Aston Martin’s Boxer eater
Designed to be the ultimate road-going supercar, Aston Martin’s dramatic twin-turbocharged, gull-wing, mid-engined two-seater sports car, announced to the Press appropriately in Aston Clinton last month, may never go into production. If it does, depending upon demand after the prototype’s world tour, only a handful will be individually hand-built at necessarily astronomical price. The Bulldog exists as a patriotic flag waver, an image maker for Aston Martin and proof of the rejuvenated Newport Pagnell company’s abilities in research and development and prototype build work for other companies.
The Bulldog came from the drawing board of Bill Towns and was developed practically from scratch, in exactly one year to the day of the Press launch, by a tiny and youthful team led by Project Engineer Keith Martin, with Steve Hallam as Development Engineer and Mike Duff as Design Engineer.
A maximum speed of over 190 m.p.h. is projected, with 0-60 m.p.h. in 5.1 sec. and 100 m.p.h. in 10.1 sec. and in very few test miles this intriguing prototype has already run up to over 170 m.p.h. Power from its 5.3-litre, 4 o.h.c., all-aluminium V8 must be massive indeed, with a claimed 60 per cent. more than the standard, unturbocharged, Vantage engine, which by my calculations must give the Bulldog somewhere between 650 and 665 b.h.p. with the boost pressure limited to 12 psi. Aston Martin do not quote power outputs, of course.
Although the Lagonda Turbo engine, described last month, and the Bulldog’s engine have been developed in parallel and both use twin Garrett AiRescarch turbochargers and waste gates, there are major differences in execution and power output. Almost purely for reasons of compactness the Bulldog has reverted to the old Aston Martin system of Bosch mechanical fuel-injection. Vantage inlet valves are fitted, but the camshafts are unique to the Bulldog engine. Cosworth forged pistons reduce the compression ratio to 7.5:1. Full-flow oil filters are fitted.
All this power is fed through a ZF five-speed gearbox and transaxle connected directly to the back of the engine and driving through a 10½ in. AP single plate clutch and Hardy Spicer driveshafts with double Hooke’s joints and roller splines.
The Bulldog looks massive, its Towns body 66. 3½ in. wide, yet it is only 36.7 in. high. A multi-tubular backbone chassis with an integral roll-over bar, diagonally braced, carries a light steel framework on which the hand-formed aluminium bodywork is mounted. A sheet steel floor-pan is welded into the chassis.
The unequal length double wishbone front suspension and uprights are slightly modified versions of those used on the Lagonda. The rear suspension is a departure from conventional mid-engined design but in line with the Aston Martin Lagonda production front-engine cars, in that it uses a De Dion axle, located longitudinally by four trailing arms and laterally by a modified Watts linkage. The De Dion tube sweeps over the top of the gearbox casing. With its massive 349/35 VR 15 Pirelli P7 tyres on 11 in. rims presented squarely to the tarmac by the De Dion, traction should be remarkable. The Compomotive split rim wheels at the front are of more modest 8½ in. width, shod with 225/50 VR 15 P7s. The huge brakes, with 11.67 in diameter ventilated discs and Lockheed four-pot calipers all round, are to CanAm specification. Non-assisted steering is each and pinion with anti-Ackermann geometry.
The Bulldog is full of intriguing features, like the gull-wing doors which open electrohydraulically at the touch of a switch to reveal a completely sill-less aperture for easy access. Five headlamps are concealed behind a movable flap half-way down the “bonnet” line and the LCD digital instrumentation features digits illuminated by fibre optics — an automotive “first”. A specially designed six-bar linkage for the windscreen wipers allows the single 26 in. blade to sweep through 145 deg.
The interior has been beautifully trimmed in Connolly leather and Wilton carpeting by Aston Marie’s experirnental trim shop. It is fully road equipped with a specially developed air conditioning system and National Panasonic stereo radio and tape deck. A Michelin radial space-saver spare wheel is fitted under the engine cover and a concealed bracket allows the punctured road wheel to be carried outside the car after removal. Just one thing is lacking by road car standards: there is no luggage space whatsoever!
Intriguingly, the idea for Bulldog evolved from a lunch Aston Martin’s Chairman, Alan Curtis, had with Sir Michael Edwardes and Ray Horrocks of BL, at which the possibility of a Jaguar-powered, mid-engined Aston Martin car was discussed. That came to nought, but it did give rise to the Bulldog concept. The Bulldog name, originally a code name only, came not from an initial patriotic fervour, but from Curtis’ Bristol Bulldog fighter.
Though Curtis did mention Le Mans in passing in his speech, there are no plans to convert Bulldog — which has no design connections whatsoever with the mid-engined Lola-Aston Martin of 1967 — into a racing car. Even stripped of its road-going equipment the chassis would be far too heavy, Keith Martin told us. Yes, the enthusiasts at Aston Martin would love to re-enter motor racing, but not without a huge bag of gold from a sponsor. — C.R.