There are certain companies that immedately conjure a British way of life. Aston Martin is one of those. Redolent of polished wood, the scent of leather, of pulling up at polo match or cricket pitch, it is a name recognised across the world. This year the company celebrates its centenary something which few of its early figureheads would have predicted. It’s been a rocky100 years, an anxious succession of crises and rescues, but through it all Aston Martin has maintained an image of racing success, hand-built quality and good looks. We didn’t want to repeat its history once again, so instead we present, in no particular order, 100 things we love about one of Britain’s great traditionalists.
No.1 JAMES BOND’S DB5
The most prolific of all Bond cars, ripe with useful features — ejector seat, machine guns, bullet shield, rotating number plates — that Aston Martin curiously continues to omit from its parts catalogue. First seen in Goldfinger (1964) and most recently blown up, for the umpteenth time, in Skyfall (2012), but will doubtless be recycled in future. A more appropriate 007 companion than the Ford Edge, but then not much about Quantum of Solace made sense.
No.2 COUNT LOUIS ZROWOSKI
In the line of wealthy customers who have opened their wallets for love of Aston, the Flying Count rides high. He wanted to go Grand Prix racing, so he funded Aston Martin with a staggering 110,000 to build the two twin-ohc 16-valve racers that went to Strasbourg in 1922. And at Brooklands he kept Aston’s wings spread with a string of records and wins. It wasn’t all Chitty-Bang-Bang.
No.3 YELLOW EYEBROWS
Initially there merely as an identification feature, the yellow stripe along the flared top of Frank Feeley’s ‘Gothic arch’ DB3S cutaway wheelarch has become one of those visual tropes that signify certain cars like a cavallino rampante on the flank, a BRM’s orange noseband or the white bands across the nose of an Ecurie Ecosse C-type.
No.4 WO BENTLEY
It’s not often remembered that ‘WO’, expelled from his own firm to join Lagonda, contributed a vital element to Aston Martin’s post-war progress. It was his six-cylinder 2.6-litre Lagonda engine that David Brown chose over Claude Hill’s pushrod project to power the DB2. Already well developed, the twin-cam was smooth and robust, offering 105bhp and 123bhp in Vantage form and was a perfect match for the sweet-handling chassis. It then powered DB3 and 35 racers, swelling to 2.9 and eventually well beyond 200bhp.
The big Z. A coachbuilding link that endures. It’s perhaps surprising that restrained Aston Martin went to the quirky Italian firm in 1960 to pare weight from the DB4GT, but Ercole Spada’s menacing design hit the spot. In the ’80s, when costly, low-volume specials were the way to a quick profit, Aston commissioned 50 Zagatos based on the V8 Vantage, then 33 Volantes, all striking rather than handsome. Aston once owned 50 per cent of Zagato, and today there are once again Zagatos in the range — as odd and exaggerated as ever.
No.6 THE OLDEST OF THEM ALL
Aston Martin took a long time to get moving: in 1922 only three cars were assembled. Amazingly, one of those has been rediscovered after years of obscurity. Known as A3, it was much altered by the works, running as a back-up to the Strasbourg Grand prix cars and then appearing in races and hillclimbs, sometimes with a touring body, sometimes with smooth racing coachwork and packing different engines. Now restored to original specification, it is a proud possession of Aston Martin Heritage Trust.
No.7 NURBURGRING TEST CENTRE
They could have built their own test track, or taken a block booking at Silverstone. Instead Aston built a test and development centre on the Nordshleife, the most demanding, thrilling challenge you can put a road car through — all new models do a 10,000km endurance run here. This is also where the various Aston GT race cars are honed. Striking building, too, with car on display high in the air in a glass box.
No.8 LOLA-ASTON MARTIN B09160
It looked the part in the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours, gorgeous lines cloaked in Gulf livery, and sounded even better. Aston’s V12 was a potent contrast to the muted diesels of Peugeot and Audi. The opposition might have been faster, but this was how all racing cars were supposed to sound. If you were there, chances are that the Aston’s siren call still resonates.
No.9 VICTOR GAUNTLETT
Arch-patriot whose petroleum company became a major Aston shareholder in 1981. His ebullient chairmanship helped the firm through the 1980s oil crisis, and he founded the Nimrod race project to put the firm back on track. Along with joint chairman Peter Livanos, commissioned the limited-edition Zagatos that generated some handy cash.
