Dreammachine still on the wing
ALMOST mythical in its appeal, the winged emblem of Aston Martin has celebrated a centenary of lowlevel flight.
The British brand has transformed itself over the course of 10 decades to head into its second century with more models and more sales volume than ever.
The marque was born on January 15, 1913, when Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford founded an automotive venture in London not surprisingly called Bamford and Martin, which was later renamed Aston Martin following Lionel’s success in the company’s cars at the Aston Clinton Hillclimb in Buckinghamshire.
The company says of itself that: ‘‘Aston Martin has come to represent many things, from sporting prowess through to technical innovation, beautiful design, fine craftsmanship and superior performance’’.
In Aston Martin’s first 90 years there were fewer than 15,000 Aston Martins built, but the small volume was inversely proportional to the impact of the breed. While the wings were affixed to open-topped twoseater sports machinery in the pre-war era, the company’s post-war time as part of tractor and gear manufacturer David Brown brought forth the DB model line that stands to this day.
Perhaps the best known of the DBs is the 5 of 1963, made famous by James Bond in his third big-screen outing Goldfinger.
The British secret agent’s link to the brand was broken by flings with Lotus and later BMW, but has been resurrected in recent 007 big-screen adventures.
Financial problems beset Aston Martin in the 1970s and it struggled to gain sales traction well into the 1980s, when oddly-styled machines grabbed attention for all the wrong reasons.
Ford took control in 1991 as the new model plans included renewing the DB lineage with the 7.
The 21st century began with Aston Martin under the stewardship of new chairman and chief executive Dr Ulrich Bez and the end of an era, as production of the 5.3-litre V8 engine used for more than three decades ceased. The V12 Vanquish arrived in 2001 and two years later was followed by the Vantage V8 and the DB9 arrived in 2003.
The same year the brand announced a return to motorsport and it opened its first purpose-built (and current) head office at Gaydon.
The track return came to reality two years later with the launch of the DBR9, based on the DB9 road car.
The DBS arrived in 2006 and was seen for the first time in Daniel Craig’s James Bond debut in Casino Royale.
The Brit brand’s time in the Ford’s Premier Automotive Group ceased in 2007, when Prodrive chairman David Richards led an investment house consortium — Investment Dar and Adeem Investment— to buy the brand from Ford for a reported $925 million. Over the next two years the breed addressed both ends of its range — in 2009 the One-77 broke cover, heralded as the most powerful naturally aspirated car in the world.
The following year the Toyota iQ-based Cygnet city car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show and the Rapide four-door sedan was launched in 2010.
As a result of the boosted model activity, the 2011 Frankfurt motor show saw a new milestone reached, as the largest range of contemporary Aston Martins was put on display. Last year the brand delivered two new models— the Vanquish and the DB9 — the latter claiming 70 per cent reengineered body parts.
The full line-up starts with the Vantage range (V8, V8 S, V12 Vantage and V12 Zagato), the Cygnet city car, the DB9 models, the Rapide four-door and the Vanquish, with the One-77 limited-run supercar now all sold.
The Aston Martin model line-up now completely revised just prior to its centenary year, the brand revamped one of its icons to appear in the latest Bond film, Skyfall.
The future for the brand is headlined by plans to invest more than half a billion pounds over the next five years, thanks in part to Investindustrial investing $230 million in Aston Martin to take a 37.5 per cent stake in the company.
It’s full speed ahead as Aston Martin celebrates 100 years in operation and a special bond with the motoring public