The name’s Martin, Aston Martin. I apologise for cracking the most obvious joke but for a Bond fan, it’s very hard not to give in. Back in 1964, Aston Martin associated themselves with a relatively new film franchise. 60 years later, they are an icon, a significant part of British heritage.
From rags to riches and rags again, let’s take a peek under the hood of Aston’s chequered past.
Founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as ‘BAMFORD & MARTIN LTD’, the company has become synonymous with best in class tourers. The first ‘Aston Martin’ was produced in 1914, after Martin’s successful run at Aston hill. Aston Martin has always been a major player in the racing department, competing in their first French Grand Prix back in 1922 and 24-Hr Le Mans in 1928. Aston’s engineering division was their main USP back in the day. And in 1939 they built the ‘Atom’, a car with a space-frame chassis and an independent suspension, giving their rivals something to think about at night. Aston Martin has gone through some significant changes in ownership. And one of the most successful eras was under Sir David Brown(1947). The company acquired Lagonda which gave birth to the famous “DB” series. These cars gave the company an edge on both fronts, they went on to establish a great racing pedigree and also focused on making their grand tourers more refined. Aston Martin fetched more racing success in the 50s, winning the 24-hr Le Mans in 1959. For consumers, Aston Martin launched the DB4GT, a high-performance version of the iconic DB4. DB4GT’s clean sweep at Monza saw them launch a new model, the legendary DB5. The 60s was a decade of refinement for the brutes, they introduced the DBS, DB6, DB6 MKII, bolstering their iconic DB lineup even further.
Heading into the 70s, another change of ownership was on the cards. ‘Company Developments LTD’ took charge of the company & pushed the Aston Martin V8 into production. But 3 years later the company entered receivership & was rejuvenated by Sprague, Minden & later Curtis. 1975 also saw the re-launch of the iconic Lagonda saloon. 6 years later the company saw another change of leadership. With Pace and CHI taking over as 50/50 partners & Victor Gauntlett as executive chairman. Aston Martin finally saw a bit of greenery, but still needed some work before relaunching their halted production. So, they expanded ‘Tickford’, by adding an engineering subsidiary and started producing parts for other cars. 1986 saw the revival of the Vantage-Zagato bonding. Ford went on to take 75% share of the company & the 007-Martin relationship was also revived. The ‘DB’ lineup was re-launched(1993) after Walter Hayes took charge in 1991.
Aston Martin began the new millennium with a new chairman & CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez. And a year later, v12 Vanquish took the world by storm. A new chapter was added in 2007 when the company was sold to Investment Dar & Adeem Investment. The consortium was led by chairman David Richards & Dr Bez continued to lead the management unit. A new era of independent ownership dawned.
James Bond’s vehicle of choice has seen its fair share of ups & downs. Declared bankrupt for 7 times & still managed to keep their royal status intact. Let’s jump to some of the icons they’ve produced throughout their illustrious history.
The Aston Martin
The first ever ‘Aston Martin’. Built on top of a 1908 Isotta Fraschini chassis, it was powered by a Coventry-Simplex engine. Morning shows the day, right?
Aston Martin v8
Aston Martin has a chequered financial history & this car made sure it was just another bump on the road. Went on sale in 1977 & been the company’s best-seller throughout the 80s. The first British supercar also had an impressive top speed of 170 mph.
Aston Martin DBR1
The most significant racing car for the giants. This car was built with one thing in mind, sheer performance. And in 1959, it made its makers proud by winning the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Aston Martin One-77
An easy to decode name and for an equally attainable car. Only 77 cars were built & each to cost 1 Million Pounds. A full carbon fibre monocoque chassis, a handcrafted aluminium body and a 7.3 Lt V12 engine churning out 750 horsepower valued your million pounds highly. This car had a top speed of 220 mph & could climb from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Aston Martin DB5
Sex on wheels. That pretty much sums up this superstar of a car. DB5 featured in 6 bond films and landed itself (and Aston Martin) in the history books. It was only in production for 3 years (1963-65) and only 1023 were ever built which makes this legend all the more exclusive.
Getting Out Of The Mud:
Aston Martin hasn’t been comfortable lately, thanks to its ageing & limited line-up. In a decade where every major player is going electric, Aston’s still finding its feet. But they have some plans and if executed efficiently these could turn things for the better.
The DB11 is ready to replace the ageing DB9 and we think it’s time to let in some fresh air. If initial reports are to be believed, DB11 is their best Aston ever. The brand’s first all-new car in 13 long years handles better than any of its predecessors & is expected to spearhead all their future endeavours.
Aston’s looking to turn out a string of low-volume but high-profit specials. The recent One-77 has been a success story for them & they are looking to recreate the magic.
In 2018 they are looking to add electricity to their Rapide lineup, transforming Rapide to RapidE. DBX, a luxury SUV is also in development but won’t reach the showrooms until 2020. And judging by the ever increasing demand in the luxury SUV market, DBX is sure to turn things around. Also, the company is also looking to rejuvenate the almost-forgotten ‘Lagonda’ name.
Success is not final, and failure is not fatal. Aston Martin has always believed it with all their heart it seems. And for that and that only, they secure one of the top spots in my book. James Bond is all about narrow escapes & in a way, there’s no car fitter to accompany the famous spy in all his endeavours. A relationship which started in 1964 with Goldfinger has only strengthened with time and Bond remains Aston’s most cherished customer to this day. But fictitious characters don’t pay real money. And they need some of that really soon. With some solid plans & a steady leadership, Aston can surely turn things around. And for all the dreamers, they need to.