Sometimes It Pays to (Half) Back Experience

June 5th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

It would be a hard man who didn’t feel the slightest tinge of sympathy for axed All Black scrum-half, Andy Ellis this week. Despite the less than sparkling form of the Crusaders this term, Ellis has consistently played at a standard that would suggest a certain black jersey emblazoned with a large, white 9 would be his for the taking.

Of course, nothing is certain in professional sports and given the sparkling form of TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Smith, there was always the risk that Steve Hanson might choose this test series against Ireland, a team who history tells us are completely incapable of beating the ABs no matter what the circumstances, to blood the players he sees as the future of the brand. But you would hope that Andy Ellis is a rational man and if such a strategy was deliberately being adopted, he would refrain from too much wailing or gnashing of teeth.

However, you can imagine it would rankle a touch to find himself dumped in favour of Auckland’s most famous bakery patron. Not that many months ago, I could be found wandering the streets bedecked in a t-shirt advising all and sundry to keep calm because Saint Piri was here to save us, but since then things have deteriorated somewhat. I adore Piri for what he achieved, but the simple fact is that if you or I had performed at such a woeful level at our day jobs – including showing up in a physical state that left us incapable of fulfilling the role – we would have been fired long before now. Yet for doing nothing more than not being quite as fat as he was in January, Weepu has been handed one of the fifteen most prestigious jerseys in world rugby.

Well, not quite nothing. In a desperate attempt to minimise the risk of Andy throwing himself from the highest building in Christchurch, Steve Hanson has justified the selection of Piri because of his ‘experience’. Experience is a good get out of jail free card; no one will ever get too grumpy about you having a bit of know-how in reserve for the unplanned moments where things get a little sticky.

Stunning. Simply stunning.

Which is exactly what happened with the Aston Martin DB7.

Throughout the 1980’s Aston was spearheaded by its V8 range, which were some of the manliest cars ever made; brutish monsters with a foundry under the bonnet, rear wheel drive and precious little in the way of technology between the two. They were absolutely fabulous – the stuff of comic book fantasies – but the onset of the 1990’s saw a demand for a new level of refinement. English Premier League footballers and celebrities who were famous for no other reason than they attended the right parties started crawling out of every available bit of glitterati woodwork and demanding a suitably suave motor to match their outfits.

Sensing a chance to cash in on the prestige of their badge, the tops boffins at Aston decided the world was ready for a DB7. Their design team had crafted what was possibly the prettiest piece of automotive bodywork in history and now all they required was a chassis on which they could drop it. But rather than go down the expensive route of designing an entirely new unit, they decided to hedge their bets on some proven technology and utilise the chassis from the venerable Jaguar XJS.

In all honesty it was a bit of a strange choice. During the entire production history of the XJS not one of them ran for long enough to prove itself as a good car or otherwise, but in truth it really didn’t matter. The kind of person who bought the DB7 wouldn’t have cared if its roots could be traced back to a Trabant. What that mattered was it was one of the most stunningly beautiful cars ever made and its influence can still be seen in the Astons of today.

So maybe there is method in Steve Hanson’s madness. After all, if the ABs of the future can show a bit of Piri’s passion and swagger, it will certainly have been a risk worth taking. We can only hope that unlike the Aston, his legacy doesn’t stretch to the bodywork.

Aston Martin to debut updated DBS in 2012

July 15th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Aston Martin’s DBS has been on the scene for five years now and the DB9 on which its based has been on sale for eight years. Both models are in their twilight years, but its been revealed that they’ll have to keep going a few more years yet. The replacement is expected to be all new, but won’t be available until 2015. Till then Aston Martin is planning a comprehensive facelift for the DB9 family.

The high-end DBS will be the first model to receive the changes before the updates are used on the rest of the model line. Expect to see some design cues borrowed off the One-77 supercar, this will show the influence of new design boss Marek Reichman.

The new touches will see a fully updated front fascia which drops the company’s trademark shape in favor of a new single grille/air dam. There will also be re-shaped bonnet vents and sharper lines all around. Continue reading “Aston Martin to debut updated DBS in 2012” »

Aston Martin to put V12 Zagato into limited production

July 8th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Aston Martin has confirmed its new V12 Zagato will be put into limited production following on from a successful unveiling at the Villa D’ Este Concours show. Following its debut the V12 Zagato, went on to complete in the 39th ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour race and Aston Martin claims that there is overwhelming interest from customers for the V12 Zagato.

Based on Aston’s V12 Vantage and sporting a handcrafted aluminium and carbon fibre body, the V12 Zagato will be produced in very limited numbers.  Orders are now being taken and production is expected to commence during summer 2012 at Aston Martin’s global headquarters at Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Speaking about the V12 Zagato, Aston Martin’s Chief Executive Dr. Ulrich Bez, said: “Such style, exclusivity and fastidious craftsmanship ensures it will be one of the most highly coveted models in Aston Martin’s 98-year history. A fabulous celebration of the iconic DB4GT Zagato, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the V12 Zagato is the perfect inspiration for the next 50 years of Aston Martin.”

In honour of the performance and racing heritage of previous collaborations, the first two V12 Zagatos were developed as endurance race cars from the outset and had their track debut just one week after being shown to the public at the Villa D’Este Concours. Continue reading “Aston Martin to put V12 Zagato into limited production” »

Aston Martin forced to scale down Rapide production

June 22nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

While some experts will say the worst of the global recession is over, it’s still doing damage in many key areas – supercars included. The latest injury to this exclusive car market is Aston Martin’s Rapide sports sedan which is struggling to achieve the sales that were expected.

