What if a car designer could have another crack at an iconic project, two decades on? That’s exactly what Ian Callum’s done with his incredible Aston Martin Vanquish.
You could forgive Ian Callum for deciding to slow down and take things easy for a while. During his 40-year career as a designer for Ford, Tom Walkinshaw Racing, and Jaguar, he amassed a huge amount of praise and multiple awards. He was responsible for hauling Aston Martin and Jaguar’s design language out of the staunchly backwards, tea-and-crumpets notion of British car design that both brands had backed themselves into in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. From the pert, petite Ford Puma to the Jaguar I-Pace – still one of the freshest and most intriguing shapes on the road even five years on from its launch – Callum (it doesn’t feel right to just call him ‘Ian’) is one of the most original, influential designers of recent years.
The love of aesthetics clearly pervades Callum’s life, and stopping wasn’t an option. After stepping down as Jaguar’s head of design in 2019, he established his own consultancy, simply named Callum. The company’s biggest project to date, amongst the gorgeous whisky bottles, watches, and lounge chairs (and Prodrive’s outrageous Dakar racer), is this: the Vanquish 25 by Callum.
The original Aston Martin Vanquish of 2001 wasn’t exactly lacking in the looks department. It was an elegant and restrained interpretation of the classic grand tourer form, traditional and yet, at the time, bang up to date. Two decades, though, is a long time in car design and engineering, and styles move on. It’s from this new position of self-reflection, and independence from corporate higher-ups, that Callum decided to take a second run at arguably his crowning achievement.
Unsurprisingly, given the still-gobsmacking beauty of the original, visual changes aren’t too drastic. On the outside, there are more aggressive aero treatments all round, and more modern light units at both ends. The alloys are now 20 inches, up from the original’s 19s, filling out the arches in the tantalising way big wheels always do in early design sketches.
The interior’s transformation is much more comprehensive. The entire driving position has been rejigged to allow the driver to sit lower and more reclined, and more bespoke, higher-end materials are everywhere. A modern Garmin unit replaces the original, severely dated infotainment. There are touches like Callum’s signature ‘abstract tartan’ motif dotted around the car, inside and out.
Though Callum is primarily a design consultancy, the Vanquish 25 has had a thorough engineering overhaul too, thanks to Aston specialists R-Reforged. One of the biggest gripes with the original car was the clunky automated manual transmission, a style of gearbox that had become dated almost as soon as it was the exciting new thing. You can, should you wish, keep this. Alternatively, you can also select the full three-pedal manual conversion developed for the Vanquish by Aston’s Works division, or R-Reforged will fit a modern torque-converter auto.
A relatively light rework of the 5.9-litre V12 engine brings power up from the 520bhp of the original Vanquish S to 580bhp. That engine unleashes a refined yet animalistic howl through a completely custom exhaust system.
The brakes, another weak point of the original, are now carbon ceramics, and that front end reworking has allowed the installation of two big cooling ducts for them where the indicator and fog light units used to be. The suspension is the final area of significant change, uprated bushes and anti-roll bars and new Bilstein dampers helping foster a tauter, more focused nature.
Naturally for a limited-run car like this (the 25 is a reference to production run), personalisation options are sprawling. Paint colour is totally bespoke, and the interior can be trimmed in dark chrome, carbon, or walnut with a choice of eight upholstery colours for the Bridge of Weir leather.
The practice of sympathetically enhancing an older car is nothing new, but unlike many, the Vanquish 25 has the full backing of Aston Martin. That means that neither Callum nor we need to tread carefully around legal grey areas in calling it exactly what it is: an Aston Martin Vanquish, made better with over 20 years of hindsight.