Ian Fleming’s James Bond may have started off a Bentley man, but when director Sam Mendes started planning out Spectre, there was no doubt the secret agent would be driving an Aston Martin.
The quintessentially British secret agent and the quintessentially British automaker have been inextricably linked ever since Sean Connery drove the iconic DB5 in Goldfinger. Oh sure, 007 has driven the occasional Lotus or Jaguar, but Aston Martins have appeared in 12 of the 24 Bond films produced so far. For Spectre, which hits theaters on Friday, the automaker did something far bigger than hand over a truckload of production cars: It created a bespoke model just for the film.
The collaboration that led to the DB10 started in April, 2014, when Mendes visited Aston creative director Marek Reichman at the automaker’s design studio in Gaydon, England. Reichman showed off everything in the automaker’s portfolio, but it was a sketch pinned the wall that caught Mendes’ eye. The sleek two-seater was exactly what he wanted, if Aston could deliver it before shooting started at the end of the year.
Problem was, it was just a sketch. Nothing more. And Reichman’s team had other things to do, like designing cars that actual consumers would buy. Everyone expected to riff on a model already slated for production, not create something from scratch. Still, Reichman told Mendes not to worry, he’d have the car. “At which point,” Reichman says, “most of my team sat on the floor, put their head in their hands, and said, ‘What on Earth has he said yes for?’”
They started by rendering the car, including the interior, in three dimensions. The designers—there were 25 at one point—started with the chassis of a V8 Vantage, lengthening and widening it before giving it a newly sculpted body.
You won’t see the DB10 anywhere but on screen, but if you look carefully, you’ll see hints of what Aston Martin’s got coming.
With the basic look in place, designers carved a full-size version in clay. It’s devilishly sleek, with tiny mirrors, blade-like spokes on the wheels, flush door handles, and the lowest nose ever to come out of Gaydon. The team wanted something simple, but also “a little bit naughty, a little bit menacing,” Reichman says. That is to say, something worthy of Bond.
As the team shaped and reshaped the clay, it scanned the model and sent the files to the engineering department, where another team made sure the car could be built in the abbreviated timeframe Mendes gave them. They also did a lot of the engineering in the digital realm, working out the details of the suspension, the 4.7-liter V8 engine, the body panels, and even the position of the driver and passenger. The designers sent Mendes photos regularly, keeping him appraised of their progress.
The Aston Martin folks sent all their CAD data to a tool maker, skipping the prototype stage in the interest of time. The body is carbon fiber, which in addition to being lightweight, retains its shape particularly well when popped from a mold, without the spring-back that makes working with aluminum and steel a pain. Everything fit together perfectly.
The interior is a mix of analog and digital controls (not all of them functional). It’s got six speeds and three pedals (“obviously,” Reichman says), with some flashy new instrumentation. As a non-production car, the DB10 didn’t have to endure crash testing or meet any fuel efficiency standards. But it did had to meet the needs of a stunt car in a James Bond film. It had to sprint to 60 mph in under five seconds, hit triple-digit speeds, and be able to survive a few jumps—no problem for a production model, but the one-off had to be up to the task as well.
The Aston team built 10 DB10s for Mendes, two of which were pod cars, hacked so the driving is done from the roof, while the actors sit in the cabin and pretend they’ve got skills. All 10 survived the shoot, though one got a bit wet—the closest Reichman came to spoiling Spectre’s plot.
You won’t see the DB10 anywhere but on screen, but if you look carefully, you’ll see hints of what Aston Martin’s got coming. The brand is finally updating its vehicle architecture—it’s been using the same skeleton since 2001—and the 2016 DB11 will carry traits seen here. Reichman won’t give specifics, but says you can expect this kind of beauty, proportion, and high-tech feeling. We’re eager to see more, but if it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.