Tom Stewart meets the woman who made Bond's car more special

Aston Martin is in the ascendant. Aston's owner, Ford, has invested in new engines and models - the DB7 Vantage and Vanquish, the V12 Vanquish S, the DB9, plus, soon, the DB9 Volante and AMV8 Vantage.

Aston Martin is in the ascendant. Aston's owner, Ford, has invested in new engines and models - the DB7 Vantage and Vanquish, the V12 Vanquish S, the DB9, plus, soon, the DB9 Volante and AMV8 Vantage.

From the announcement of the DBR9's international racing programme to the moderately untidy desk of Sarah Maynard, Aston's interior designer, there's optimism at the HQ at Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Maynard joined Aston Martin four years ago. Having trained at the Royal College of Art, she formed her own company designing couture fabrics for the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, YSL and Chloe, and became involved in interior design.

She soon found herself designing elements of a concept vehicle for Lotus, and went from there to Lincoln, Ford's premier US brand, before landing the job at Aston Martin four years ago - when the detailed work on the interior of the DB9 began. "Fashion and cars aren't that dissimilar," Maynard says, "so when I first joined the team I looked at how colour and materials could serve and enhance the product, and thus ultimately the brand."

At the same time, she studied the DB9's target customers - who they were, where they went, what they did, what clothes and even what watches they wore. In addition, Maynard had to gain a thorough comprehension of Aston Martin's past. "The company's historian, Roger Stowers, now sadly deceased, took me through the popular paints and colours, and introduced me to owners," she says. "And it was with them that my education started in the values of understatement, quality, finish and attention to detail. I have a social responsibility to the brand and to those who buy and aspire to the brand."

Maynard's perspective on this attention to detail is enlightening. "While working on James Bond's Vanquish, my attention was drawn to the red plastic starter button. Neither the material nor the white graphics shouted luxury or technical brilliance. The first interaction of the driver and engine warranted attention to detail. I wanted a material that was cold to the touch and evoked special, jewel-like qualities, through which light could shine, and which had a hidden depth that led to the heart and soul of the car."

Maynard called on her friend Simon Harrison, a jeweller to leading fashion houses. Sifting through his collection of semi-precious gems, she found a crystal that fitted the brief. Maynard continues: "First, I made a mock-up in clear resin, into the rear of which Simon three-dimensionally etched the graphics. I then trialled a set of four LEDs [light emitting diodes], which were set into the button's surrounding bezel, so that the light, coming from the side, would reflect off the 3D letters.

"Then, by mixing the LED's colours, we had a button that would be red when it was first pressed, but would turn to the ice white/blue I specified for all the other lighting when the engine was running."

This starter button is now a feature on the DB9 and Vanquish. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to put so much dedication into one, non-crucial component. Instead, "attention to detail" meant one chap in a brown store coat spending aweek single-handedly building your Aston's V8. Importantly, AM engines are still put together by a single individual, but now each can assemble almost three in a day at the production hall in Cologne. And no one has to make excuses for tacky switch-gear. The times, they are a-changin'.

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