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One -77

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Good article on the One 77 from ClassicDriver:

While Sir Richard Branson was throwing a soirée for 800 of his closest friends to celebrate the dedication of the 110,000-square foot facilities that will house his commercial space travel operation, writes Patrick C. Paternie, Aston Martin used the opportunity to show off its latest example of automotive rocket science, the One-77.


Spaceport America, in the remote high desert region of southern New Mexico near the White Sands Missile Range, serves as the headquarters, hangar and terminal for Virgin Galactic in its effort to launch the first commercial passenger flights into space.

Almost 500 people have committed thus far to the $200,000 fare for the two-hour, sub-orbital journey that will include nearly seven minutes of gravity-free flight about 70 miles above the earth.

Rather than a launch pad, Spaceport America has a 10,000-foot long, 200-foot wide concrete runway for the twin-hull ship that carries the actual spaceship under its central wing to an altitude of 52,000 feet, where the spaceship ignites its rockets and ‘launches’ into space.

While Classic Driver might not be on board when Virgin Galactic launches its first official commercial space flight down this strip in a year or so (Sir Richard and his children have that honour), we were among the first passengers aboard Aston Martin’s 220mph, 750 horsepower road rocket, the limited-production One-77, on its maiden passenger-carrying trips down the Spaceport America runway.

The One-77, which costs about five times the price of a space trip, is also more exclusive – with production limited to 77 cars; hence the One-77 moniker. It features a full carbonfibre monocoque with aluminum body panels and front mid-mounted 7.3-litre normally aspirated V12 engine, putting power to the rear wheels through a rear mid-mounted 6-speed automated manual gearbox.

Our ride, with Aston Martin Chief Engineer Chris Porritt at the controls of a prototype One-77, was one of the first offered to anyone outside (or inside) Aston Martin. Porritt has devoted his time to bringing the One-77 to life since the concept debuted in October 2007.

The One-77 is impressive in person, with an aggressive stance that squats menacingly low to the ground. One of Porritt’s goals was to give it what he calls “a nineties F1 car sound” and our ears confirmed he had hit his mark, when we observed it snarl away toward the runway, the exhaust rippling between shifts.

Things are tamer inside. The ride is smooth and quiet despite this prototype having racked up over 22,000 hard kilometres during durability testing. The leather and carbonfibre cockpit is commodious, with no wind noise despite our rapid acceleration to a 188mph top speed as Porritt serenely flicked his way through the gears. Braking was just as imperturbable.

Weather conditions caused Porritt to wisely shut down early during the 30 passes he made, limiting his best run to 193mph.

We can’t wait to see if the One-77 will prove as impressive from the driver’s seat.

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Behind the scenes with the Aston Martin One-77

Announced in 2008, Aston’s once-in-a-lifetime flagship redefines the expression ‘no expense spared’. With just a few cars to go before the magic ‘77’ have been produced, Classic Driver was given a tour of the model’s bespoke production facility at Gaydon and experienced the ‘£1.15m – plus local taxes – handover’.


This building is solely dedicated to the One-77. Spotlessly finished in white, the laboratory-like workshop is the perfect environment for assembling Aston’s most expensive road car yet. That’s not to say that working on the One-77 is a soulless occupation – far from it.

My guide for the day was the One-77 programme’s Chief Engineer, Chris Porritt, aided by the redoubtable Mark Gauntlett, spokesman for the company on all matters One-77.

Both enthuse about the project, pointing out a detail here, a clever engineering solution there, that marks the whole project out as truly unique. And in the rarefied world of Aston Martin, that’s saying something.

As an example, one of the company’s standard production sports cars might take 200 hours to build. A One-77 needs 2,500 hours of skilled craftsmanship before the new owner can watch the flamboyant theatrical display that is the handover, and finally sit behind the wheel.

So many pieces are machined from a solid billet of aluminium alloy, titanium or high-grade steel, mere ‘mouldings’ are few and far between. The long, carefully sculpted transmission tunnel cover that will eventually be sheathed in leather is no common-or-garden stamping or extrusion: it’s formed by CNC precision milling. The light-switches, door-pulls, seat-belt surrounds set into the carbonfibre seats – virtually every part you can touch or see has been made especially for this car, including its slightly-larger-than-usual winged badge.

It’s known as an ‘A-class finish’. And that extends under the bonnet, behind the wheels or anywhere else that’s visible. The push-rod suspension at the rear has its own ‘window’ behind the seats. Up front, and with the bonnet raised, more of the all-carbonfibre chassis unfolds, with turned and anodised aluminium meeting exquisitely finished, high-gloss resin carbonfibre at Formula 1 levels of detailing and fit.

