Dream­ma­chine still on the wing

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By STU­ART MARTIN

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

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