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How the naming of the Aston Martin Valkyrie fits Norse mythology into hypercar history

How the naming of the Aston Martin Valkyrie fits Norse mythology into hypercar history


It’s a bit catchier than AM-RB 001, don’t you think?

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Aston Martin AM-RB 001 unveiling gallery

This is the Aston Martin Valkyrie. Until today, it’s been known as the AM-RB 001, an F1 car for the road that is the first product to come out of a partnership between the historic British carmaker and Red Bull. This is a much more evocative, emotional name befitting what could be the greatest car Aston Martin has ever made.

The word valkyrie comes from Norse mythology. It literally means “chooser of the slain.” In battle, valkyries are Odin’s handmaidens who chose which warriors live and die and bring some of the fallen to the afterlife in Odin’s Valhalla.

“This is about female power. It’s being chosen. It’s the ultimate honor,” said Marek Reichman, chief creative officer for Aston Martin, in an interview with The Verge. “That’s the name we’ve decided to give to the 001.”

“Chooser of the slain”

The first question for the marketing team was whether the AM-RB 001 should even have a V-name. These days, the company has two naming conventions: Vs and alphanumerics. There’s the DB11 and the DBX concept, as well as the Vanquish and Vantage. There was talk about keeping the AM-RB 001 name. Another million-dollar Aston — the One-77 — kept its internal prototype name after it became part of the customer lexicon. But in the end, Valkyrie had to have a V because those are the nameplates given to Aston’s highest performance cars. And so various members of the company’s marketing and executive teams sat around in conference rooms, filling whiteboards with possible names.

Aston Martin’s last hypercar was the Vulcan, named after the Roman god of fire. The company’s executive team narrowed the long, free-form list of names down to three. In the end, Valkyrie was the obvious choice, though Reichman wouldn’t tell me the other two options because they might still be used in the future.

“V has been a very much a part of our history for 50 years,” said Reichman. “We spent a lot of time thinking about it and Valkyrie is something — you can’t get any better than that.”

The name has been in the works nearly as long as the car has, and it took thousands of work hours to nail it down. “You need the name to really tell the story of the car,” said Reichman. “Those words evoke images, evoke what it should be. Before we even start to draw or sketch the car, we ask ‘what should the car be?’”

“Vulcan meant something different because the core and spirit of that car was about fire breathing. Its performance was absolutely in your face, red hot,” said Reichman. “Valkyrie is far more descriptive of what 001 is. It’s the best of every world.”

What’s in a name? For a car, everything — and nothing. A terrific name won’t save a terrible car, while a great car might overcome mediocre badging. But combine a great car with a great name, and you have something that might penetrate the cultural zeitgeist and become iconic.

“The Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Beetle aren't exactly earth-shatteringly cool names, but they are two of the most successful models in automotive history,” says Karl Brauer, analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “A car like the Beetle proves a car can be part of the zeitgeist even without a great name. A car's name matters, but less than the vehicle that wears it.”

success comes first, then iconic status

Mustang and Corvette, 911 and Charger — they’re all successful (and cool) marques that have lasted decades. But, Brauer says, “Success, whether measured in volume, racing, or passion, comes first. Then comes iconic status.”

Technical development on the Valkyrie is being handled by Red Bull’s brilliant engineering guru Adrian Newey. Aston says its V12 engine will create 1,000 horsepower and, when combined with a weight of 1,000 kilograms, gives the Valkyrie a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. That means it’ll be fast as hell and, with production limited to a maximum of 150, it’ll be exclusive as hell, too.

Unlike many of its names, homages to prior models from its history, Valkyrie is a new one for Aston Martin. It’s the first road car designed by Adrian Newey. It’s about being the greatest and the best.

“Valkyrie is incredibly special,” said Reichman. “It’s uncompromising. There’s nothing on Valkyrie that says ‘We cut a corner here.’ There’s nothing easy about producing this car. It’s what makes it so exceptional. It needed a name that would reflect that.”

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 unveiling gallery

There was a bit of discussion among the panel of five executives, including Newey and Aston boss Andy Palmer, who chose the final name. But it was a unanimous decision in the end. “You could see it without a doubt that this one was right for 001,” said Reichman.

Car names are more complicated than one might expect. There’s the emotional and narrative sides — the Norse mythology of the valkyrie and the V-name history for Aston, but there’s also a legal and cultural side. All three finalists for the Valkyrie went through extensive checks to ensure that the names aren’t hard to pronounce, offensive in a foreign language, and that the names are clear of legal protections on automotive trademarks around the world.

“Once we had the three names, it was about doing the legal checks,” Reichman said. “We live in a litigious world.”

The AM-RB name won’t go away entirely. It may end up in the car’s VIN, or hidden away as an Easter egg elsewhere in the car. AM-RB and 001 “will be part of its life. It’s already embedded in the history of the car,” said Reichman.

Aston Martin AM-RB 001 unveiling gallery

Not all product names are brilliant from the start. Some, like the Mini, seem absurd. In that case, the car grew into the name and now it’s an entire brand. The iPhone is literally the word phone with an “i” in front of it. Now, to the non-expert, every smartphone is an iPhone.

“We become emotionally attached to it. We say the name with such pride and a love relationship develops,” said Reichman. “Apple is a love mark. Aston Martin is a love mark. You fall in love with the naming of the product — but the product has to make you feel that way in the first instance, whether it has that name or not. You have to have the falling in love part.”

And that’s what Aston hopes it’ll have with Valkyrie. It’s named after one of the greatest myths in human history. “It was the same with Vulcan. Now everyone knows what it is and it defines what Vulcan is,” said Reichman. “We don’t say Aston Martin with Vulcan. We don’t ever use ‘Aston Martin Vulcan.’ People know what it is. And this is what will become of Valkyrie.”

Photography by Vlad Savov