
It wasn’t the plan, but so many of the Valkyrie’s graphic packs do little other than enhance some of the car’s lines, so a particular pack that was chosen here highlights the bare suspension joints and aero scoops ingrained in the car’s shell, with the roof strake adding some contrast to the black, bare carbon roof – all in a light silver. Top it all off with silver ‘lipstick’ on the roof scoop and exhaust. ‘Everything around the rear end of the car is ceramic Zircotec-coated because of the temperatures we see here – about 600 degrees C,’ said Libby.
Everything you need to know about the Aston Martin Valkyrie
As for the interior, the theme of silvers and red continues, despite Libby’s pointer: ‘for practical reasons, a lot of people choose a dark colour inside, because you stand on the seats as you get in.’ No dark material colours for me – I’ve struck a balance between lighting up the interior without making it immediately susceptible to dirt and scuffing with a grey blend in the Alcantara, which feature’s Aston’s e-Grip pattern – an electro-welded pattern in the pads that provides extra seat grip when cornering.
I further brighten up the interior with red stitching and red harness material that almost mirrors the exterior colour. I’ve also gone for the checkerboard carbon rather than the ‘Makume’ marbled material, which also features in the headlight housing.
I also got to see the car with the new AMR Track Pack fitted (below), which includes more aggressive body panels and a 50mm drop in ride height. ‘With the Track Pack, you essentially get a whole set of new body panels and it takes a couple of days to switch from one to the other,’ said Libby. The pack manages to make my spec look even fiercer.
Once built, Stuart loads up the awesomely-named 'Q Vision' virtual reality kit, so I can get up close and personal with my own specification.
Have I ruined it? According to both Marek and Libby, whom I asked to be as brutally honest as possible about my spec, they both loved it. ‘I’m really pleased with this spec,’ said Libby, and Marek agreed: ‘You’ve done a brilliant job,’ said Marek, ‘it’s a great colour, and the fact that you’ve highlighted our roof strake and graphic language used is great.’
So, how much is Aston billing you?
Well, it’s known that the base price of a new Valkyrie is £2.5million. What they won’t tell plebs like me is how much exactly each additional spec choice costs. However, Marek gives me a rough idea: ‘You’ve probably touched on £3m, I suspect.’ Before they forwarded the invoice, I picked up my things and left. Rather quickly.
Still, quite an experience for a spec-obsessed car bloke. Not sure I'll be able to top that.
What do you think of my Valkyrie specification? Have I gone down the wrong path? Given the flexibility of the offerings, tell us how you would build one in the comments. Scroll to the end of the gallery for some Aston designer specs to give you a better idea of just what you can do with Aston Martin’s ultimate road car.
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