Bradley Walsh: A licence to thrill

Bradley Walsh and the BAE Vantare

Bradley Walsh has built the Bond-style car of his dreams - Credit: Steve Camplin

Julie Lucas chats to Bradley Walsh about realising his boyhood dream of designing and building his own Bond-style supercar in Essex

When the Aston Martin DB5 hit the screens in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger, it wasn’t just Sean Connery that we were swooning at - it was also the car he was driving. For actor, comedian and TV presenter Bradley Walsh, a self-confessed Bond ‘megafan,’ it was the start of a life-long dream to own one.  

But when Bradley drove the DB5, he realised that although he loved the look of this classic car - the looks and styling of the sixties - he wanted the attributes of a modern one. ‘When I got the chance to finally drive and purchase one, I was put off by the fact that of course it drove like a very old car. I then wondered why Aston Martin hadn’t done something retro to appease all of the early DB fans. The classic beauty of DB4, 5 and 6 were thrown away with the design of the DB7, there was no DB8 and the DB9 looked like something Batman would drive.'   

There wasn’t anything like it, so he decided he would create his ultimate dream car, teaming up with Epping-based British Automotive Engineering to design a car with the ‘pace of a modern performance car and the grace of a classic’. 

Bradley and the Vantare at the Kings Oak Hotel, near his home in Epping

Bradley and the Vantare at the Kings Oak Hotel, near his home in Epping - Credit: Steve Camplin

Although Bradley is well known for his quick wit and comedy antics and is a regular on our television screens presenting ITV’s The Chase, he also has an engineering background having trained as a Rolls-Royce apprentice engineer in Watford. He says, ‘I trained to build jet engines for helicopters for the British forces and my love for engineering began. We used to work on old cars in our spare time. My first car was a Mini 1000 with wide wheels and a three-inch exhaust. I couldn’t afford a Mini Cooper S, so I tried my best to get mine to look and sound like one. The factory where I worked became film studios where James Bond films were made.’  

The project became the passion of three men. Mark Harrison, classic car specialist, and founder of British Automotive Engineering, Brian Hale, designer and coach builder with more than 35 years’ experience and Bradley. As Bradley told us, the process involved ‘blood, sweat and tears to get it where it is today.'

BAE Vantare

BAE Vantare - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

Friend Mark Harrison said despite the hard work, the experience had also been good fun, ‘I was really surprised how clever he (Bradley) was. He is not just the guy you see on the telly. He is super-intelligent and his foresight was amazing.’ The two have known each other for years, striking up a friendship over a common love of cars, although Mark admitted that he didn't realise Walsh was a household name. ‘I didn’t realise he was Bradley Walsh when I first met him; I don’t watch telly.’  

Most Read

Named the BAE Vantare, which means to praise or to boast in Italian, it certainly turns heads. It took just over three years from the start of the concept to the finished product with designs worked and reworked with Bradley’s input. ‘One of the main aspects was to make the front end really mean looking,' Bradley tells me. ‘We had difficulty in getting the grill to look exactly right in conjunction with the bonnet. The gap was either too small or too big. There was a lot of toing and froing to get that right and also the scoop on the bonnet itself. Too far back and it became too tame, too far forward and it made the view from the front end too high. I think we got it just about right.’  

BAE Vantare

Vantare means to boast in Italian - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

The team married traditional techniques inspired by classic coachbuilders such as Bertone and Zagato and designed it with state-of-the-art hybrid materials. The main base comes from an Aston Martin DB9, which was produced at Gaydon between 2004 and 2016. This was stripped back leaving the chassis. ‘We have taken an existing manufacturer’s car chassis and running gear and put on our own body, wheels and interior and coach-built it. It’s taking what you love from a car and reworking it,' says Alex Parkinson, who has managed the project. 

Using British manufacturers, a new carbon-fibre body was designed and the interior redeveloped with a modern infotainment system. The dashboard was given a restyle with retro dials but with a modern touchscreen display. There’s a new sleek interior with leather seats and extra bolstering to take those corners comfortably, but it has that powerhouse of a six litre V12 Aston Martin engine, which will take you to 60mph in a mere 4.7 seconds – fast enough to get away from any villain.  