No.10 ASTON MARTIN CYGNET
The smallest and silliest Aston Martin in history. Everybody knows it’s just a Toyota ig with lashings of leather and a lustrous paint job, but it speaks volumes for the lure of the Aston name that anybody should be prepared to pay more than £30,000 for one of these… especially when the donor car looks quite pricey at about £12,500.
No.11 NEWPORT PAGNELL
Aston has had something of a peripatetic existence, but for more than 50 years was based at Newport Pagnell. Its presence added lustre to a town that might otherwise have been known only for lending its name to a tawdry M1 service station.
No.12 GORDON SUTHERLAND
If you need proof that the motoring world is heaven, just look at the number of angels that came to Aston’s aid over the years. This time it was the son of a shipping magnate who in 1932 persuaded his father to buy the firm. Sutherland proved a serious force, getting a decent production run under way, backing the increasing competition efforts, steering the firm through the rocky 1930s and conceiving the highly advanced Atom. But the investment required to restart after the war was too much, and he placed a small ad in The Times. It was seen by David Brown…
No.13 LOLA T70 MK3-ASTON MARTIN
A flop, yes, but gloriously so and it’s also a good excuse to run a picture of the Lola T70, not that any should ever be needed. The T70 was conceived to accommodate any V8 and Aston Martin saw this as an opportunity to market its new overhead-cam 5-litre. It proposed to enter three cars for Le Mans in 1967, but in the end sent only two and both dropped out within a matter of laps, the engine having been short of development funds and, as a consequence, reliability. It still looks sensational, though…
No.14 MAREK V8 ENGINE
Mainstay of the Aston range from the late ’60s right into the ’90s, Tadek Marek’s big alloy quad-cam V8 appeared first in 5-litre form as a race engine, unsuccessfully, but finally hit the road in the DBS for which it had been designed. Each engine was famously hand-built by one man whose name appears on a small plaque affixed to the block. Started at about 340bhp, soaring to 600 in Vantage versions, and was even turbocharged for an experimental Lagonda (inevitably dubbed ‘Turbolag’) and the outrageous Bulldog which claimed 700bhp. Also a class winner at Le Mans, and even powered the Group C EMKA.
No.15 ST JOHN RATCLIFFE STEWART “JOCK” HORSFALL
Forged his reputation as a racing driver during the 1930s, at the wheel of his Aston Martin 2.0 Special, and also worked for Britain’s secret service during WW2 (a prototype James Bond, then, if a little more real). His landmark victories included the 1938 Leinster Trophy at Brooklands and the 1948 Spa 24 Hours, sharing an Aston with Leslie Johnson. Horsfall died in an accident at Silverstone in 1949, but to this day the Aston Martin Owners Club names events in his honour.
No.16 PRINCE CHARLES’S DB6 VOLANTE
These days, the royal family is assigned three days of rolling news as soon as one of its Corgis develops a sniffle. The real story is that there’s a sense of soul beyond the public facade — not least the fact that HRH still owns this rather lovely DB6 drop-top, given to him as a 21st birthday present in 1969. It has been converted to run on E85 bioethanol, which makes it both regal and (vaguely) green.
No.17 SPEED MODEL TYPE C
Relied on the very traditional Speed Model chassis, developed for Le Mans, but the 1939 Type C struck out for the future with its streamlined curves. With wings integrated into the body and headlights tucked within the grill, it looked fast — if you discounted the extra windscreen, projecting rad cap and other excrescenses designers hadn’t yet learned caused drag. Pioneered Claude Hill’s new body-building method of alloy over square tubes — his own version of `Superleggera’.
18 ASTON MARTIN LAGONDA
Opulence has rarely looked so quirky. From a company that crafted some of the world’s most handsomely proportioned grand tourers, the William Townspenned Lagonda was an object lesson in acquired taste. Still, full marks for having the brass neck to build it. Stayed in production for a lot longer than people realise — 1974 to 1990, through four iterations — and about 30 remain taxed today. That makes it only slightly less rare than the Aston Martin Cygnet…
No.19 DARREN TURNER
Proof that there are opportunities beyond F1 and an inspiration to anyone whose single-seater career appears ever on the cusp. Seems to have been part of the Aston Martin set-up since James Bond was a twinkle on Ian Fleming’s typewriter, but it’s done him no harm: cult figure with two Le Mans class wins to his name.
