Aston Martin. In the automotive world, the name is revered and respected among car aficionados. In the world of James Bond, it’s as easily associated with a Walther PPK, Vodka Martini and a license to kill.
Happily, you only need a license to drive…and about $200,000 lying about.
CommanderBond.net was recently contacted by the PR firm representing Galpin Ford in Van Nuys, California, (the #1 Ford dealership in all aspects for the past 15 years) who asked if we would be interested in a personal tour of their new 2.5 million dollar Aston Martin showroom, ‘Club Aston’, where we would be treated as if we were all purchasing a Vanquish.
Galpin also handles Volvo and Jaguar sales and is only one of two Aston Martin dealerships in California. The other being Rolls Royce of Beverly Hills.
Last Wednesday, May 25, myself along with CBn Team Members Athena Stamos (Athena007) and John Cox (zencat) arrived at the dealership and were warmly greeted by sales director Joe Van De Veere who was very giving of his time and information. Joe is an Aston Martin expert and appreciative of our equal expertise on the world of 007.
## Let the games begin
The showroom is only accessible by one of two means. A private door located outside near the service department, or the main entrance on the second floor of the rather regal showroom. Both require a pass card and an actual thumbprint scan — It’s not just a novel idea, it truly works. Once your print is scanned your entire customer information immediately appears on Joe’s computer and he knows what to do.
A large cylindrical steel door rotates to reveal a circular chamber and cues any music the customer wishes. On this day, the familiar strains of Goldeneye greeted us and then revealed what is simply called “Club Aston”.
At first you’d wonder if you were entering an elegant hotel lounge. Certainly not a car dealership. A fireplace, leather chairs and couches, walls covered in suede, a 50 inch plasma screen and a second smaller one complete with wireless internet access set over a large walnut grain bar (should one wish to toast their purchase or delivery of their Aston Martin), take up the first room.
The shelves surrounding the fireplace and TV are filled with books covering a variety subjects from travel to wine and cigars, some rare first editions of classic literature and, of course, James Bond. Copies of both James Bond: The Legacy and Bond Girls are Forever were prominently displayed.
The center piece of the showroom is a polished black granite mirror finished turntable surrounded by curtains with a swirled steel ceiling design that cannot help but evoke the notion of the famous gunbarrel sequence. Fitted in to this ceiling is a computer controlled lighting system that can produce a variety of different effects. As our Team entered, a shear curtain slid aside to reveal a new black DB9 slowly rotating on the turntable. Joe then explained how it works when you decide to purchase.
To quote Roger Moore (James Bond) from Moonraker upon glimpsing the Drax residence:
> Good Lord?
Via an LCD touch screen located at the bar, he brought both screens to life. One showing a promotional Aston Martin video and the other giving almost Q Branch specs on the Aston Martin of your choice where one is able to design the colours (interior and exterior) and any “optional extras” you may desire. While there are a wide selection of colours available (they have done over 3,000), Aston Martin can match any colour you may wish or provide. Three of Galpin’s customers have had their Aston’s exterior colour matched to their own eye colour. The most popular has been, and will probably continue to be, the famous “Silver Birch”.
Having completed your design specs, and presuming your check is good, the process begins. From completion of order to delivery, the average time frame is around sixty days. All of Aston Martin’s cars are hand built in England.
When your car is ready, another part of the showroom comes into play. It’s actually not a room, but a vault. A large circular steel vault door that looks like it could house Fort Knox with keypad entry sits on the other side of the turntable just off the lounge. Built at a cost of $800,000 dollars, this is where your new Aston Martin will be waiting. Quoting room designer, Beau Boeckmann:
> This is a place that will make a billionaire say, ‘Wow!’
Many celebrities have purchased their own Aston Martin from Galpin and indulged in Club Aston. The showroom opened in April of 2005 with a gala event attended by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of celebrities. The Aston on display was Cubby Broccoli’s own 1987 black Volante convertible. One quote from actor Wilmer Valeramma (Fez of That 70’s Show fame) summed it up:
> When I walked in and heard that [Bond] music kick in, I knew I wanted to buy whatever was in that room.
