I was asked the other day, how did I get involved with the Aston brand. Here goes:
I had worked for a national installer of hands free kits, as an auditor, following a spell of being a self-employed installation engineer. After a while I got itchy feet of doing it myself again and during this time I took a part time role of technical support for a Parrot hands free kit supplier, sitting at home taking calls from engineers and end users on how to install kit into cars and what kit they would need. A call came in from the Aston Martin dealer in Reading, ‘We have a DB9 that needs a hands free kit fitted and no one knows how to do it’. I suggested that come down to help, without showing too much excitement that I get to play with an Aston!
They gave me circuit diagrams and showed me how the car came to pieces and between us we worked out how the speakers were wired so we could make the hands free kit work and then play audio via the front speakers. It was a case of cutting wires and joining into the Parrot hands free kit to make it work, but it worked! A few more were done, then Aston Martin Exeter asked to have a few done. At this point it seemed sensible to actually develop a cable harness to allow connection of the kit to the car without cutting any wires. A friend was called in and the cable called the 06-007 was built.
Out of the blue I receive a call from the Aston Martin factory, ‘what are you doing to our cars?’ I must admit I was a little apprehensive to answer, thinking I was in trouble, spoiling a super car etc. ‘Can you come up to the factory and have a chat, we’d like to see what you do’. I didn’t need asking twice! So a few days later, very nervously, I caught the bus from the heritage centre at Gaydon with a bag of my wares and went and had a chat. That started a two way flow of information, but strictly under the radar as I wasn’t an official dealer. Things were different back in 2006!
Further meetings followed with one suggesting iPod connectivity would be good. So off I went to the market and as luck would have it, a friend had recently started working at a firm called Dension who specialise in MOST fibre optic connectivity for Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Volvo. They were persuaded to dispatch a couple of designers from their base in Hungary to meet at the press workshop at Gaydon. With the workshops help and me looking in awe at what they were doing, they data logged the fibre optic system to understand the protocols of the audio system and make their iPod kits work with Aston. So now we had Bluetooth hands free kits and iPod kits.
I was asked to look at more ideas to do with Bluetooth and audio system integration using aftermarket kit for the DB9 and V8 Vantage, but the constant toing and froing from home to factory was affecting my business, bear in mind I was doing this for Aston as a goodwill gesture in the hope I would earn off it later. I suggested, half jokingly, that I should have a DB9 on loan for a while. In total I had one for 6 weeks!
Unfortunately in that time, as I pulled into a car park and parked nose in, I couldn’t see where the bonnet finished and ended up hitting a kerb with the front bumper….., the security guard found it hilarious… There must be a way to see where the front end is whilst parking, I thought. At the time reverse cameras were all the rage, but what about a front camera. It took about a month of trialing and testing interface units and trying to understand how the navigation system worked to get an image on the screen, without the picture breaking up or rolling. Eventually we did, but the only cameras we could get were rearward facing, so the images were back to front! Nowadays we have clever cameras that look forwards, down and split the screen vertically so we can look left and right up and down the road from the front end, as well as having the reverse camera.
Once I was on reasonable terms with the factory, the dealers were more receptive to having me in to do work on the their cars as well and bit by bit the demand for services grew. Comments on Pistonheads helped, referrals from the dealers and customers all helped.
When the economy suffered I was offered a role with a company called Trackaphone to help with their asset tracking department, I said on the proviso I can still continue with the Aston Martin development and sales. They were happy to do this as they saw it as another revenue stream. Eventually though it began to take over the day to day business and finally I took the decision to leave and set up shop with an old engineering colleague and friend Lenny Knox. A year after that, in July 2018, we took a little bit of a leap of faith and decided to throw out an anchor and take on premises, rather than, running up and down the motorways. We had worked out that we were wasting 2 days a week just driving, we also wanted to develop more ideas for the Aston community, something we were unable to do whilst driving all the time, that and sometimes it was nice to be home at a decent time!
We’ve now been in Unit E1 for a year. Cars come in from all over the UK and a few from mainland Europe. With the advent of Apple CarPlay we have been able to make kits for Aston Martin owners across the world. We work with a partner in the United States to offer our kit to owners there as well as training independent Aston Martin service agents on our products in the home markets.