No.20 INSTRUMENT BINNACLE
Brilliant stroke of design thinking. With the appearance on the new Mk III of what would become Aston Martin’s signature radiator grille shape, someone had the neat idea of repeating it inside. The clocks nestle inside a hooded binnacle reflecting the threesection grille you can’t see when you’re at the helm.
No. 21 ASTON MARTIN DBR1
Made its World Sports Car Championship debut in 1956 and three years later became the first — and, so far, only — Aston Martin to score an outright victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Driving chassis DBR1/2, Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby finished a lap clear of another DBR1 driven by Maurice Trintingnant and Paul Frere. Fact: the last of that season’s 12 classified finishers was a Saab 93 Sport, driven by Swedes Sture Nottorp and Gunnar Bengtsson.
It means `superlight; but it’s also an alluring name for a production process… Touring had long built cars this way, using thin steel tube instead of timber to support alloy panels, so it was wise to import the method along with the firm’s gorgeous DB4 design. The genius move was badging the bonnet of this English icon with a hint of the Continent — a dab of Italian mustard on English roast beef.
No.23 SHOOTING BRAKES
Some of the sexiest ever fast estates have ridden on Aston underpinnings, notably the Harold Radford-converted DB5 and 6, though things got a bit shaky with the FLM DBS version and then fell off a cliff with a Towns Lagonda estate that looked as though it had been faxed. Luckily, the latest Rapide Jet shooting break from Bertone gets the principle back on track.
No.24 1922 FRENCH GRAND PRIX
July16, Strasbourg: Felice Nazzarro wins for Fiat, well clear of Pierre de Vizcaya’s Bugatti, but Aston Martin is on an international Grand Prix grid for the first time. The cars of Clive Gallop and Louis Zborowski retire with engine failures, however.
No.25. DB4GTI/ ZAGATO
Introduced in autumn 1959 as a lighter, brisker version of the svelte DB4. The engine — Tadek Marek’s straight six with twin spark plugs, three twin-choke Webers and cylinder head mods — generated 302bhp, good for a top speed north of 150mph. One year later, Zagato launched its own version, which was yet more slender and strikingly curvaceous.
No.26 ARNOLT ASTON
Unconventional US car importer Stanley ‘Wacky’ ArnoIt often clothed British chassis in bold Bertone designs, and the DB2/4 scrubbed up well — though badging it as an ArnoIt riled David Brown. With its cut-down screen the spartan spider looked as aggressive as any Ferrari, while the more luxe GT, less bizarre in concept, had its own elegance.
No.27 GREEN PEA VOITURETTE
The car Zborowski drove at Strasbourg in 1922 and the oldest surviving Aston racer. Nicknamed Green Pea by subsequent owner Mrs Marion Nagnew.
No.28 ASTON MARTIN RACING
The contemporary motor sport division, performing with grace, dignity and success on the global stage. And what’s not to like about a campaign founded on a lusty, front-engined GT?
No.29 DR ULRICH BEZ
Having obtained an engineering doctorate from Stuttgart University, Bez went on to direct design development at Porsche, BMW and the slightly less fashionable Daewoo. His design credits include the BMW Z1, with retracting doors that solved a nonexistent problem. Became Aston’s CEO and chairman in 2000, then later organised its sale to the David Richards/ John Sinders consortium. When not directing Aston affairs, Bez could frequently be found racing its products.
No.30 GOODWOOD PIT FIRE/TITLE GLORY
Late in the 1959 season, the World Sports Car Championship’s destiny hinged on the outcome of the Goodwood Tourist Trophy. The occasion’s most enduring image is that of the Moss/Salvadori DBR1 igniting following a fuel spillage during a routine stop. Aston privateer Graham Whitehead subsequently withdrew from the race to allow the works team to use his pit: Aston went on to win and secure the world title.
In 1955, Newport Pagnell-based engineering company Tickford Ltd became an Aston Martin subsidiary and would later conjure miracles such as a turbocharged 140mph Ford Capri. It prepared engines for Aston racing projects in the early 1980s and later tuned Cosworth V8s for the FIA F3000 Championship (effectiveness underlined by Damon Hill in 1990) and Fl Judds for Lotus.