Of course there was one actor who couldn’t attend due to a schedule conflict, Pierce Brosnan. Galpin personally delivered his Vanquish to his Malibu home and still services the car for Bond #5. Several LA based CBn members have caught a glimpse of Pierce in his silver birch Vanquish zipping about town. He still has yet to visit the showroom, but Pierce, it’s worth your time mate.
Joe continued with some history of exactly how impressive Aston Martin has been as a company with some stats and trivia that really does establish this as one of the finest hand-built motor car companies of the world. Since 1918, 88% of all Aston Martin’s are still registered and actively driven. Joe seems pleasantly surprised to learn that in the new Young Bond novel SilverFin, James learns to drive on a 1.5 Liter Bamford & Martin Sidevalue Short Chassis Tourer (one of the earliest cars built by “Aston” Martin). With a tap of his wireless keyboard, Joe called up CommanderBond.net on Club Aston’s plasma computer screen and promptly bookmarked the site. Yes, CBn is now part of the Club Aston experience.
Joe then gave us the scoop on Casino Royale and Aston Martin’s involvement.
Bond (whoever it may be) will be driving the new Vantage V8 (CBn Story). The first will be available in February of 2006 (probably the first seven or eight will end up in the hands of Vic Armstrong and his boys depending what they have planned) and a convertible model will follow within the first six months. It is to be an “entry level” car and priced between $110,000 to $130,000 — but is “the most important car Aston Martin has ever built.” That’s both the word from Joe and Aston Martin. Joe also promised when the first Vantage hits the showroom floor, CBn will get a call.
Our time in the Club Aston came to a close but not before an inspection of the DB9 and then the Vanquish on their main showroom floor.
Joe described how one should treat one of these magnificent automobiles:
> Drive it like you stole it.
Damn better than:
> Now pay attention 007.
Then the fun began for all three of us after our lovely Athena simply asked:
> Can we go for a ride?
Joe’s response (with a sly grin):
> OK — Twist my arm.
Within minutes a beautiful DB9 was available and we each took a turn. Bamboo dash, concealed flip-up GPS flat screen, push-button transmission available for automatic driving, and Formula-1 style “paddle shifters” on either side of the steering wheel for manual or “sports” driving. Left to go down, right to go up.
Zencat and myself allowed the “ladies first” policy and Athena was off for a quick spin with Joe. After a minute or so as we stood in the lot waiting, Zencat pondered:
> Think they’re coming back?
I replied with;
> Athena’s probably thrown Joe out and is headed for Mexico. She’ll be there in less than an hour in that thing.
Soon, we heard the now familiar sound of the twin exhausts — incredibly distinctive — and they rolled back in. Now it was my turn. The car goes around corners like a bullet train as if it was bolted to the road. At one point Joe went (on an open stretch) from 0-95+ in less than six seconds — which for the record is the equivalent of 7 G’s in the centrifuge. I’m not that old, but I think the skin being pulled back on my face took off a couple of years in my looks.
Even before Zencat left for his test-drive, I was already calculating my available cash in my stock portfolio and debating a second mortgage…and it would be worth every cent.
So, in conclusion, Aston Martin is the company it is because of what they do and how they continue to do it, Not just because of the company they keep — Bond doesn’t hurt though.
A few closing notes just as an FYI: This showroom is NOT a tourist attraction for Bond Fans. It’s a place of business. We were all (those present and the CBn Team) quite honoured by this exclusive look into a something that only few shall glimpse. If you’ve enjoyed this article and are thinking “Hey, I’ll go check this out.” — WRONG, Unless you’re there to do business and purchase an Aston, don’t bother.
You’re either an owner or there by appointment only. Joe can tell the difference. However, if you’re in the market and committed to a purchase, the people at Galpin and Joe are the kind you want to deal with when buying into a tradition such as Aston Martin… Not to mention buying a car that costs more than most people’s homes.
If you’re going to buy an Aston Martin, call Galpin Ford. They’ll get you in touch with Joe and you can talk about it.
Special thanks to Ben Cooke of Arlene Howard Management LA for contacting us regarding this and even more special thanks and much appreciation to Mr. Joe Van De Veere Sales director of Galpin Aston Martin for giving us so much of his time and even bothering to add CBn to the Club Aston computer desktop.