New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature - Words and photos: James Ni­cholls

As­ton Martin was founded in 1913 by Robert Bam­ford and Lionel Martin, and was orig­i­nally known as Bam­ford Martin. It was rechris­tened the fol­low­ing year as As­ton Martin af­ter a suc­cess­ful run by Lionel Martin at the As­ton Hill Climb com­pe­ti­tion. The first car was built in that same year, and was known as the ‘Coal Scut­tle’. Very quickly, the com­pany es­tab­lished it­self with cars of “Power, Beauty, and Soul”, to bor­row As­ton Martin’s tagline.

In 1922, two As­ton Martins com­peted in and fin­ished the French Grand Prix. Fur­ther rac­ing suc­cess took place in 1933 at Le Mans, when the As­ton Martin 1.5-litre took the top three places in its class. In 1937, a to­tal of 140 cars were built.

In 1947, the inim­itable David Brown took con­trol of the com­pany, and through­out the 1950s As­ton Martin went from strength to strength. Fur­ther suc­cesses at Le Mans fol­lowed, and As­ton Martin launched the DBR1 rac­ing car, the DB Mk III, and the mag­nif­i­cent DB4. By the end of the decade, As­ton Martin had se­cured the World Sportscar Cham­pi­onship when the DBR1 won the Nür­bur­gring 1000km and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The James Bond ef­fect

The swing­ing ’60s con­tin­ued in much the same fash­ion for this iconic man­u­fac­turer —1960 saw the launch of the DB4GT Za­gato and in 1963 the DB4 GT won in Fer­rari’s back­yard, at Monza. This was also the year that the leg­endary DB5 was launched. It helps, of course, if a car is ‘en­dorsed’ by, per­haps, fic­tion’s great­est pro­tag­o­nist. Who has not heard of Ian Flem­ing’s James Bond 007, and there­fore the As­ton Martin DB5? The James Bond ef­fect — if it can be coined thus — has had a huge in­flu­ence on the pop­u­lar­ity and de­sir­abil­ity of As­ton Martins. In­deed, it has also had an ef­fect on the prices that clas­sic As­ton Martins now com­mand — in De­cem­ber 2015, a 1962 DB4GT Za­gato was sold at auc­tion for US$14,300,000. They were al­ways great cars, but DB5 prices went crazy on the back of 007 ma­nia, pulling up the prices of the won­der­ful DB4. Next to fol­low was the Kamm-tailed DB6.

Sought af­ter

So, with DB4, DB5, and DB6 mod­els all cost­ing both arms and both legs, it is per­haps of lit­tle sur­prise that the prices of their suc­ces­sors are now also on a

rapid rise, and that these cars are in­creas­ingly sought af­ter. The re­place­ment — although it was of­fered con­cur­rently for a pe­riod — for the DB6 was the DBS. Though uti­liz­ing the same six-cylin­der en­gine as the DB6, the DBS had a much more dy­namic and mus­cu­lar body than its pre­de­ces­sor. The DBS — with 1193 units built be­tween 1967 and 1972 — was even­tu­ally given a more pow­er­ful V8 en­gine de­signed by Tadek Marek, but the Wil­liam Towns de­sign of the DBS still re­mained es­sen­tially the same when the AMV8 was launched in 1972, fol­lowed by the V8 Van­tage in 1977. By then, James Bond was por­trayed by Ge­orge Lazenby who, in his sole per­for­mance in the role, drove a DBS in On Her Majesty’s Se­cret Ser­vice in 1969. When Ti­mothy Dal­ton took up the 007 man­tle in 1987 in The Liv­ing Day­lights, the car had be­come a V8 Van­tage. Per­haps the best-known film car from this pe­riod, though, was the As­ton Martin driven by Lord Brett Sin­clair, played by Roger Moore in the tele­vi­sion show The Per­suaders. The Ba­hama Yel­low As­ton Martin was ac­tu­ally a six-cylin­der DBS, even though it was badged as a V8.