And it’s from Canadian motorsports supplier Multimatic that the Gaydon company sources the One-77’s carbonfibre chassis, with CPP of Coventry making the body panels and Cosworth of Northampton entrusted with developing Aston’s own 6.0-litre V12 into a lightweight, free-revving 7.3-litre motor producing in excess of 750bhp. “An extreme evolution” of the series-production engine is how Aston puts it.

With the immensely tough chassis and lightweight composite parts stripped down, then painted and re-assembled in the main factory, it’s time for the car to be built up by hand in the One-77 building, where drivetrain, brakes, all plumbing, wiring and trim is carefully installed.

The rear-mounted gearbox, by the way, is a variation on the 6-speed robotised sequential manual transmission, the ‘Sportshift’, used in Aston’s series production cars. V8 Vantage owners, please be reassured: it’s tough.

As you’d expect, each individual chassis can be painted and trimmed to suit an owner’s tastes. One-77 has its own range of colours (such as ‘Black Pearl’) but the potential palette inside and out is infinite. All customers will have visited Gaydon at least once in order to settle on a final configuration. And that can go right down to whether the handmade grille has polished or satin edges…

(As an example, the grille alone takes 1.5 weeks to fabricate, with all parts cut and finished by hand. And One-77 has unique-to-the-car B & O speakers in the doors, delicately sculpted from solid. I could go on.)

Available in LHD and RHD, more than 55 cars have been delivered so far and, with the start of V12 Zagato production in the same facility next spring, potential buyers might be advised to consider one of the last remaining production slots.

While members of the press have yet to drive a One-77, many owners are enjoying their new acquisitions. One has covered some 22,000 kilometres in just nine months and it’s interesting to note that the very special car can be serviced by all authorised Aston Martin agents. It’s also been designed with a degree of usability to add to its colossal performance: a 300-mile (500km) range should be on one tank of fuel. Porritt has driven the car back from testing in Italy, two-up with soft luggage for an overnight stop-over.

Putting the not inconsiderable revenue issues aside, the project came about principally because the company ‘could’, stretching the design and engineering team’s skills and creativity.

I’ve seen many One-77s over the past year or so but, in the calm, uncluttered environment at Gaydon, the model takes on a new persona. Marek Reichman (above) and his team have done a terrific job. It’s such a clever design with the ‘power bulge’ that’s actually formed by two sculpted valleys in the bonnet, the fan-like array of curved stainless steel bonnet louvres, the extravagant engine air-exit and long side-strake and so much more.

All of this becomes apparent as, finally, the lights are dimmed and you are invited to relax on a leather sofa and experience the ultimate handover. We are in the discreetly furnished reception area for One-77 clients and That Time has come.

With Bang & Olufsen surround-sound swirling, steadily pulsing lights in a hitherto unlit room flash brighter and faster, a shape becomes ever more apparent behind smoked glass doors. It is YOUR One-77 and it’s ready for collection.

As an experience, that alone is stunning. And it’s one that quite perfectly matches the state-of-the-art, brilliantly styled and executed Aston Martin One-77.

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Five questions to Chris Porritt, One-77 programme Chief Engineer

With the production-run of Aston’s super-exclusive 750bhp GT nearing ‘sold out’, we had a chance to chat with the man responsible for engineering on both the One-77 and the forthcoming V12 Zagato. He’s also a regular member of the company’s Nürburgring 24 Hours racing team.


What would you say has been the finest achievement of your career so far?

It has to be getting the One-77 from Marek’s [Marek Reichman, the company’s Director of Design] drawing board to production. Considering the scale of the job and the difficult worldwide financial situation when we announced the car in 2008, recording 220mph at Nardo barely 12 months later felt like a major achievement. And it meant I knew, “This car works”.

Why should I buy a One-77?

Because there will be so few made. You won’t see one at every corner of the street, as you might a run of, say, 400 cars. The One-77, with its unique chassis, engine and push-rod suspension is unlikely to be repeated in 5-10 years' time. More than that, it captures the real spirit of Aston Martin at Gaydon.

Developing a car, or success on the track – which is the most satisfying?

Racing is a hobby, engineering is a career that allows me to go racing. Ultimately, I am proudest of my engineering achievements; after all, many people can be racing drivers, but not everyone can be an engineer!

Aston Martin – the ‘ultimate performance car’ or ‘perfect GT’?

A grand touring car is more difficult to do. An Aston Martin should be the ‘ultimate GT’, able to combine performance, practicality and comfort. The more power and performance you factor in, the more difficult it becomes to achieve that.

From an engineering perspective, how do you maintain that unique ‘Aston DNA’ over a varied model range?

Without question, it’s down to the team here, who are really entrenched in the product. Each model has its own characteristics: DBS = performance, DB9 = comfort, for example. Within those parameters, our people are skilled at ‘what makes an Aston’ and have a very good overview and understanding of the entire range. And, of course, we have the ultimate arbiter in the form of our Chief Executive, Dr Ulrich Bez.

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