'The Aston Martin Victor is pretty much what I’d design if left with a blank sheet of paper'

There may not be a single item that links the Aston Martin Victor and a Baby Bugatti but Andrew Frankel finds a common purpose

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

There haven’t been many people in this industry to whom I warmed more immediately than Victor Gauntlett, whom I last saw in 2001, 10 years after he left Aston Martin’s chair and about 18 months before his death aged just 60.

Victor was many things, well-to-do, ebullient and funny among them, but so too was he modest, kind and had a brain sharper even than the cut of his tailor-made suits. His contribution to Aston Martin between taking the helm on January 5, 1981 having first dropped his wife at Guildford Hospital to give birth to their son Mark, and his departure a decade later is possibly the greatest of any individual save Augustus Bertelli and David Brown.

He got little credit for the 1980s, which was a period of survival for Aston, but by the time he left it was safe under the corporate wing of the Ford Motor Company and with the idea that became the DB7 ‘a fully written concept’.

So it was naturally to him that my mind turned when I drove the Aston Martin Victor a few weeks ago. Unlike the Speedster reviewed on page 42, which isn’t my kind of car at all, the Victor is pretty much what I’d design if left with a blank sheet of paper and an even blanker chequebook. Carbon tub, carbon body, carbon brakes. Monster 7.3-litre, normally aspirated V12 engine directing 836bhp to the rear wheels alone through a six-speed manual gearbox with no stability control.

Did I like it? More than I can say. Pity that it’s a one-off that will have cost its Belgian commissioner and owner around £4m. But at least it can carry Victor’s name with pride. Had he lived, he’d not even be 80 and I wondered what he’d have thought of it. And I know he’d have loved it, too. Indeed 20 years since I last heard it, I can almost hear the laugh from here.


But so too did I enjoy driving another sporting vehicle about as far removed from the concept of the Victor as it is possible to imagine.

I went to visit the Little Car Company at Bicester Heritage where is has become rightly renowned for its three-quarter size Bugatti electric cars.

And rich boy’s toys though most will probably be, that doesn’t stop me admiring the excellence of their engineering, or enjoying whizzing around the site’s private roads in a Baby Bugatti II. It’s striking too that Bugatti itself recognises and sanctions these cars, even providing Chiron badging to go with them. And Ben Hedley who owns the business isn’t stopping there: he already has an official Aston DB5 Junior, has announced a full-sized Tamiya model for next year which will be able to be made road legal and after that I know of at least two other proper and prestigious car manufacturers whose more revered products are about be realised in pint-sized, electric form. Toys they are, but they are also lightweight and fun electric cars. Long may they continue.


There was something else to learn from these wildly disparate experiences and that is simply that the best cars are those that know what they are for, even if that is to do just one thing really, really well.

When I think of my small and unimportant accumulation of old cars, it’s what links them all. My Series III Land Rover, Caterham Seven, ancient suicide door Fiat 500 and even older ripple bonnet 2CV are all cars of extraordinary focus, which also explains why they, or the concept behind them, lasted not just for years or decades, but generations.

 “I see cars and not only do I not know what they are, I don’t care”

And surely there is something to be learned from this for manufacturers foisting upon the public ever more homogenised, blander than bland, beiger than beige anonymous crossover SUVs? There was a time when I, as a motoring journalist, would have been shocked by the idea that anyone in my trade could look at any car on any street and not know what it was, from whence it came and its precise purpose in life. But today and every day I see cars and not only do I not know what they are, I don’t care either.

This of course says a lot about the fact there are many more versions of more models of cars on sale today than there ever were in the past. It may well say something about me too – perhaps I’ve become jaded after 33 years in this job, though I’d like to think not. Most of all it says that with few eclectic exceptions, we live in an age of dead-end design where the imperative is not to create cars of such clearly thought out and innate excellence that they will still be influencing the world half a lifetime later, but to get a blob of clay, apply a few curves, slashes and cuts, knock it out as quick as you can and move to the next one. Do you think the impending electric revolution is going to slow or reverse this process? Me neither.


I was interested to see a rather elderly (it was written on a typewriter) official press release entitled The Plural of Lotus, in which we learn: “In the interest of standard grammar and understanding please note that in future all Lotus literature etc will feature the following: the plural of Lotus will be Lotus; the possessive of Lotus will be Lotus’. This, we hope, will eliminate the use of the horrible words: Loti and Lotuses.”

These rules remain current at Lotus today. Having had the rather dubious pleasure of a partly classical education, this informs me that Lotus is therefore a fourth declension noun like ‘Gradus’ and not a second declension noun such as ‘Dominus’. It therefore follows that the genitive plural ‘of Lotus’ is ‘Lotuum’. I look forward to using it at the earliest opportunity.


A former editor of Motor Sport, Andrew splits his time between testing the latest road cars and racing (mostly) historic machinery
Follow Andrew on Twitter @Andrew_Frankel