You see a 2015 Ford Focus, I see an Aston Martin. No, really.
By now most people are probably aware of the tired joke that all new Ford products have an uncanny resemblance to the products of a certain famous British sports car manufacturer, particularly with the grille shape of models like the Ford Fusion, Ford Focus, and Ford Fiesta all looking like fatter, angrier Aston Martins.
Ironically enough, one could claim these Ford’s drive like fatter, angrier Aston Martins, confused on how to apply power to the road, and with lurching, sluggish feedback.
But that doesn’t really matter, because Ford’s bastardization of Aston has made them very successful, and very rich, and now all the top guys at Ford probably own Aston Martins.
This copy-cat scheme at Ford came to be back when Aston Martin and Jaguar were owned by the American giant, who purchased the British brands in the 1990s along with some other European luxury makes for their ill-fated “Premier Automotive Group.” They borrowed engineers and designers, and subsequently some engineering and designs of the attractive Brits, and then sold them off about a decade later. Give Ford some credit for pumping millions of dollars into Aston Martin and probably bringing them into the 21st century.
Which brings us now on to my personal Ford Focus Hatchback, that is actually an Aston Martin. This car, a 2015 model, was designed by a team under Design Director in North America Moray Callum at Ford.
At first glance that means nothing, but Moray is actually the younger brother of star designer Ian Callum, the famous pen behind the Aston Martin DB9 (which was developed under Ford’s ownership) and now the Jaguar F-Type. It’s far from coincidence that two brothers who design cars just end up having models that may borrow from each other, especially when Ford is trying to advertise its lineup on a more premium level.
Yet it’s not just the face that makes this Ford an Aston. Those of you who may know me from Beyond James Bond would know I am a huge fan of the James Bond film franchise, and therefore a huge fan of Aston Martin designs like the 1964 DB5, the 1969 DBS, the 1987 V8 Vantage Volante, the 2002 Vanquish, the 2006 V12 DBS, and the upcoming bespoke DB10 in this year’s Spectre. (Really, does anyone not like Aston Martins?)
Bond likes his Aston Martin models a certain way – grey and typically with gadgets. My ’15 Focus is the prettiest grey I have ever seen on a car, with deep flecks that give the car a sense of movement in sunlight while stationary. It’s the least boring grey can get.
That’s not it. My car is grey and has the mouth of an Aston Martin – but that doesn’t make it an Aston Martin. It needs something more. So imagine my surprise when, two weeks after purchasing the car, the dealer manages to mail me the tags and it’s as if there was a medium reading my mind working at the DMV – my tag started with the letters DBF.
Look back up at the paragraph where I listed all the cars. What do you see? Aston Martin’s nomenclature has a habit of featuring the letters D and B. The letters are the initials of David Brown, the tractor manufacturer who purchased Aston Martin in 1947. After his acquirement of the brand, all models began using the familiar nomenclature starting with the DB2, developing the successful grand touring style for the brand and leading it to become one of the most stylish car companies today.
With that quick history lesson, we can now conclude that the DBF lettering on my license plate stands for “David Brown Ford,” as the Focus is a Ford, and resembles an Aston Martin of the David Brown era. That can’t be a coincidence.
To further convince you, the car has many amenities and features that really sell the idea that my $23,000 Ford is actually a $150,000 Aston. I purchased the only Focus on the lot (and seemingly in the world) to feature a sport mode with paddle shifters. They are really more like paddle-buttons, and the car will shift for you if you go below 3,000 RPM or above 6,500 RPM, but for the most part it’s just about as exciting as a plain old four cylinder can get. The car also has relatively-huggy seats that hold you through your understeer in cornering, and “stealth wheels” that are designed with dark accents for a less shiny profile at night, I guess. That comes in handy for a spy.
Other features include what I can only assume is a credit card holder by the shifter for when you need to max out your Swiss accounts on the go, as I can’t imagine what else the two small plastic-y slots would be used for.
There’s also adjustable-height cup holders, with inserts to put in when you can’t get a Big Gulp in New York, and an “AM” radio station setting that must stand for “Aston Martin,” as it’s only a bunch of old people talking about business and politics, which only appeals to the average Aston customer. I stick to “FM,” which means “Ford Motors.” The back row of seating can also fold flat, for what I would call the ultimate Grand Tourer experience.
None of this is by design on my part – by any degree. I went to the Ford lot at the end of the month looking for deals on something sporty. I wanted a Fiesta ST, of which the dealer had none. In fact this lot had no ‘14 or ‘15 Fiestas, period. I asked to check out the Focus ST instead, to which the fear in the salesman’s eyes set in because he had to inform me there were no Focus ST’s on the lot. “Okay, do you have a Focus with a manual?” A solitary tear runs down the salesman’s cheek. “No, no manual Focus models” he manages to get out.
As I turn to walk out, he rushes over to a fat little grey Focus SE, the only hatchback on the lot, and desperately exclaims this car features “paddle shifters and a performance package.” The performance package was actually a hatch spoiler and different bumpers, but I went for a test drive, liked the car, and bought it. It was only later that it dawned on me I was the owner of an Aston Martin.
Unfortunately nobody else seems to see my car the way I do, but maybe it is better for that. All that matters is those few moments where I’m blasting my John Barry soundtrack to Diamonds Are Forever, paddling my own gears, and imagining the Audi with the handicap sticker riding my ass is some henchman with metal teeth and a claw for a hand giving me chase.
It’s an Aston Martin. Really, it is.
All photos are by the author.