Fresh out of the box

The lines of the car penned by Wil­liam Towns — whose other work in­cluded the Hill­man Hunter, the ‘space age’ As­ton Martin Lagonda, the Jensen-healey, and the Re­liant Scim­i­tar — sur­vived for four decades. The first DBS was seen in 1967, whilst pro­duc­tion of the V8 Van­tage did not stop un­til 1990. There were just 458 ex­am­ples of the V8 Van­tage built, which makes it a very rare car — in­deed more rare than a DB5, of which 1059 units were made. It is be­lieved that, of the 458 As­ton Martin V8 Van­tages built, the 1981 car il­lus­trated, in beau­ti­ful 1950s As­ton Rac­ing Green, is quite pos­si­bly the most pris­tine in the world, look­ing and be­hav­ing as if fresh out of the box. Hav­ing cov­ered just 8000km — 5000 miles! — from new, it has ben­e­fit­ted from be­ing owned by some high-pro­file and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als.

First seen at the deal­er­ship of Bob Jane — former rac­ing driver, V8 Su­per­car Hall of Fame in­ductee, and tyre mag­nate — on Wil­liam Street in Syd­ney, the car was even­tu­ally pur­chased by Rene Rivkin. A flam­boy­ant stock­bro­ker — ul­ti­mately dis­graced

and jailed for in­sider trad­ing — Rivkin sold the car of ne­ces­sity at auc­tion. Its next cus­to­dian was Jodhi Meares, model and swim­suit de­signer, who, at the time, was the wife of bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man James Packer. Jeremy Best, owner of Cum­mins Clas­sic Cars in Syd­ney, wrote to Jodhi ask­ing to pur­chase the car should she ever wish to sell. That sale even­tu­ally took place, and the car was sold to a client be­fore re­turn­ing to Jeremy, who, in 2011, then sold it a sec­ond time to its cur­rent owner.

Thank­fully, this stun­ning Australian-de­liv­ered car seems to have found a per­ma­nent home as one of the jew­els in the small car col­lec­tion of a dis­cern­ing gen­tle­man. The ve­hi­cle is in ab­so­lutely im­mac­u­late con­di­tion, and, along with its very low mileage, is re­mark­ably orig­i­nal. This V8 Van­tage still has its orig­i­nal un­marked parch­ment leather in­te­rior, and is com­pletely un­changed from when it first ar­rived in Aus­tralia. It was beau­ti­fully re­painted whilst owned by Jodhi Meares — who is pic­tured sit­ting in the rear of the car. It also ben­e­fits from sev­eral spe­cial fac­tory de­tails, in­clud­ing a mesh front ra­di­a­tor grille rather than a blank grille to al­low greater ingress of cool­ing air for a hot cli­mate.

Without a doubt, this stun­ning car is a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to the DB5, which cap­tured the world’s imag­i­na­tion in 1964 in Goldfin­ger, the fol­low­ing year in Thun­der­ball, and again in the most re­cent Bond film, Spec­tre. Its shape is now fash­ion­able once again, and much sought af­ter as the wheel turns full cir­cle.

Is it just my eyes, or is there a con­nec­tion be­tween the shape of this V8 and the As­ton Martin DBX Con­cept shown at the Con­corso d’el­e­ganza Villa d’este in 2015?

Above and left: When Ti­mothy Dal­ton took up the 007 man­tle in 1987 in The­liv­ing­day­lights, the car had be­come a V8 Van­tage.

Left: The DB5 from Goldfin­ger made a re-ap­pear­ance in 2015 in Spec­tre, with Daniel Craig.

Right: The As­ton Martin ‘DBX Con­cept’ shown at the Con­corso d’el­e­ganza Villa d’este in 2015

Right: Pre­vi­ous owner Jodhi Meares, pic­tured sit­ting in the rear of the fea­tured car

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