Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Dream on

At Aston Martin, life goes on despite Bond

By Phil Patton  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The pauper's Aston Martin: a tiny die-cast model of the car the from Die Another Day.

PHOTOS: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Marek Reichman pointed to the tie of an Aston Martin executive standing next to him. "This comes right from the cars," he said.

The focus of attention was not a grease spot on the neckwear, but the delicate silvery pattern on the tie's red silk. Reichman, design director of Aston Martin, was explaining the inspiration for a new line of fabric and leather goods he is designing.

The Ford Motor Co, which bought controlling interest in the British sports car maker in 1987, let it be known this summer that it wanted to sell Aston Martin. While enthusiasts and industry insiders await word on the company's future, Reichman is keeping himself busy with other sorts of products, including ties and cuff links.

"Fire and ice is the theme," Reichman said. This is the current Aston Martin marketing motif: passion and cool together. The accessories were shown last month at a meeting of Aston dealers from around the world, gathered in a crystalline building in Weehawken, New Jersey, on the edge of the Hudson River with a view of the Manhattan skyline out the windows.

"Because the patterns come from the car itself, they give us complete credibility," Reichman said. By credibility, he means a legitimate link to the cars that made Aston Martin famous. He explained how he took lines from the computer renderings of an Aston coupe, duplicated them, flipped and spun them in the computer to produce abstract patterns that look like flames or flowers. They could be Art Nouveau ornaments; they are red and silver, orange and yellow.

Flame was the design keynote of the red V8 Vantage convertible, whose shape Reichman supervised as the chief designer. "This red is the fire," he said of the metallic paint applied to the car's body. The car, on view for dealers at the meeting, will make its public debut at the Los Angeles auto show on Nov. 29. Red is an unaccustomed color to those familiar with the traditional Aston hues of gun metal and jade green.

Reichman designed another sort of accessory — for James Bond; 007's Aston Martin DBS is the hero's ride in Casino Royale, which opened Friday.

A look inside the new Bond car, which is based on the current DB9, reveals upholstery in a soft dark suede-like material, quilted in a diamond pattern; the instruments and shifter gleam from every carefully machined corner and curve. That shifter reportedly presented a challenge for Daniel Craig, the new actor playing Bond. Reports from the set were that filming shut down for several days while Craig learned to drive a manual transmission.

The Bond car is likely to be available to the public in a civilian edition of perhaps 200 sometime next year. Unveiling of the production version is set for next year's Geneva auto show. It will add power to the version of the V-12 engine in the current DB9. About 2,000 DB9's are produced each year.

Reichman took over a job with noted predecessors, including Henrik Fisker, who created the Z8 at BMW and went on to establish his own company, Fisker Coachbuild, and Ian Callum, now at Jaguar, whose 1994 DB7 reinvented the forms of the classic DB5 in contemporary language, widening the signature grille to resemble the mouth of a killer whale.

Reichman is a dashing figure who seems young for his job; think Elizabethan privateer or playwright, Christopher Marlowe or Sir Francis Drake, an image of Britishness the company likes to cultivate. Reichman was born in Sheffield, England, and studied industrial design at the Royal College of Art in London. His portfolio includes design work for Land Rover, Lincoln and Mercury.

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