No one does class like Great Britain. A British accent makes the most asinine statement seem reasonable, even obvious. Ceremony, tradition, pomp and circumstance, these are synonymous with England, and their motorcars.
I don’t think they have even bothered to make basic transportation, as if building a vehicle designed solely to move people from place to place like an appliance was perfected eons ago in the horse, so is an endeavor best left to others. Like Japan and America. So the marques heralding from the Isles are steeped in class: Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin.
James Bond has driven a bunch of cars—some for purely marketing purposes—but none fits the role like Aston Martin. And as an American, James Bond represents the quintessential English badass, so that makes Aston Martin thoroughly ace (that being the top rated English slang that I am supposed to use here in the colonies). With a history going back over 100 years and including significant racing success, this is a iconic company that holds a Royal Warrant as purveyor of motorcars to the Prince of Wales. I don’t even know what that means, but I know it’s hoity-toity special. More importantly, they are responsible for some of the most gorgeous sheet metal to ever be hammered around the running chassis of an automobile, anywhere.
Though the big V12 cars like the DB9 and Vanquish have been the flagships, the smaller and perfectly proportioned Vantage is arguably one of the best looking cars ever made. It’s not shouty or brash or flamboyant, it is simply speed molded into elegance. It is not a car that stops traffic with its outlandishness, but remains strikingly special, turning heads in a crowd like a celebrity that most people don’t know much about, leaving behind whispers and speculation and longing.
And it is not limited to the skin. The same obsessive quality is found in every single bit, from the hand-enameled badge to the billet al-ou-MIN-ee-um fuel filler, the switch-gear, and the leather. I don’t think I have ever seen leather like this, acres of it, covering everything, even things you can’t see or touch. So many gave their time—and lives (specifically the cows)—to the creation of this unmatched cabin. Mmmm.
Salmon. JOHN Salmon. (OK, so maybe it doesn’t have the same ring…)
Anyone who says the crystal key that slips into its fitted slot in the dash with more than a hint of innuendo is overdone has no business in a such a finely-crafted machine. This small bit of unique theater is a perfect opening act to an experience that without fail will be labelled as such—an experience—as opposed to some mundane drive. Because there is no such thing as mundane in an Aston Martin. In here, retrieving a balled napkin from the floor is special.
And by the way, you do NOT ball up a napkin in an Aston Martin. You do not EAT in an Aston Martin. You DRIVE.
Don’t be fooled, the Brits still know how to party. And even that trait is somewhat hidden, like a flask of really good scotch. “Have a nip of this, old chap.” How do they get a motor to sound both elegant and raucous? The V12s are almost cheating, as they are exotic in every scenario. It’s the V8s that entertain me the most, because they seem to reveal a little hidden respect—a tip of the hat—to the American muscle car. Silky smooth in most every situation, easily distinguishable from German and certainly Italian, but give her the beans and the gloves come off with a snarl and a wallop reminiscent of something assembled in a speed shop from the west coast of that long lost colony. And when it rolls to a stop at the next light, you can almost imagine the car straightening its tie.
It’s a cultural experience.
In a Porsche, you can almost hear the engineers clinically discussing the physics and metallurgy. In a Ferrari, you wonder if they don’t use maximum heart rate as their ultimate metric (and also hope the assembly crew were not distracted by a passing young lady when torquing that essential bolt). In an Aston, it’s a smug grin without a backwards glance leaving the well-dressed ladies a little breathless… “Oh, James…”
What it comes down to is the experience that you, personally, seek. And also the one you can obtain. I excel at dreaming. But life should not be just about the imagination, it is about experiences. Accomplishing goals, learning new skills, seeing amazing things, living some of those dreams, even if only in part.
Which brings me back to America. Some of us yearn for faraway places, seeking out the unusual and exotic. Like enjoying different cultures, I find the varied nuances in these experiences to be intriguing. But the vast majority of us are most comfortable at home. We look to the things that remind us of our childhood, that represent our own culture, our own style. As our world shrinks around us, these two should not be at odds. I don’t want other cultures to ever lose their variety, I want to accept their distinct approach to life, and I want them to be as proud of these differences as I am of my own. I love an adventure, but inevitably, I turn towards home.