Aston Martin’s Soul Remains at Newport Pagnell
Aston Martin’s Soul Remains at Newport Pagnell
Newport Pagnell — to the average person, the name may sound like a geological survey company, but for car enthusiasts, it’s a special place. This small English town was home to Aston Martin for more than a half-century, and it was the birthplace of everything from James Bond’s DB4/5 to the sharp-nosed Lagonds that defined the 1980s.
So much of Aston Martin’s history took place on one small line of Tickford Street that when the company’s headquarters moved to Gaydon in 2003, many felt like the heart never left.
It only takes a little background to understand why Newport Pagnell is so special. In the mid-1950s, Aston Martin took over the Tickford works. This was originally home to Salmons and Sons, a company that could trace its history back to building carriages in the 1830s. So the acquisition of this location instantly made Aston Martin part of a coachbuilding tradition older than the motor car.
The Tickford Street facility would expand over the years as volume and complexity of car construction expanded. It started with the DB4 and ended with the V12 Vanquish.
As significant as this place was, Aston Martin needed to leave Newport Pagnell. Under Ford ownership in the mid-1990s, there was a healthy investment in creating modern sports cars. Newport Pagnell already couldn’t contain DB7 production, and the upcoming V8 Vantage promised to need even more capacity. They opened a new factory in Gaydon that consolidated production and created a world-class headquarters.
While many of the offices on Tickford went empty, the soul of the company never left Newport Pagnell. Operations scaled down, but the Tickford Street facility continued to produce spare parts and house the restoration business of Aston Martin Works.
As people started to understand that there was still a beating heart in Newport Pagnell, something else took hold. There was a renewed interest from owners in having their vintage cars restored within the same compound from which they were born. Plus, there was a growing line of younger Aston owners who wanted their cars to pass through the same hallowed doors as their famous predecessors. This led to some interesting developments.
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A new showroom was built on the grounds in 2012. Despite producing vehicles on Tickford Street for more than a half-century, this was the first time Aston Martin established a dealership in the area. Behind the modern showroom is an older restoration/production facility that has been turned into a modern service center. It’s filled mostly with cars built in the last dozen years.
There are qualified Aston Martin technicians around the world who can service the modern machines locally. Still, there are some well-heeled customers that send their cars across oceans to Newport Pagnell. There’s just something gravitational about sending a car to its ancestral home for Works service.
Preserving, maintaining and growing the legacy is such a central theme that the focal point of the dealership’s lounge is a big glass wall looking into the shop. However, the largest undertaking for Aston Martin Works isn’t on public display. A small workshop in the back of the facility is home to the small-batch continuation cars. They started with the DB4 GT in 2017 and they’re currently completing the DB4 Zagato program. Next they have 25 James Bond DB5 continuation cars scheduled for 2020 to coincide with the 25th 007 film to be released in the spring.
Just like with the originals, thousands of hours go into using hand tools to flex and form aluminum around design bucks. But as soot and sparks fly from the business of car creation, there are individual fans to make sure the atmosphere stays clean and pristine. The place looks as sterile as a surgery center, and that seems right for vehicles that command a multi-million dollar price tag.
Restoration, repair, vintage sales and hand-built continuation cars – that’s the new legacy for Newport Pagnell. Clean garage floors and marble showrooms have allowed poshness to replace some of the pluckiness on Tickford Street. Still, you can stand in the all-glass dealership, sip an espresso, and have a clear view to nearly 200 years of legacy. Newport Pagnell is magical.
Myles is a journalist known for writing automotive histories in his books as well as features in Hemmings Daily, Octane, Top Gear and others. Anyone stopping by the Miles Collier Collections in Naples, Florida can also pick up his column in the Florida Weekly.