The Aston Martin One-77 Is Still A Compelling Example Of What A Modern GT Car Can Be
Photography by Will Broadhead
A devilish sound is emanating from somewhere behind me, the output of a machine with the taps opened and the coals piled on as fast as possible. I watch the horsepower counter on the dashboard climb upwards through the triple digits. The last number I remember seeing before peeling my eyes away and onto the road again is somewhere above 600, and while there’s more to give, this is enough to drag the horizon towards you at a rate usually reserved for bullet trains and things that fly.
This is one of those cars that seems to suck the world towards it, bending the rules of physics in a way only imagined by science fiction and visualized by nitrous scenes in Fast and the Furious films. All of my senses are heightened in this exotic cockpit, and through the leather buckets I can feel every inch of the asphalt being translated through the taut carbon monocoque chassis.
The lack of soundproofing means that my ears hear the rousing of every pebble on the road below as we tear along, every squeal of wide soft rubber every time the 7.3L V12 outruns f the giant 335 section boots that this car wears to work.
It’s quite the occasion to leave a turn in second gear like you mean it, and I have trouble remembering to breath after a few of those in a row, but a rapidly approaching junction brings me back to reality in fewer meters than most cars are capable of thanks to these massive carbon brakes. My pilot for the day, Ed, remarks that it’s a long time since he’s driven a car that’s made him sweat, and I nod in agreement even though I’m just playing co-driver today, astounded enough with what I have just experienced from the second seat.
The car we’re in is the Aston Martin One-77, and it is truly one of the most sumptuously cool supercars I’ve had the pleasure of photographing, let alone riding rapid shotgun in. Its performance figures are impressive—750 horses out of a naturally-aspirated V12, a top speed of 220mph, and 0-62 in our conditions in, well, not much time at all. The how-fast stats are one thing, but the fact that only 77 were made is quite cool too. Rather than just a rebody of an existing Aston, this was and is a genuinely exclusive machine with the numbers to back up the manic looks. An extreme exercise of form meeting function in a provocative modern car can be a disaster, but this one pulls it off while also managing to keep the Aston design identity at the forefront.
The One-77 was revealed to the world at the Paris Motor Show way back in 2008 (“way back”), and it was shown with minimal fuss and fanfare—odd, considering that this was a car that was built to be a sort of “ultimate” Aston Martin.
That was quite a statement to be making, considering the marque’s wonderful heritage. And arriving as it did amidst a global financial crisis, with a price tag of something just around £1.2 million, it was easy for the cynics at the time to label it as a get rich quick scheme for Aston. Perhaps it was, but then again you don’t go about developing something like this to make a quick buck—that’s what special trim packs and paint jobs are for. This project was different, it was difficult. This car was a firm saying look at what we can do and pulling it off. It was just very poorly timed.
To build just 77 models that are each finished to the same extremely high standard is a task unto itself. For Aston Martin Lagonda, it was not worth tooling up for a production run of such a limited population, so every aluminum panel on these cars is hand-beaten and shaped to perfection. Each badge is hand-milled, and every carbon tub is assembled by hand—the list goes on like this for a while. It’s a quite modern machine in many ways, a very traditional one from other perspectives.
Whichever era it belongs to, it is a showcase of details, and one that rewards an investment of time, absorbing all of the lines, tracing all the curves, and uncovering near-hidden elements in the spaces in between. From the sketches of Marek Reichman, the Sheffield-born designer of the car, to its physical creation, nothing was compromised.
Indeed, the lines delivered from Reichman’s pen match the final design almost exactly, and from the low wide nose that is so classically Aston Martin, to the oversized haunches and snarling extension of the front end, it is an exquisite blend of heritage and the avant garde.
Even the out of sight bits delight once you’ve found an angle from which to view them. Things like pond-smooth carbon fibre ducts drawing heat away from the engine, and indeed the engine bay itself is a treat to take in. Underneath the lightweight hood and padding are the banks of the V12, ahead of which you’ll find the trick suspension damper units and the separate oil tank that allows the big mill to run with a dry sump and thus sit lower and closer to the center of the chassis. The gorgeous story of the design continues through the minimalist planes of carbon fiber that adorn the cockpit, and then backward to the boot area, which displays elements of the rear suspension as if one were viewing a sculpture through a protective case.
But who buys this car when you can get wilder, newer ones with more power for less cash? “A collector with vision, who understands that this car is the last of an era,” says Nick Mee, owner of Nicholas Mee Aston Martin and a man that knows more than a little about the marque, having been involved with them in one form or another since 1976. He describes this machine as a piece of automotive art that unlike something one would hang on the wall, is a tangible experience that can be enjoyed in the garage or on the road, although the future owner is unlikely to be driving this down to the shops all that often I’d imagine. Dr Bez, CEO at the time of the One-77’s release, agrees with the art assessment: “It is alive, it is more than a sculpture, it is living art.”
After my ride earlier in the day I’m more than a little inclined to agree with him. It is beautiful to behold, and once you’re inside it delivers an experience that is as far from cold unthinking machine as cold unthinking machines can get. To sum it up for me, spending a day with this car was an indulgence, a showcase of wonderful engineering and design that I can’t think of as anything other than a triumph.