Bob Fountain founded Aston Workshop more than 30 years ago, originally working from his garage on the site near Beamish where he still lives.
Today he has taken a step back from the day-to-day administration of what is now a significantly bigger, globally connected Aston Martin sales, service and restoration business with 30 workshop staff and a 30-car showroom.
“The volume of cars we can work on and what we do in-house has increased hugely,” says managing director Dave Cummings, who joined Aston Workshop three years ago from a background in architecture.
“We don’t see many unrestored cars now,” he adds.
“Most are older restorations, and many cars don’t even return to us for servicing because of the global nature of the business.”
An original DB5 remains the ultimate prize, but modern customers for the older models want discreet customisation and the niceties that make them easier to live with.
“Power steering is a must,” Dave explains, “but you can also have uprated suspension, heated ’screens, heated seats; we even do a tropical air-con system developed for Middle Eastern and East Asian customers.”
There are reversing cameras and Apple CarPlay, too: “Our younger customers are interested in that kind of thing.
“They get the theatre of a heritage Aston, but modern convenience and a reduction in wind noise and engine heat.”
Working in a sprawling, 45,000sq ft facility, Aston Workshop offers right- and left-hand-drive conversions, plus a wide variety of engine and gearbox upgrades: going up from 4 to 4.2 litres is now almost routine, but 4.5- and 4.8-litre versions of the straight-six are also available, plus a 6.3-litre V8.
Like the engines, the nature of Aston body and chassis construction – and the mixture of materials – means that older, aluminium-bodied cars are by no means straightforward to restore.
It is never going to be an inexpensive project, but the team at Beamish will advise and work to budgets, building realistic contingencies and timescales into estimates, including bespoke projects beyond restoration.
“If customers want, say, Bond-car features, we can do it,” Dave suggests.
“If you would like a more reliable engine – with our new machined block and upgrades – we will build you one and provide a 10-year warranty,” he continues.
“The nice thing is that the cars have the value in them to make this viable, at least on the DB4 and 5.”
And the V8s? “They are a relatively affordable older Aston,” reckons Dave, “but you have to restore one because you want one, not because of the value in the car when it’s finished.”
Aston Workshop has now embarked on an electrically powered DB6 that has drawn a lot of interest, especially from America.
Dave explains: “Aston Martin itself was going to do a DB6 EV, but it wasn’t an economic reality for them; it is for us, and we are the first to do it.”
It is a controversial market, but for Dave it’s about being able to see these cars on the road. It gets people past the perception of unreliability, and the original petrol engine can be put back in: “Everything is reversible.”
Always mindful that his relatively remote location stacked the cards against long-term success, Bob has put considerable effort into enticing customers to the rural north.
There’s even an on-site pub with plush rooms if you can’t face the drive home.
The firm has benefited more than most from the globalising effects of the internet.
If you have a DB5 and live in Dubai or Texas, it doesn’t matter that County Durham is a four- or five-hour drive from the home counties, and the fact that the team is working on Astons day in, day out is explanation enough.
Images: Will Williams
- Name Aston Workshop
- Address Red Row, Beamish, County Durham DH9 0RW
- Specialism All aspects of Aston Martin care
- Staff 30
- Prices Classics £78.50-95/hr, modern servicing £120/hr
- Tel 01207 233525
- Web aston.co.uk
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