Marques of Distinction: Aston Martin

By: Unique Cars magazine

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aston martin aston martin

When Lionel Martin built a rudimentary sports car to race at the Aston-Clinton hillclimb, he could not have imagined the reverence its composite name would eventually command in the world of exotic Grand Touring cars

From Unique Cars #290, Sep/Oct 2008

Aston Martin

That first Aston Martin used an Isotta-Fraschini chassis but Martin had his own design ready for production when World War I intervened. After 1920, when sales eventually began, A-M’s range included long and short-chassis versions of the 1.5-litre Standard Sports and a three-seat cloverleaf tourer.

Financial problems beset the business throughout its early years, with multiple changes of ownership and the departure in 1926 of Lionel Martin. Not until the 1930s did Aston Martin find sufficient financial stability to capitalize on the outstanding 1.5-litre engine designed in 1925 by a former owner, Augustus Bertelli.

After World War II the business was acquired by tractor manufacturer David Brown Limited and the DB series of Aston Martins commenced. New owner David Brown was envious of Jaguar’s motor sporting success and funded an ambitious development programme that included Formula 1 participation and a succession of fast and successful sports/racing cars.

| 60 years of Aston Martin DB4 (1958 - 2018)

Aston Martin recorded its only outright Le Mans 24 Hour race win in 1959; Roy Salvadori sharing a DBR1 with Carroll Shelby. Other significant results included wins in the 1000 kilometre race at Nurburgring and the ’59 World Sports Car Championship. Aston Martin returned to the Le Mans in 2007-08, recording GT1 class wins with its DBR9.

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However, it’s likely that the mythical character of James Bond was responsible for more Aston Martin sales than any of the brand’s on-track heroes. The first 007 Aston was a silver DB5, complete with ejector seat, that featured in the 1964 film Goldfinger. Aston Martins have subsequently appeared in eight Bond films including Quantum of Solace.

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The 1970s brought more problems for Aston Martin. After David Brown sold the business, a downturn in demand for high-performance, V8-engined vehicles saw it run close to bankruptcy before being bought by Pace Petroleum owner, Victor Gauntlett. In 1987, Gauntlett sold a controlling share – which in 1994 became overall ownership – to Ford where it headlined the company’s ambitious but ultimately untenable Premier Automotive Group.

On the market again in 2006, and with an enviable range of V8 and V12-engined models to tempt buyers, Aston Martin was bought by a consortium headed by the Prodrive Group and seems assured of a buoyant future.

 

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