Aston Martin celebrates its centenary in 2013 and our special section, which begins in this issue and runs throughout the year, looks back at the brand’s evolution over the past 100 years in the context of a number of contrasting, wider social genres
Words: Richard Meaden
THE ASTON MARTIN STORY reaches a significant milestone in 2013— one to share with customers and Aston Martin enthusiasts the world over. One that reminds us of a unique heritage and fiercely independent tradition, and inspires exciting new chapters yet to unfold. This year is the 100th anniversary and the beginning of Aston Martin’s second century as a car manufacturer.
There have been racing triumphs, road cars built with passion and skilled craftsmanship, and there have also been times when Aston Martin has stared into the abyss. However, despite the current challenging economic times, Aston Martin strides forward and the old boom-and-bust instability is, thankfully, now in the history books.
Back in 1913, Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, Aston Martin’s co-founders, couldn’t have predicted the twists and turns, the world conflicts and fuel crises, the pace of development and the global reach that would become the fabric of the marque’s story. However, they would surely recognise the spirit, determination and passion that Aston Martin has come to represent and appreciate the qualities of the contemporary models.
So as Aston Martin turns 100—independent, competitive, ambitious and creating beautifully styled, luxurious sports cars featuring advanced engineering and race-proven durability—we plan to look back over the past century with a series of articles throughout 2013. Each issue, our acclaimed writers will look at a different global topic and examine Aston Martin’s history and evolution in those contexts, beginning with an analysis of how wider trends in design and architecture have influenced the marque’s form throughout the years and consider the role that Aston Martin and other luxury car manufacturers played in the rock and roll revolution in the 1960s.
On 15 January 1913 Robert Bamford (right) and Lionel Martin form Bamford & Martin Ltd, based in Henniker Mews, off the Fulham Road in London
Count Louis Zborowski drives an Aston Martin Strasbourg, originally built for the 1922 French Grand Prix
The first Aston Martin is registered on 16 March. It is christened “Coal Scuttle” and powered by a 1389cc Coventry Climax engine1920
Count Louis Zborowski begins to invest in the company and Robert Bamford steps away1922
An Aston Martin prototype nicknamed “Bunny” breaks 10 world records when it averages 76mph over 16.5 hours at Brooklands.1922
Aston Martin fields two cars at the French Grand Prix on 16 July1925
The company goes into receivership but is rescued by Lord Charnwood, John Benson, Augustus Cesare Bertelli and William Renwick, renamed Aston Martin Motors and relocated to Feltham, Middlesex1928
Aston Martin’s first team cars (LM1 and LM2) compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race
The highly advanced Atom prototype takes shape. It has an early type of spaceframe chassis, independent front suspension, with an aerodynamic shape and a four-speed Cotal electric gearbox
David Brown (right), seen here in 1954 with Aston Martin designer Frank Feeley, buys the company in 1947
In June, Cesare Bertelli wins the Biennial Cup at the Le Mans 24-hour race with Pat Driscoll. New owner Sir Arthur Sutherland focuses on a fresh road car range1935
The Aston Martin Owners’ Club is founded at The Grafton Hotel on Tottenham Court Road, London1947
Engineering magnate David Brown answers an ad in The Times seeking an owner for a “high class motor business” and buys Aston Martin for £20,500. Following the subsequent purchase of Lagonda, he forms Aston Martin Lagonda1948
A 2-litre Sports wins the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race1949
Three DB2s tackle the Le Mans 24-hours, including one with a new 2.6-litre in-line six-cylinder engine designed by Willie Watson
Aston Martin DB2s line the pits at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1949.
The Works serviceline at Newport Pagnell
David Brown buys Tickford Motor Bodies in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. Production of Aston Martins begins to migrate to the new facility1958
The DB4 (above) is launched, with a 3.7-litre in-line six-cylinder engine by Tadek Marek. It produces 240bhp and propels the DB4 to 140mph. The body is designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan using a Superleggera construction where handmade aluminium panels are fixed to a tubular frame built onto a platform chassis.
