BOOM AND BUST
ASTON MARTIN was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford who joined forces as Bamford & Martin to sell Singer cars in London.
Martin raced specials at Aston Hill and when they created their own vehicle it was named an Aston Martin to honour his racing achievements. But before they could get established in 1915 the demands of the first World War 1 saw all their machinery sold to the Sopwith Aviation Company, makers of the Sopwith Camel aircraft. Aston Martin’s history has been far from a rosy one going bankrupt on seven occasions as the brand passed though many owners’ hands. Production finally commenced in 1922 with financial aid from Count Louis Zborowski, but by now Bamford had left and a total of 55 cars were built before going bust in 1924. Aston was rescued by Lady Charnwood who put her son in charge only for it to fall over again in 1925, with Martin leaving in 1926. New investors were found and the brand resurrected for a further six years before hitting the skids again in 1932 and once again another saviour arrived to keep things going. Then in 1936, Aston Martin decided to stop competing in motorsport and concentrate on road cars, producing just 700 until the outbreak of the Second World War when production shifted to aircraft components. David Brown secured the business in 1947 for £20,000 after spotting an ad in the London Times.
Brown added it to his successful tractor business and it remained under his ownership until the mid 70s when it was sold owing to financial difficulties.
In his time, he created the legendary ‘DB’ Aston Martins including the Atom, DB1, 2,3,4, and 5 (that appeared in James Bond’s Goldfinger), and the DB6 and DBS. Ironically, Brown’s road car was a Series 1 XJ Jaguar.
Ford acquired Aston Martin in 1987 and on-sold it for £475m to a consortium led by Prodrive Chairman David Richards, which included American bankers and Kuwaiti investment firms. Ford also kept a stake in Aston Martin valued at £40m (US$70m). Shortly after acquiring the business and to demonstrate and promote the durability of Aston Martin to the rapidly motorizing Chinese, an east-west crossing of the Asian Highway was undertaken, with the V8 Vantage travelling from Tokyo to Istanbul and on to London. It was so successful Aston Martin opened dealerships in Shanghai and Beijing within three months
In 2013 Aston Martin announced a technical partnership that would see Mercedes electronic architecture, switchgear and engines in future models. The DB11 was the first recipient. In 2017, thanks to the global success of the all-new DB11, Aston Martin turned a handsome profit and is looking forward to a successful future and new products.
They also won their class at Le Mans this year and have a tie-in with Red Bull F1, for whom Aussie Daniel Ricciardo drives.