England Trip 2018
Clare and I desperately needed a vacation. We've been worked to exhaustion and needed to get away. We booked a trip to England to visit a couple friends and do some Unzipped-worthy automotive tourism. Unfortunately for us, it quickly turned into a working vacation as we stacked up a few meetings that would turn into potential business ventures. Plus, I'd have to write about our time over there, which would add to my already extensive to-do list. Oh well, no rest for the wicked.
We flew out of Orlando rather than Tampa so save a sizable chunk of money. It wasn't worth it. The Delta check-in area was a mess, with a few of the kiosks being inoperable. One was out of tickets, the screen on another was frozen, and I think the third may have been a victim of user error as the person standing at it for far too long seemed to be in a power-saving standby mode.
I'm a rushed traveler when it comes to flying. I've missed flights before, so I stress out going to airports. I prefer to get there far earlier than necessary and go straight to the gate to make sure the flight status and make sure the gate hasn't changed. We did that, then sat down for steaks and drinks at an Outback Steakhouse in the terminal. I actually really enjoy Outback. It isn't fancy by any means, but the food is great and they're usually really friendly. It was no different in the airport Outback. We sat at the bar and passed the next hour and a half, drinking and eating while I answered as many Redpants emails as I could before we left the country.
Our first leg of the journey was an afternoon flight from Orlando to Atlanta. We were on Delta, and it was the best-equipped domestic flight I've ever been on. It was just as sorted as an international flight, which I was surprised to find on flight so short. We switched planes in Atlanta and found ourselves on Virgin Atlantic, which was code-sharing with Delta. The flight was not nearly as nice, nor was the airplane nearly as comfortable. We didn't get a wink of sleep prior to landing in London the next morning.
Our landing at London-Heathrow and getting through customs was uneventful. We changed clothes in a bathroom in the luggage pickup area before exiting to find James waiting for us. He guided us out to the parking garage where he was parked, and there we saw our first European car. It was a goddamn Chevy Camaro.
I was really looking forward to seeing all the neat cars we don't get in the US. A Camaro of all things sitting there made my eye start twitching. Oh well, we'd see plenty of other cool cars on our trip. We piled into James' rental Hyundai and left London. We had just landed and we were already on our way to the first stop of our trip.
Works Service, Newport Pagnell
Aston Martin's factory prior to its current location in Gaydon was located on Tickford Street in Newport Pagnell. A dealership is collocated with the old factory, which is still used for restorations and specialty builds. This was my second time at Works, and both times I was amazed at what I found. A One-77, Vantage AMR Pro, a pair of DB4 GT Continuations, half a dozen Vanquish Zagatos, and even a Lagonda Taraf were on site. James had arranged for a tour with an acquaintance of his named Justin, who was incredibly hospitable and showed us through the entire facility.
There’s a large glass wall separating the showroom from the service area and you can see from the front of the showroom all the way through the two long rows of lifts to the very back wall of service. Immediately in front, directly on the opposite side of the glass wall in the service area were a pair of Vanquish Zagatos. To the right, sitting inside a roped-off area, were a pair of freshly-finished DB4 GT Continuation cars. Sitting in the middle lane alongside the right-hand row of lifts was a One-77. In an alcove at the rear wall was a Vantage AMR Pro, and near it along the back wall sat another Vanquish Vagato. We didn’t realize it until we passed through the service area that the last car on the right-hand side was a Vantage V600. The lifts themselves were all full, each holding one of every modern Aston - Vantages, Rapides, DB9s, and so on.
Justin filled us in on some of the facts and trivia about their service department, including that the vast majority of their mechanics are Master Technicians, the percentage of which is higher than any other Aston Martin service department. He also showed us the room where all the Continuation cars are being built. The room isn’t very large; it has space enough for just two or three chassis. It isn’t hard to see, either - it’s divided off from the service area by another large glass wall. There really isn’t anything hidden at Works Service, and that they’re proud to put everything on display is a testament to their quality of work.
We passed through the service area and stopped a while to look at the Vantage AMR Pro. It’s very much a blend of street and race cars, though technically not suited for either. Even so, it’s one hell of a machine and if money were no object, I’d surely have one.
I’d already taken a good look at the two Vanquish Zagatos at the front of the service area so we walked by the one at the back wall with just a casual glance. When I turned my eyes away from it, the Vantage V600 came into view for the first time, and seeing it surprised me a bit. I hadn’t really thought about the V600 too much - it’s a very limited-production car and I didn’t think they were being delivered yet, so I didn’t expect to see one and the idea of it wasn’t even on my mind. But there it was.
The Vantage V600 is an interesting car. It was commissioned by a customer and made with a limited run, something like 14 cars. It’s essentially a V12 Vantage S with the 600-hp performance package, along with a unique interior and exterior. The exterior has styling cues from a variety of other Aston Martins. It has the front grille of the Vantage AMR Pro, the fender vents of the New Vantage, the side sills of the early previous-gen Vantage, the rear of the GT12, the hood of the DB10 (itself a rebodied V8 Vantage), and a unique front lip that pays homage to the original Virage Vantage V600 from the late 1990s.
Our first Redpants-related stop was at a company called Divinatech.
The Queens Hotel, Cheltenham
Our base of operations for the next several days.