The DBR1 wins the World Sports Car Championship with victories in the Nürburgring 1000km and at Goodwood along the way. The crowning glory is winning the Le Mans 24 hour with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori at the wheel—the marque’s only outright victory in the legendary race
Triumphant winners Roy Salvadori, Carroll Shelby and David Brown at Le Mans, 1959
Aston Martin begins its long association with Milan-based coachbuilder Zagato. The DB4 GT Zagato (below) features a 314bhp engine, acrylic windows and a super lightweight body. Only 19 are produced between 1960-19631964
Sean Connery as James Bond drives the new DB5 in Goldfinger and an iconic on-screen relationship is born1972
David Brown sells Aston Martin, and Company Developments take control. In a period of uncertainty, Aston Martin changes hands again1975
Canadian George Minden and American businessman Peter Sprague rescue the company from administration1976
The controversial William Towns-designed Lagonda is launched. It attracts a huge amount of publicity and sales are strong
The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 makes its first appearance with James Bond in Goldfinger starring Sean Connery1981
The company changes hands again, and is bought by Tim Hearley’s CH Industrial and Victor Gauntlett’s Pace Petroleum. Gauntlett is chairman and turns the company around1984
Automotive Industrial becomes sole owners of Aston Martin but Gauntlett stays as chairman. He becomes a 25% shareholder.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana watch a polo match from the comfort of his DB6 Volante, which was famously borrowed by their son, Prince William, on the day of his wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011
The V8 Vantage Zagato is launched and becomes one of the fastest supercars in the world with a top speed of 186mph. Just 52 Coupes and 37 Volantes are produced.1987
Ford Motor Company takes a 75% share of Aston Martin and later becomes sole owner. A period of rapid investment begins1992
The 550bhp Vantage (below) is launched to great acclaim1993
The DB7 is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show and production begins at a new factory near Banbury. It goes on sale in 19941999
The DB7 Vantage Coupe and Volante versions are produced using the first V12 production engine for Aston Martin
A new era begins under Dr Ulrich Bez, who becomes Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
A new supercar utilising a bonded aluminium chassis and body with carbon-fibre composites is launched. The V12 Vanquish (above) sets a new blueprint for Aston Martin
The limited-edition DB7 Zagato is launched at the Paris Motor Show. Only 99 are built and they immediately sell out2003
Production of the DB9 commences at Gaydon — the first car to use VH architecture and, together with the V8 Vantage, the most significant and successful Aston Martin of all time with sales in excess of 14,000 cars worldwide
Aston Martin’s engine plant in Cologne starts producing all V12 and V8 engines2005
The V8 Vantage, the most agile car in the range, is launched, followed two years later by the V12 Vantage2007
The opening of the new design studio, adjacent to the factory at Gaydon, cements the company’s reputation as one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated sports car manufacturers
The DBS launches at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance as the marque’s flagship grand tourer
Aston Martin returns to independence. The Ford Motor Company sells Aston Martin to international investment houses, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment, led by David Richards
Aston Martin’s global headquarters is opened in Gaydon, Warwickshire — the first purpose-built facility in the company’s history
The DBR9 returns to the racetrack. It secures class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008
The Nürburgring Test Centre is opened as a base for development and durability testing of Aston Martin prototypes and for customer events2009
Development continues as the world’s most beautiful four-door sports car, the Rapide, is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin CEO, describes it as “a car that seals the revival of a truly admired marque”
In a busy year for the marque, also launched are the V12 Vantage, which features a new rear diffuser, a rear-wing that can be raised or lowered, and carbon-ceramic brakes, and the DBS Volante, boasting a top speed of 191mph
Aston Martin’s workforce celebrates as the 50,000th car rolls off the production line
Aston Martin unveils the ultimate expression of the marque, the One-77. On its debut, the One-77 wins the Design Award in the Concept Cars and Prototypes Class at the Concorso d’Eleganza, Ville d’Este, Italy2011
An historic partnership is rekindled with the launch of the V12 Zagato at the Concorso d’Eleganza, Ville d’Este, Italy. The Coupe wins the Design Award in the Concept Cars and Prototypes Class at the event. Also launched in 2011 are the Virage and the Cygnet, a three-door hatchback designed for city living2012
The iconic Vanquish name returns for a new flagship GT combining world-leading design, technology and engineering to create a car that is the best Aston Martin in history
The Aston Martin DB5 makes its sixth James Bond appearance, helping Skyfall become the UK’s most successful film ever2013
Aston Martin celebrates its 100th birthday and begins a year of centenary celebrations at its Gaydon headquarters and around the world
The iconic and unforgettable looks of Aston Martin models through the years have often reflected the influences and trends from the wider world of architecture and design.
The image of Mick Jagger in front of his beloved DB6 epitomises the decade that signaled a seismic change in British society.