Like Bentley and Rolls-Royce, all members (including overseas) belong to the parent club — this fosters a sense of family for an organisation that offers everything from lunchtime noggins and natters to a serious weekend of racing. And in 1974 the Aston Martin Owners Club saved the firm. In receivership yet again, it was rescued by four enthusiasts after a ‘Save Aston’ campaign by AMOC. Hurrah!
No.33 GLASS IGNITION KEY
In the Sixties, Dr Who set designers used chunks of Perspex to indicate bafflingly advanced alien technology. Now your Aston comes to life by sliding a chunk of glass into a slot. No longer alien but still advanced and very cool. And still baffling.
No.34 THE HATCH IN THE DB2/4
Who cares which was the first five-door hatchback? We don’t want to go shopping. But cutting a hole in the back of the new DB2/4 and fitting fold-down seat backs gave buyers an express estate car that looked like a performance coupe. Which it was — 120mph without sending the luggage on ahead. Pre-dated E-type, Reliant GTE, Volvo 1800E5 and all the other speedy wagons.
No.35 ASTON MARTIN AMR1
Aston’s second and final attempt to take on sports car racing’s grandees during the fondly remembered Group C era. The car looked the part, but faced stiff opposition from such as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche. A testing accident forced the team to miss the opening race of the 1989 season (Suzuka, Japan) and that led to a $250,000 fine, such were the rules of the day. Two cars were prepared for Le Mans, one finishing 11th, but the seasonal highlight came on home soil, in the Brands Hatch 1000Kms, when Brian Redman and David Leslie finished fourth. A new car was on the drawing board for 1990, but financial considerations led to the project’s abolishment after a single season.
No.36 LIONEL MARTIN
Picking a terrible time to found a car company, Eton-schooled Cornishman Martin teamed with Robert Bamford in 1913 to tune Singers, but soon got ambitious. Managed to build the first complete car during the European unpleasantness and got things moving again by 1920, when Bamford & Martin took larger premises. A handy pilot (and competitive cyclist), Martin’s trials, hillclimbs and races got his new marque noticed, but after Bamford resigned in ’21 it was another two years before B&M sold its first car. A cash crisis forced Martin out in 1925.
No.37 AMR DRIVER TRAINING SCHEME
A costly option, perhaps, but designed to convert complete novices into competition licence-wielding Aston Martin GT4 racers faster than you can say “six-speed hydraulically actuated automated sequential manual”.
No.38 ASTON MARTIN GT7OOR
Wigan-based club racer David Ellis had a fantastically welldeveloped Aston DBS V8 that used to mop up many a sports/GT contest in the early 1980s… although it was eventually barred from AMOC events for being too quick. Next stop? The GT700R, which was swifter still…
Mo.39 HYDE VALE DBS V8
Traditional steel racer, painted a fetching shade of silver. Raced with great vim by Ray Taft — and sometimes by former F1 driver Mike Wilds. During the summer of ’82, at Mallory Park, Wilds was involved in a memorable duel with David Ellis (see left). Proper racing, relished by all too few…
No.40 ALL ASTONS THAT DON’T DISPLAY A SICKLY SLOGAN WHEN YOU SWITCH ON
You bought your Aston Martin because you love cars and driving. You’re about to hear engine noises that will make your armhairs stand up. You know your pulse will soar when you get to a proper road. You don’t need tasteless on-screen computer puff to tell you what to feel.
No.41 ASTON MARTIN ULSTER
Looks as exquisitely proportioned today as it did when first sculpted in Feltham. A racing version of the MkII, the Ulster was built in small numbers of which most are still running. Three cars finished in the top seven in the 1934 Ards TT, enabling Aston to scoop the team prize.
No.42 RAZOR BLADE
Stand behind it and it almost vanishes that’s how bladethin this one-off record car is. That elbow-scraping cockpit is just1Bin wide. Revealed in 1923, it plugged a spare twin-cam GP engine into a solid rear axle just 3ft wide, skinned by De Havilland in sheer alloy for the slickest shape that side of Lockhart’s LSR Stutz.
