The Case For A Mercedes-Free Aston Martin

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Is it a coincidence that, on the day the newswires fill up with reports of renewed cooperation between Aston Martin and Daimler’s Maybach brand, the British sportscar firm has released a video with the theme “one engine, one ethos”? After all, before Aston built a hideous concept on the Mercedes GL platform and Maybach asked Aston to develop a four-door concept, the assumption was that Aston wanted Mercedes engines to replace its aged Cologne-built V-12. Now, possibly motivated by Lotus’s engine flip-flop, it seems that Aston is taking pride in its elderly but unique 12-banger. Which seems like a smart move: high-end buyers often care more about pedigree than absolute performance, and being seen as an independent house rather than an engine customer shop certainly helps cultivate that image… even if it means sticking with an engine that’s based on a pair of Ford V6s. Especially when those two V6s sound so damn enchanting.

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  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Dec 23, 2010

    " seems that Aston is taking pride in its elderly but unique 12-banger. Which seems like a smart move: high-end buyers often care more about pedigree... even if it means sticking with an engine that’s based on a pair of Ford V6s..." Bear in mind that the "pair of V6" is an unfair simplification of reality ... it is based on a scaleable modular architecture which allows for V-6/-8/-10/-12 sub-variants. A concept not unlike VW's modular engine families...) Well, since this is the Truth About Cars, some comments to that pedigree of Aston's Modular V-12: - was designed/developed by a team of 3 engineers and 1 designer; - in Dearborn (IIRC at the EMDO (Engine Manufacturing Dev. Ops.) bldg.); - one of those engineers was/is a college buddy of mine ... who was (it was 20 years ago, so I'm no longer sure) either in the last part of his FCG (Ford College Grad program) rotation, or this was his first post-FCG assignment; - his then manager told them "it is dangerous to give guys like you so much freedom and latitude so early in your careers here at Ford. I am afraid that when you are successful with this project, and are then assigned to traditional jobs, you will soon be bored and the company will lose each of you." To the best of my knowledge, all 4 of these guys did end up leaving Ford for greener, more challenging and lucrative pastures; - the first prototype engine hit its targets of 400 hp, 400 ft-lb, on its first run and development problems were virtually non-existant; - somebody somewhere within the corporation got the idea that such an engine should bear a Cosworth badge to have real credibility. Thus said friend of mine had to make several trips to Cosworth in the UK ... he was left totally Un-impressed by what Cosworth brought to the table and was actually suprised at how far behind the times Cosworth seemed to be via-a-vis Ford; - the unusual nature of some components coupled with low volume projections resulted in some suppliers (including my then employer) to lack interest in supplying parts (and not even the old "think of the prestige of being the supplier to this engine" was enough to offset the negative margin associated with the price Ford wanted to pay for bespoke V12 components). As a result, for several years before "our" component was later produced using more Mod-V6 like components (but with some operations still outsourced and with final hand assy in 'our' prototype shop, with the expected consequences), these parts were initially produced by a low-volume machine shop; - I suggested that they engage David Kimble to make one of his beautiful cut-away phantom-view artwork and to see if he could hide their initials in the artwork ... they did, and he did, but this took two loops because my friend nearly had a youthful heart-attack when his and the other 3 guys initials seemed to too quickly jump out of their hiding places ... to which Kimble said ca. "don't worry, they'll be buried in the final version"... (I'd have to look again at my copy, but as I recall, they are hidden in things like the weld fillets, piston rings, shadows and edges of other parts...) Aston is very particular about the engines it receives from Cologne ... perhaps the process has changed, but up to a couple of years ago and the last I was aware, if there was any non-conformance in the delivered engine, like unusual noises, or sub-standard cosmetics, back into the crate and back to Cologne it went!

  • Willman Willman on Dec 23, 2010

    ^ What He said. . :D

  • Dimwit Dimwit on Dec 23, 2010

    It always amazes me how quickly the baby is forever being thrown out. MB's 12's are nice but I don't think any more special the AM's version. Unless there's some spec its not meeting or Ford's not going to build them anymore there doesn't seem to be a good reason to dump it. Hell, I'd look at putting into the Jag if they feel that they can't support more than one corporate wide. BMW has shown that a good 12 ain't easy. Why change?

  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Dec 24, 2010

    Doesn't the Zonda use MB V12s? And those are like as exotic as supercars come... I think if Aston's V12 is fine they should keep it... but with all the development MB has poured into their engines, if a replacement is due Aston would be foolish not to capitalize on MB's work, given a cheap opportunity