2009 Geneva: Behind the Scenes with Aston Martins One 77

Exotic cars like the Aston Martin One-77 are difficult for the average person to understand. We can easily quantify things like performance and price, but the actual qualitative analysis of a car can't be done sufficiently from a mere press release or photograph. So I went behind the scenes at the Aston Martin stand where Chris Porritt, the One-77 program manager, was more than happy to discuss what makes a One-77 so special.

The obvious talking points are the 700 hp V-12 engine, heaps of carbon-fiber, incredible performance figures (perhaps as quick as 3.2 seconds for a 0-60 mph run and a top speed in excess of 220 mph are the latest estimates), but those same talking points also apply to stripped-down race cars that are painful, loud, and impractical on the street. Aston's flagship should manage all the requisite performance of an exotic without losing the hand-built touches that make Aston Martins so luxurious and special. Porritt quickly reminded us the One-77 is more than just a powerful car: "We wanted to have it so someone could drive it every day." The One-77 is not supposed to compete for the ultimate in performance at the expense of comfort.

One-77s all utilize a completely hand-built, one piece, carbon-fiber tub. It takes three full weeks of labor to fabricate the monocoque. The crash structure that attaches to the front of the tub is machined out of billet aluminum and directs cool air over the carbon-ceramic brakes. This crash structure also provides mounting points for the 7.3-liter V-12 engine. Aston chose a dry-sump oil system to allow the engine to sit lower in the chassis. Lowering the engine allows the driver to sit lower in the car, which allows the overall height of the car to be lower, and all of these items contribute to a low center of gravity. Oh, the engine is also pushed behind the center of the front axle to better distribute the car's weight.

Aerodynamics play a huge role in supercars and the One-77 is no exception. There are three radiators in the engine bay, but the two side radiators aren't used at high speeds because there would be too much drag on the car. When the rear wing is deployed, likely at speeds between 70 and 80 mph, the two smaller side radiators will be sealed off, the suspension will lower itself by 15 mm, and the spring rate will increase around 10 percent, due to the suspension geometry, once the car is lowered.

Surprisingly, several new technologies are not being utilized in the One-77. Direct injection is being studied by Aston Martin, but it will not be appearing on the flagship. When asked about direct injection, Porritt simply stated the engine is "Not direct-injected - yet." We also learned a fancy dual-clutch gearbox would be too heavy for this car. A typical DSG would weigh 40-50 kilograms extra and that would compromise performance, so a six-speed, single-clutch, automated manual transmission will be used.

Even items like the One-77's exhaust system get much more attention than those of a regular production car. Exhaust is routed under the sills and under the rear suspension before the tips meet up with the rear diffuser. The exhaust tips are even chamfered to fit the angle of the diffuser and provide better drag and aerodynamics at speed. European customers will have a two-mode exhaust to pass drive-by noise regulations, but there is a bypass to allow the V-12's full personality out at higher speeds.

We don't know much about the interior of the car because it still isn't finished. Prospective customers are giving some input and the Aston Martin team is finalizing the details. We expect nothing but the best in both materials and fit and finish since CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez promises the One-77 will be "the ultimate expression of Aston Martin." To this end there will be a tailored luggage set available to help maximize the usability of the car. Customers will also have the latitude to customize the interior of their individual One-77s.

Virtually any color you imagine can be applied to the exterior of your Aston Martin and the One-77 is no exception. It's likely a palette of five sample colors will be the "default" hues for One-77s, but every option from two-tone color schemes to matte paint is on the table. Choose your color(s) wisely though because getting a car resprayed is costly and time consuming: it takes 250 hours to paint a One-77. Regular Astons only require about 50 hours of labor in the paint shop. Customers opting for matte paint should think long and hard before committing to the dull finish. Cars with matte paint are impossible to polish and there's a very real possibility a minor fender-bender could result in your car being completely repainted to get the colors to match exactly.

It's all these little details that set the One-77 apart from competitors and promise to make each individual car something special.

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