Aston Martin Oxford Limited is established in much the same way as JaguarSport, and is a parallel operation at Bloxham. Tom Walkinshaw, 46, is the managing director of both companies. Nicholas Scheele is the chairman of JaguarSport, Walter Hayes the chairman of AMOL.
Lanarkshire-born Walkinshaw should need no introduction. He won the Scottish Formula Ford championship in 1969, graduating to Formula 3 in an ex-Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus 59, then Formula 2 in a Chequered Flag Lotus. Peter Ashcroft hired Walkinshaw in 1973 to be the driver/engineer in the Escort and Capri RS programme. and this was the Scotsman’s first contact with Ford’s Mike Kranefuss, who was running the European Capris.
After three successful years with Ford, Walkinshaw set up on his own in 1976, founding the Tom Walkinshaw Group of companies based at Kidlington, Oxfordshire. In that year he won the Silverstone 6-Hours in the Hermetite Capri he shared with John Fitzpatrick, and motor racing was always the core of his activities.
Contracts with BMW (County Championship), Mazda (British Touring Car Championship, won by Win Percy in 1980 and 1981), Rover and Jaguar in the British and European Touring Car Championships culminated in Walkinshaw winning the European Drivers’ Championship in 1984 at the wheel of a Motul-backed Jaguar XJS.
Walkinshaw then pressed ahead with the development of the Jaguar XJR-6, designed by Tony Southgate in early 1985 before Jaguar’s blessing became official. The XJR programme was hugely successful, producing Group C World Championships in 1987, 1988 and 1991, Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour victories in 1988 and 1990.
Sir David Brown is described by Walter Hayes as “the patron saint of Aston Martin.” Having built up an industrial empire based on engineering, gears and tractor production, Brown felt able to indulge himself in 1947 when he noticed a personal advertisement in The Times offering a sports car company for sale, priced at £20,000. The deal went through, and soon afterwards Brown acquired Lagonda as well, mainly to access the WO Bentley-designed dohc straight-six.
Cars made by Aston Martin between 1948 and 1972, when Brown finally relinquished control, were prefixed ‘DB’. The DB1 was based on the ‘Atom’ two-litre sports car which won the Spa 24 Hours in 1948, and the DB2 quickly followed one year later.
John Wyer was engaged as an engineer and team manager in 1950, and the partnership was extremely successful although the main goals, winning the FIA World Sportscar Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours, did not come until 1959.
Latterly Brown initiated a Formula 1 programme against Wyer’s advice, with Roy Salvadori in the lead car in 1959 and 1960, partnered by Carroll Shelby and Maurice Trintingnant respectively.
The finest road car, in the opinion of Aston Martin’s legion of followers, was the DB4 (in production between 1958 and 1963, followed by the DB5 and DB6 derivatives). Special lightweight versions of the DB4 built by Zagato are particularly admired.