According to recent reports, production of the Rapide is being slashed to 25 cars per week, that’s 1,250 per year. When the four-door was released it was expected to sell at least 2,000 units a year. Considering that the British carmakers annual production load is around 8,000 cars a year total, the Rapide’s poor sales are having an affect on Aston Martin. Continue reading “Aston Martin forced to scale down Rapide production” »

Aston Martin puts stunning V12 Zagato on show (+video)

May 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

When Aston Martin announced it was working in with Italian design house Zagato on a new project it got car fans everywhere excited. Now that the end result has been unveiled we can confirm that the new machine is a dead set stunner.

Named the Aston Martin V12 Zagato, this elegantly-curved beauty has been debuted at Italy’s Lake Como on the way to last weekend’s Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este. Built in celebration of a 50-year long working relationship between Aston Martin and Zagato, the new model draws inspiration from its classic 1961 DB4 GT ancestor.

Apparently, the V12 Zagato takes design cues from not just the DB4GT, but also the other collaborations including DB7 Zagato and V8 Vantage Zagato cars. Finished with a subtle double-bubble roof the hand-crafted aluminum body is painted in a deep shade of blood orange.

“The V12 Zagato is an elegant yet brutal design which reflects the great balance between race performance and pure Aston Martin style,” said Aston Martin director of design Marek Reichmann. “The original DB4GT Zagato was a true icon, powerful and graceful; the new design is a true representation of the spirit of DB4GT Zagato,” he continued. Continue reading “Aston Martin puts stunning V12 Zagato on show (+video)” »

Aston Martin to uncover new Zagato special at Villa d’Este

May 12th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Zagato design house has created plenty of beautiful machines with a wide variety of automakers over the years. But for many car fans it’s the collaboration between Zagato and Aston Martin that has created the most special automotive specimens.

The first and possibly most important, was the iconic Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To mark the event, the British automaker and the famous Italian design house have reconnected on a new project that could potentially head into limited production. Details on this latest collaboration remain scarce but the concept is set to be revealed at the forthcoming Villa D’Este Concours on May 21 to check initial customer reaction with a production model possibly following as early as next year.

For now, a teaser rendering has been released with little else except speculation that the new Aston Martin Zagato could be based on the mechanical hardware and platform of the current V8 Vantage.

Aston Martin boss, Dr. Ulrich Bez, said: “Now is the right time for a new Aston Martin Zagato and in combining our design intelligence I think we can create something fitting of the iconic DB4GT Zagato that has gone before and since established itself as one of the most famous Aston Martins of all time.” Continue reading “Aston Martin to uncover new Zagato special at Villa d’Este” »

Aston Martin shows off new Virage Coupe and Volante

February 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Aston Martin has just released the first images and details of its new Virage Coupe and Virage Volante.

Both models are based on the automaker’s VH architecture and are destined to exist between the DB9 and the DBS in the Aston range.

The Virage Coupe and the soft-top Volante are both powered by the company’s well known 6.0-litre V12 engine. This powerplant produces 355kW in the DB9 and 385kW in the DBS, so it’s expected that the Virage’s V12 would fit in between in terms of output delivering around 370kW.

The standard transmission is a six-speed automatic “Touchtronic 2” gearbox, which will allow the Virage a 0-100kph sprint time in the region of 4.5 seconds and will top out at around 300kph.

The suspension is double-wishbone on all four corners, and the Virage features Aston Martin’s Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with Sport mode as standard equipment.

In terms of exterior design the Virage has a new aluminum front grille inspired by the One-77 and LED lights on the front skirting. Wheels are 20-inch alloys, mounted over carbon ceramic disc brakes at all four corners, with Pirelli P Zero tyres as standard.

Inside, the two Virage models come with a full leather interior complete with colored piping and high-spec standard features such as cruise control, satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephone preparation and a 700W Aston Martin Premium Audio System with full iPod integration Continue reading “Aston Martin shows off new Virage Coupe and Volante” »

Aston Martin releases hardcore V8 Vantage S

January 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Aston Martin has managed to extract even more power from its V8 Vantage model with a new S model released.

Under the bonnet the new coupe packs the same 4.7-litre V8 engine as its predecessors, but it comes packing a full 321kW of power and 490Nm of torque from the eight-pot motor. Shifting the gears is a new ground-up developed seven-speed SportShift II transmission specifically designed for the Vantage S. The high-tech single clutch gearbox offers even shorter ratios than previous models and combined with the high-output engine should push heads back into seats without issue.

Other upgrades for the Vantage S include a quicker steering rack and a new brake package with huge rotors and six-piston calipers up front to ensure you can put on the anchors when needed.

In terms of styling inspiration was drawn from the even mightier V12 Vantage and the race-bred Vantage GT4. At the front, a new bumper finished in carbon fibre houses a larger air intake feeding the engine and those massive brakes. New 19-inch V-spoke wheels are available as standard with an optional lightweight alloy to further reduce unsprung mass.

The Vantage S is available to order now from Aston Martin’s global dealership network. Continue reading “Aston Martin releases hardcore V8 Vantage S” »

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