Technical Visit 2013 - Aston Martin Factory, Gaydon, Warwickshire
Tuesday, 19th March 2013
GAYDON is the home of prestige car manufacturer Aston Martin and 20 very lucky GCA members were given the opportunity to tour the excellent manufacturing facility. Delegates arrived at the 55 acre site and were in awe of the purpose built production plant that was opened 10 years ago in 2003. Through the VIP entrance doors, grown men turned into boys as six of the finest cars in the world were there for them to sit in, touch and generally salivate and drawl over.
Two other special limited built 77’s were displayed in the area where a fantastic buffet lunch was provided. The 77’s turned out to be made of clay and were the original models for the car. (It’s not surprising as all the cars were sold for over £1,2 Million each).
Tantalisingly close to our left was the Design Studio, where the design team led by Marek Reichman were working on new models and concept ideas for the future. Entry to this area would certainly mean decapitation if not death to the unauthorised entrée.
Aston Martin are in their 100th year and in that time over 60,000 cars have been manufactured and the time scale was demonstrated on a wall board that stretched the length of the administration department, which Aston Martin call “The Street”.
It takes 220 hours to build a DB9 and 200 hours for a Vantage. Cars are made in a series of work stations where technicians hand-build the cars. Once work is completed at one work station the bodies are moved to the next on the small indexed line every 25 minutes. The key word is quality and Aston Martin certainly takes it’s time to achieve it.
We entered the facility where DB9, DBS and Vantage cars were assembled. All the cars are assembled by hand and each car has its own “build sheet” listing the features of its final specification and options.
Assembly on the line starts with the aluminium chassis which has been previously glued together using epoxy resin in the chassis build area. This is a highly adaptable chassis principle unique to Aston Martin. Sub-assemblies are constructed using geometry fixtures before everything is brought together to be cured at 165 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes Each chassis takes 24 hours to construct and a co-ordinate measuring machine incorporating 8 cameras which scans every component to check correct type and position. This ensures the exacting accuracy demanded.
Panels are bonded together and added to the chassis using a polyurethane adhesive applied by one of the few robots in the factory. Once complete it is checked and checked again. The completed body and chassis are allowed to the paint shop.
The quality of the paint finish on Aston Martin is best in class due to the time and skill dedicated to treating every car as an individual. A car is first inspected and prepared by hand before having its primer applied by a robot to ensure a consistent film build. Water-based paint (base coat) is then applied using traditional skills and a wet-on-wet application method. Although there is a standard range of 24 colours, any colour can be mixed on site to meet the customer’s requirements. After the lacquer (clear coat) is applied and the finish has been cured, every car is flatted and polished by hand. The entire application process strives to ensure that the eventual finish, its lustre and depth of reflection is industry leading.
Each car has the bumpers, sill covers, doors and front crash structure carefully removed before being mounted onto the assembly line. All parts that are removed at this point are carefully marked with unique Build Number of the car and then built in sub-assembly in the centre of the U-shaped line. Once mounted to the line each car is marked with its unique VIN. The car is fitted into a Carousel system where the body is prepared for the powertrain assembly by fitting the fuel tank and connections, brake pipes, heat shielding etc.
The Aston Martin 6 litre v12 is delivered already assembled and bench-tested from the Aston Martin Engine Plant in Cologne. Connecting the engine and gearbox is a cast aluminium torque tube with a carbon fibre prop shaft. The front mid-mounted engine and rear mounted gearbox help achieve the perfect 50:50 weight distribution. All round independent double wishbone, steel grooved and ventilated discs, 4 pot monobloc callipers are also added. The DBS and Virage also benefit from an adaptive damping system and carbon ceramic matrix brakes.
The Trim shop individually handcrafts every Aston Martin interior to the customer’s specification. An average of 7 leather hides will be used to trim the interior of one DB9/DBS/Virage, 6 hides on a Vantage and 10 on a Rapide. Every component is either stitched together or bonded onto a substrate by hand. Dashboards (instrument packs) are built in a single unit on a short line. This sub-assembly principle offers a high level of build quality and an opportunity to fully test the unit before it joins the rest of the car.
The car is put through a driving test cycle up to 60mph. What a great job that must be! The car’s exhaust emissions and braking systems are tested and validated by computer.
Every Aston Martin built is test driven on their track, going through a process of functional checks. Once this has been passed, the car moves to the water test area where 4200 litres of water are sprayed over each car to check for leaks.
Aston Martins leave the factory on dedicated covered transporters before beginning their journey to one of 140 dealers in 42 countries around the world.
This tour was very impressive, and our guides Steve and Mark did a sterling job with facts and figures and some quite good funnies. The dedication of the workforce showed in the absolute quality of the cars. Working conditions were excellent; the factory was spotlessly clean and an inspiration to all of the visitors. Personally it was very nice to meet new members Robert and Mike James from SJG International and the directors Stewart Whiteman and Jon Collinge of Lonestar. The GCA is all about networking and sharing ideas yet none of us came up with a plan on how to “liberate” one of the showroom models. Well, Perhaps we will next time!
Keith Payne, Managing Director Keith Payne Products (The South’s Premier Gasket manufacturer.) (with a little help from a crib sheet from A.M.)