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Inside Q, Aston Martin’s NYC Customization Salon

Made-to-measure car making arrives in Manhattan

Aston Martin is an entirely revived ultra-luxury carmaker. That sentence may have sounded like spin had it been written in the days under Ford ownership in the 1990s and early 2000s—or under any of the other managers and investment groups not truly devoted to the storied carmaker long associated with racing, as well as the James Bond film franchise. Throughout Aston’s 110-year history there have been Succession-level internecine battles that had the brand nearly unravelling—except for exemplary direction from the ’50s through the early ’70s under strong-willed owner David Brown (where the DB moniker comes from). 

Such a firm hand returned circa 2020 in the form of Lawrence Stroll, a billionaire financier known for reviving storied labels like Asprey and more modern ones like Michael Kors. Stroll knows luxury and he knows New York City, which he referred to as a one-time second home during a recent visit to Aston Martin’s new flagship location at 450 Park Avenue.

“There were alternatives, up and down the block, for a lot cheaper, but you get what you pay for,” Stroll says of the location at 57th Street and Park Avenue. “This perfectly aligns with our level of excellence—of how we want to do everything. From design, to technology, to performance.” This space is called as Q, a wink toward the Bond character who was responsible for armoring and fettling 007’s many vehicles. Only, at this Park Ave location, there’s a softer touch. If anything, the cars Aston Martin will produce after consultation with its clients here will be far more bespoke and extraordinary.

Q has already existed as a service: Aston Martin saw a nearly 100% rise in customization of its cars over this past year and the US was responsible for the bulk of that. Partly that’s down to special and limited edition models, but there are multiple tiers of creativity available to customers. Stroll says the business also allows customers to buy existing Astons and alter or revive them. “There are a lot of older DBs, DB 5s and sixes and you may want to have them switched from right- to left-hand drive,” he shares. “I’ve personally just done that. But what you see here [in Q, is that] we want to sell new cars, to make them extremely exclusive.”

Marek Reichman, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Aston Martin was also on site for the unveiling. He took time to outline a few unprecedented attributes. The first is a floor-to-ceiling frameless window that looks onto Park Avenue. He said there was literally no glazier in North America that could make the glass, so it had to be imported, and the idea behind it was to have a borderless transition from the car on display to the sidewalk and to the street beyond, so you could stand inside Q and easily envision the car on the road. Currently, a Valkyrie occupies that place of pride in the studio, and there are two of these near-curbside parking spots at Q, both subtly and beautifully framed by Italian marble marquetry, and Aston brought in the same artisans who cut the tile to lay it in place at Q.

Echoing that theme, Aston Martin built a massive 35 by 10 foot LED wall that occupies the far end of the studio. Customers will sit at the “apothecary” table, a word that Reichman used to describe the environment that yields onto a wall of “ingredients” that, in this case, aren’t for your health, but when mixed correctly, would yield the desired effect for a car’s exterior and interior. 

The LED screen transitions from letting customers touch a mixture of cloth swatches and paint samples to having these applied to virtual versions of a future vehicle. And because Aston Martin has captured light settings across seasons at a variety of locations globally, they can take a car’s exterior hue and expose it so that the customer can see what happens in lifelike light where they live. “We literally go around the world photographing the environments,” Reichman explains. “We needed to learn about our customers, where they’re coming from and this system allows that.” 

“With this system,” he continues, “I could understand—exactly—the issue that the consumer may have,” he says, regarding deciding between colors. Reichman says that whether a customer lives in London, where there will eventually be another Q, or in Aoyama, an upscale Tokyo district where there will be another Q, clients will be able to see their car in light that properly replicates the conditions where they live. Further, technology will eventually fill in at the floor level of the screen up to the edge of the apothecary room, making the car seem virtually present and even more lifelike.

Hardly least important about the experience, Aston Martin will have designers staffing the facility, and can quickly bring Reichman in on any discussion with a client, either virtually as a picture-in-picture on the screen or, if a customer’s needs are very specific (and surpass a certain price threshold), in person. 

“That’s the benefit of New York. That’s partly why we decided here as well. Because you could have done this in California, but then you’re talking a very different time zone,” he says. “That’s not New York. This is simply the most iconic location. And obviously Lawrence [Stroll] was a big part of that.” Reichman affirms that when it came to planting the first Q flag Stroll was adamant: “That’s the spot.”

Images courtesy of Aston Martin

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