Call me James Bond.
All right, I know I don't look like him. I don't dress like him, or have his luck at a gambling table.
But we do have at least one thing in common: An Aston Martin.
Here I am, sitting in one with the engine purring right now. No, I don't own it. Then again, Bond doesn't own his either. He gets his from his boss, "M," and that gadget guy, "Q."
I got mine straight from Ford.
Ford has owned Aston Martin since 1994. The Ford/Aston Martin public relations staff has brought a few of the ultra-luxury cars to Boston so the local press can test drive them. I toss my hat in the ring faster than Odd Job flinging his bowler in Goldfinger.
The green DB7 GT they give me is sleek. Leather inside, for the seats and on the dash. Suede roof. Chrome trim. And Oak paneling. I should be wearing a tuxedo. Instead I am, shall we say, "casual." Nevertheless, sitting in the car with both hands on the steering wheel, I say to the man looking back at me from the rear-view mirror, "This is definitely you, Mr. Bond."
Then I step on the gas pedal.
The power source is a 6.0-liter V12 Cosworth engine that develops 435 hp and 410 lb/ft of torque. The speedometer shows a maximum speed of 190 mph. Zero-to-60 performance is reportedly five seconds.
I, of course, can't attest to that acceleration. They have turned us loose with the cars just before the late afternoon rush hour in a Boston neighborhood noted for heavy traffic. I've been sitting in gridlock for about 20 minutes, acknowledging (coolly, nonchalantly, as befitting my James Bond alter ego) the admiring stares of other drivers similarly stuck but in comparatively boring cars, like Beamers and Mercedes. How can I be about Her Majesty's secret service stuck like this?
Now, James Bond would no doubt pull out of the line of traffic and slalom his way to the next unclogged highway, sipping champagne. As a born-and-bred Boston driver, I would normally do the same, substituting beer for the champagne. But not this time.
Instead, I sit here admiring the work of fine art that is this car. Like its siblings in the line, it's hand crafted. You design the car the way you want it. The PR people call it "The All-About-You Car." I like that.
This is a car for people who pamper themselves, who allow themselves a few little indulgences. People who can shell out between $145,000 to $155,000 to own it. The average age of buyers, the company says, is 45 to 55 years old. Other demographics: They come from Dallas, Beverly Hills, Greenwich, CT and similar venues, and they wait about four months to get their car. If they want the $230,000 Vanquish model (007 did; who wouldn't?), they wait two years. They don't mind, though. For most of them, it's their third or fourth car. Still, they'll drive it on average about 15,000 miles a year, up from 4,000 miles a few years ago. Do you think the increase represents more trips with the kids to soccer games or to the grocery store to get milk?
In 1992, Aston Martin sold 42 cars in North America. In 2000, sales had jumped to 300, and in 2001 they went to 456. Worldwide in 2001, the company sold 1,503 cars. With numbers like that, Aston Martin claims to be the fastest-growing car company in the world.
Meanwhile, I'm still stuck in this traffic. I can only imagine the thrill of peeling off and pushing this baby to the max. So imagine it I will. And as I do, my driving exploits will be for my eyes only.
Reach Teague at firstname.lastname@example.org.