The other day I was invited, via my Aston Martin-owning friend – Louisa Spring – to a Bond event at the Petersham Automotive Museum in Hollywood. Louisa used to manage the late great Roger Moore and now has an Aston Martin also called Roger. It was she who turned me onto the delights of this perfect car, to sit in such beauty and power, such elegance, to be able to move – or rather glide – faster than everyone else is a thrill…and I’m not even driving it.
The first thing I noticed at the event honouring Bond cars – there were Aston Martins, Rolls-Royces, ugly Lotuses and a Porsche or two – was how many women were driving them. It’s true: Ladies no longer lunch, they drive.
It is in part inspired by the lockdown, where nobody could go anywhere and see anyone, so they found new relationships with their cars, and partly because why shouldn’t women drive beautiful beasts of power? Louisa is obsessed with her car. She picked me up in the airport and I packed only hand luggage for a two-month stay to be sure it would fit in. Swooping around in it is a great joy.
For some women: A sports car dream
“It was always a dream to get an Aston Martin from when I was a small child,” Louisa says. “My mother part-owned an auto company that did motor spares so I was aware of what sports cars were from a very early age.” The Aston has this magical thing called sixth gear – “It’s almost like floating, it’s like taking off in an airplane, in that it’s an out-of-body experience – you feel infinite, you know you could overtake any car. So it does make you feel powerful for the few seconds you’re doing it.”
I’m wondering if driving her Aston was like HRT: Did she feel in any way sexualised? “No, but it makes you feel very alive.” Hers is a 2006 Vantage, but she’s quick to point out it’s only got 13,000 miles, so “it’s like a new car”. When she went to get it, she thought at first she was getting an ugly SUV. But this was similarly priced and so much better.
She drives it around to most places and has been to the supermarket in it, although “I’d never want to put food in it. My daughter is barely allowed in it!” The noise he makes is a gentle purr: “There is a way to alter his voice, and there are people who are not purists who have all sorts of additional gadgets. I could give him a megaphone, but I won’t be doing that.
Does a car command more respect than career?
“Because I have an Aston Martin, people give me more respect. Male friends have more respect for me because they think ‘Ooh, she can handle that car….’ It commands respect when you’re driving it on the highway – not everyone can handle it, a bit like you have to respect a person who knows how to ride a good horse.”
Does she think she got more respect from having an Aston Martin than being a top flight manager, and then high up in the corporate world? “Yes I do. Because men associate sports cars with something they want to be. And if I can handle an Aston Martin, I can somehow be on the same level as them. I remember growing up and Aston Villa had a woman chairman – she drove one. And she’s a good example: We get a Big Boy car and suddenly there’s respect. As I used to represent Roger Moore, it’s out of respect for him that I wanted to call my car Roger. It sounds odd, but it’s beautiful and classic – just like him.” She also observes she’s been getting on better with her husband since acquiring it.
Also, at this same rather lovely Bond event, I met with actress Carole Ruggier. She’s now in her early Sixties and is most known for her game voice for Halo Reach and God of War. Her car is a 2014 Aston DB9 Coupe, ‘Centenery’ Edition – which is potentially a good investment as they were going to stop production of them. It’s two-tone dark silver and darker silver.
Can sports cars be an impulse purchase for women?
She’s glad that it’s limited edition, but that wasn’t what attracted her: “It was bought on the spur of the moment. I had had a chronically bad back for a while and it had been debilitating. I saw that the Aston dealership was doing a fundraiser for women and would make a donation for every woman that did a test drive. So I signed up and my husband and mother came to the event, which included afternoon tea. I thought, “I can do this and this is amazing.”
“I got excited about moving fast in a var at the exact same point I broke my leg and couldn’t move at all. So yes they defy gravity and pain as well as age!
“We had just sold a property and the other thing was, I keep my cars forever and I thought I’ve probably only got another two cars in me….I had a little epiphany. My husband and mum had their jaws on the ground. I don’t take it to the supermarket, I don’t like driving it on the bad roads with potholes – I’d rather go for a proper trip. I love driving it to Palm Desert or Monterey. The road is nice and the view is panoramic.
Carole’s response to her new car
Carole describes the response to her purchase. “When I first got the car, I picked it up with my mum and everywhere along the road, they gave me a wave or a thumbs up. It feels very smooth and elegant to drive it, and I enjoy that. I also enjoy that it’s a dual-personality car. It has such a big engine and you can drive it very differently very fast. It can be really boisterous and really discreet.”
Does it purr or shout? “My car has an awful lot to say when we’re together, but usually in a purr – it glides through the air.” It seems to have a little skirt going around the bottom of it – does that mean it’s sexually ambiguous? “My car is the Billy Porter of cars. Billy Porter can look amazing in a skirt and I think that car is male and female in equal parts, just always beautiful and fabulous – it is the Billy Porter of cars. I think there has been a lot of marketing aimed at women to buy ‘Super Cars’. And if you can afford it, why not? One of my first cars was a Lancia sports car, so I’ve always liked them. But my Aston is a limited edition of only 100, and mine is 35. And as my birthday is 3/5, it seemed to have my name on it. But it was a little badge on the front that somehow seemed to call to me.”
She said she drives it in a different way to her husband, Bryan Bowen – one of the sound designers on No Time to Die. “I feel it’s such a privilege to have that car. Bryan drives it in sports mode.” We take a step back to look at them all lined up like thoroughbreds pacing to get out of their stable. They are very impressive.
Women are jumping into the sports car world
Alex Manos and mother Versa Manos run Beverly Hills Car Club, the biggest classic car dealership, with the most sales on the planet. Alex says: “I love the fact that women are stepping into the classic car world – there is power in owning one. We’re finding women buying European sports cars. We’ve seen an increase of 30% of women over the last few years – and it’s about time.” The fact that most of these women are a certain age, one could argue a powerful car is replacing a lack of power in their life, like the traditional “man with the red sports car”. It could be that they’re so expensive that a younger woman can’t really afford them.
Or it could be that they require that rare combination in personality of stealth, care and finely-tuned aggression. A possible condition for many midlife women indeed.
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