BAE Vantare at Hedingham Castle

The epic Hedingham Castle makes the perfect backdrop - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

‘The exhaust system has been changed to give it a slightly different sound from the standard DB9 exhaust system,’ says Alex. 'We have designed it so it is subtle. It's not too boisterous when you're driving very slowly, but when you accelerate, she changes note and makes that amazing V12 sound that people love.’ 

It took hours of testing to get where they are, and Covid brought its own challenges – the project began just before lockdown. Challenges to the design included the wheels. Alex explains, ‘The original cars in the 60s had wire wheels but in today's world you can’t have a wire wheel that does 190 miles an hour, it's not strong enough. We had to come up with a design that gave the look and feeling of a wire wheel but could cope with the high speeds that the car can do.

‘It’s British touring car or GT, a car you would drive down to the south of France, it's a driving experience. Whereas a supercar is designed for outright performance and forgoes the comfort and luxury of a GT car to do 200 miles an hour  - you wouldn't want to drive along in that for hours on the motorway. Yes, it's phenomenally fast, but it's not about beating performance records.' 

BAE Vantare at Hedingham Castle mansion house

Bradley's 'blood, sweat and tears' went into the car - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

Alex describes it as a car that gets everyone talking. ‘Everybody wants to ask you about the car and take a photo of it. You don't have to be Bradley Walsh to get the attention when you're in that car! It's a car that stops the traffic and it's different from anything else. Even in a High Street full of Lamborghinis and Ferraris this stands out.'

Interior of BAE Vantare

The interior features retro styling but a modern touchscreen display - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

‘It takes your breath away, it’s so beautiful,’ says Mark. 'It’s got the integrity of an Aston Martin and absolutely stunning looks. On a motorway, it is effortless. I can’t see any point on the whole car that doesn’t look perfect. When driving it for the first time, Bradley exclaimed, ‘It goes like a rocket.''

The BAE Vantare's run is limited to just ten and each car will be unique. The attention to detail means it takes in excess of 7,000 hours to produce. Owners will be able to personally configure their respective cars. In addition to colours for the paintwork and interior, this also includes mechanical upgrades.  

Bradley calls it the ultimate expression of Britishness and individuality, a car that even Bond would never tire of driving. 'We showed the car at Silverstone next to the Aston stand and everyone wanted to know about our car. Even the Aston engineer came and had a look round and said “this is the car we should have built."  

'I am so proud of what we have achieved. It was a boyhood dream to own a Bond car and a DB5, but at close to a million pounds for a top-end one I’d rather have this any day. We’ve been offered big money for the first one built, which we’ve turned down mainly because of sentimental reasons.'

BAE Vantare at Hedingham Castle

The Vantare was designed for the ultimate driving experience - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

Fortunately, your unique model won’t come with hidden machine guns, an oil slick at the press of a button or reassuringly for passengers, an ejector seat. What you will get however, is a beautifully built modern car with a classic Aston Martin engine. A car that harks back to the heady days of the sixties, road trips to the south of France and Martini’s shaken, not stirred. Prices start at £275,000.

The BAE Vantare will be on show at Goodwood Festival of Speed in June. 

The Spec   

Engine and chassis Aston Martin  

Cylinders/Capacity V12 cylinder - 6 Litre Transmission 6  

Speed paddle-shift automatic  

Engine Power 450 bhp - 335 kW  

Engine Torque Maximum torque of 570 Nm (420 lb.ft) at 5000 rpm 

0 to 100 km/h (62mph) (estimated) Approx: 4.9 seconds  

Top speed *Unenhanced (estimated) 186 mph (300 km/h)  

Braking system Aston Martin front and rear vented discs braking system  

Suspension GTcomfort - Aston Martin coil-sprung suspension  

Fuel Consumption 16.6 litres/100km-17 mpg (average)  

Curb weight (estimated) 3750 lbs (1700 kgs) 

BAE Vantare at Hedingham Castle

BAE Vantare at Hedingham Castle - Credit: TazzyBro Photography

You might also like: