Ian Callum is one of the most celebrated car designers of the modern era. His 30-year back catalogue includes the Aston Martin DB7 and Ford Escort Cosworth. He also revitalised Jaguar with a 21st-century sense of style.
Now, Callum is striking out on his own with a new company called… Callum. His first project was to remaster one of his classic designs. Meet the Aston Martin Vanquish 25 by Callum.
Modifying a masterpiece
The Vanquish is one of Callum’s greatest hits. The original was Aston’s breakout car for the new millennium, first previewed with the Project Vantage concept in 1998. Over the past two decades, it has aged like a fine wine. How does he go about improving on that?
Well, even the Vanquish had elements elements that Ian wishes could have turned out better. For him, the Vanquish 25 is the facelift the Vanquish always deserved.
Making you look
Ian was keen to embrace the indulgent and boutique nature of such a project. Overall, there are 100 changes to the car, all of which come with the blessing of Aston Martin itself.
The front has a stylish and aerodynamic overhaul, with added carbon fibre. That signature Vanquish grille is accompanied by a new chin spoiler. Flanking that, classic Callum-style vents in carbon seem reminiscent of those on the stillborn Jaguar C-X75 hypercar.
Aston Martin Vanquish 25 by Callum revealed at Concours of Elegance.
I’ll be interviewing Ian Callum about the project later today. pic.twitter.com/MPGrZmScuP
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) September 6, 2019
New 20-inch forged wheels modernise a classic element of the Vanquish. The originals were a favourite of Callum’s, so their design has been updated, rather than replaced. The car sits 10mm lower and has a superb stance. New door mirrors join carbon fibre side strakes, updated sills and one-piece carbon window surrounds.
At the rear, the curvaceous light clusters are now fitted with LEDs, while a larger diffuser houses integrated exhausts. Take a look underneath and Callum has a little treat for you: the words ‘Made you look’ on the underside of this show car’s exhausts.
Customising the cabin
If the exterior is timeless, the cabin was a comparative disappointment from day one. It’s here that Callum says the most work needed to be done. Gone are the dull black plastics and cheap buttons, replaced by symmetrical carbon fibre on the centre ‘waterfall’, with up-to-date eight-inch infotainment. And yes, that’s Apple CarPlay you see.
Elements from later Astons are included, and the air vents are carbon strakes instead of plastic. What remains is the steering wheel, albeit re-trimmed in blue leather with a thinner rim. The shift paddles are borrowed from newer Astons, while the lower-set sports seats are trimmed with Callum’s own tartan design. You’ll find the same tartan-effect forged in metal for the bonnet vents, too. No sign of deployable shotguns, though…
The centrepiece for the cabin is the Bremont luxury watch that sits atop the dashboard, where you’d find the Sport Chrono dial in a Porsche. Thankfully, it can be removed when you park. Bremont is also responsible for the new instrument binnacle.
The start of something special
Of course, the Vanquish isn’t an automotive oil painting. In period, the driving experience was as muscular as the styling suggests. Vanquish 25 gets stiffer anti-roll bars, tuned dampers and custom springs, along with that lower ride height. The goal is to provide the sharper sporting edge that modern GT buyers expect, while maintaining the comfort of a grand tourer.
With re-designed wheels and newly calibrated suspension, the Vanquish 25 should have a lighter, pointier feel in the bends. And because nobody gets nostalgic about below-par brakes, modern Aston ceramic rotors are fitted – cooled by air ducts at the front.
Side-by-side comparison of the original Aston Martin Vanquish (Ian Callum’s own car) and the Vanquish 25.
There are lots of detail changes you might initially miss, including the door mirrors, beefier sills, smoother window rubbers and front splitter. pic.twitter.com/KHL7ZnofsJ
— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) September 6, 2019
The V12 was the jewel in the original Vanquish’s crown. No matter how much more accomplished an equivalent Ferrari or Porsche felt at the time, the Aston would win you over as soon as the engine fired. The Vanquish 25’s 5.9-litre V12 gets a 60hp boost, to 580hp. There’s a new carbon induction system and re-tuned exhaust. So don’t worry, that rumbling soundtrack should be preserved.
Lastly, the bane of the original Vanquish: its gearbox. While the Vanquish 25 won’t come with a manual option, you can get a proper six-speed automatic in place of the much-derided automated manual.
Ian Callum’s love letter to his own best work won’t be for everyone, not least because it costs £550,000 (including the donor car). If you hadn’t twigged, 25 is the number of examples they’re going to make. Ian Callum says there are more projects to come, but this seems a promising start. Bring on the reborn Escort Cosworth.
Ian Callum on the Vanquish 25 – Tim Pitt
We’re in the grandiose gardens of Hampton Court Palace, surrounded by classic cars at the annual Concours of Elegance event. Less positively, it’s just started drizzling and, by the time of my late-afternoon interview slot, Ian Callum has probably been asked the same questions hundreds of times today.
Not that he’s letting on. Callum’s pride and enthusiasm for the Vanquish 25 are infectious. “It has always been one of my absolute favourite cars,” he says with a smile. “That’s why I bought one.” Ian’s own Vanquish – original spec and painted in a very ‘007’ shade of grey – is parked on a plinth next to the ’25’. “I planned to modify this one for personal use,” he explains, “but David Fairbairn [programme director at Callum’s eponymous new design consultancy] suggested making it our first project.”
Asked to pick his favourite details, Ian cites the deeper front grille graphic (“I never liked the DB7 spotlamps either”) and upswept rear diffuser. “It would have been easy to do something more flamboyant, but that’s not in keeping with what the car’s about.” Interestingly, the Vanquish 25 has gained official approval from Aston Martin: “They respect the fact that I was the original designer and they’ve given it their blessing.”
Callum hopes to have the first Vanquish delivered by the end of 2019, and the entire 25-car run built within two years. “There’s plenty more we want to get on with,” he says. And while Callum is adamant he doesn’t want to “redesign somebody else’s car,” he says the next project won’t be an Aston. A Jaguar or even a classic Ford, perhaps? “We don’t know yet, but it will be more in-depth, with bespoke bodywork. Eventually, we hope to build a car from scratch.”
As Ian dashes for his next interview, I’m left feeling enthusiastic about the Vanquish 25 too. After all, ‘restomod’ Porsches are commonplace, yet a modified, modernised Aston is something quite different. I’m intrigued to see what Ian does next.
In pictures: Aston Martin Vanquish 25 by Callum