No.43 ASTON MARTIN RALLY CT
Maurice Gatsonides took an Aston DB2/4 to seventh on the 1955 Monte Cario Rally, but Astons have rarely been an obvious stage weapon. In 2006, however, the V8 Vantagebased Rally GT was introduced for the purpose. No, we haven’t seen many in action, either…
No.44 AC BERTELLI
Along with wealthy William Renwick, Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli took over B&M, changed it to Aston Martin and began a glorious new era. His all-new cars refloated the name and invented that distinctive radiator, and his Ulster and International models brought winning acclaim. ‘Mechanical differences’ saw him walk in ’37, but his input was crucial in making Aston a sporting marque par excellence.
No.45 BILL TOWNS
Some say bold, brave, inventive; others wonder what he was on. Creator of the 1980s ‘sculpted by angle-grinder’ Lagonda and the origami Bulldog supercar, Aston’s in-house designer also penned the first DBS — a pitch-perfect shape that at least one person here thinks is among the 10 most beautiful cars ever made. Towns went on to design modular kit cars from sheet plywood — which sold like hot cakes.
No.46 V12 ENGINE NOISE
Not the unsuccessful ’50s Lagonda V12 racer, but the one you can revel in today — even as a bystander. Yes, the unit has Ford roots, but so did the Cosworth FVA, and such base thoughts disappear the moment you press the starter button. The instant rumble, the gruff bark when you flex your toe, the glorious blare as staggering gobs of torque flood through the rear wheels… It may be artfully contrived in the sound lab, but they got it right.
No.47 ASTON MARTIN OBS VB GTP
Probably one of the least elegant Astons ever produced, but marque devotee Robin Hamilton had touching faith in its durability. An evolution of his own club racer, it was taken to Le Mans in 1977 and defied cynics’ predictions by finishing (17th overall and third in class). The car continued to be developed and raced on until 1980. Pensioned off from circuit life, it was later used to set a new land speed record in the realm of caravan towing…
No.48 ASTON MARTIN DBR4
Ted Cutting’s handiwork was a byword for front-engined Formula 1 elegance, but such was its plodding gestation that Cooper had rewritten the rulebook by the time the DBR4 hit the track. It wasn’t bad — Roy Salvadori qualified third and finished second, with fastest lap, against a strong field in the 1959 International Trophy at Silverstone — but suffered mostly from immediate obsolescence. By 19 60 Aston Martin had lost interest in F1 and it hasn’t returned since.
No.49 NIMROD RACING
A Victor Gauntlett/Robin Hamilton co-production that brought Aston Martin’s name back into international endurance racing, as engine supplier, without the inconvenient expense of having to run its own team. Viscount Downe’s privately entered car showed flickers of promise in 1982 sixth at Silverstone, seventh at Le Mans but the official Nimrod entries suffered persistent niggles. Downe made valiant efforts to keep the cars active, but two were burnt out in the same accident at Le Mans in 1984 and the team’s ambitions were simultaneously consumed.
No.50 SPA 24 HOURS, 1948
Not only a dramatic and unexpected victory, but the impulse that convinced new company owner David Brown he could go racing properly. Sparked by designer Claude Hill, in just a few weeks the team built one ‘parts bin’ racer using the Atom four-cylinder engine. Leslie Johnson and St John Horsfall used it to score a decisive win in the 1948 Spa 24 Hours, the first major post-war sports car race in Europe. By 1950 a team of DB25 was scoring class wins, and a pure racer, the DB3, was under construction in the hands of Auto Union import Eberan von Eberhorst.
No.51 ASTON MARTIN DB MKIII
The name isn’t quite a sequential fit, but then the MkIll was a halfway house — a last hurrah for the DB2 but a foretaste of things to come with the pouting grille that would define the DB4.
No.52 ASTON MARTIN ATOM
An early Aston Martin concept car, designed by Claude Hill and introduced in 1939. ‘Tis said that a run in this very advanced car persuaded businessman David Brown to purchase Aston Martin.
No.53 JACK FAIRMAN’S BICEPS
Stirling Moss had to persuade John Wyer to let him take a DBR1 to the 1959 Nurburgring1000Kms. As partner, ‘Jolly Jack’ Fairman (finally forgiven for blotting his Aston copybook in 1950) was a ‘safe pair of hands’ — except that he fell over a slower car while leading and ditched the Aston. In the pits a frustrated Moss began packing to go home, but hadn’t reckoned with Fairman’s physical strength: alone, he dug the big machine free, set his weight against it and heaved it back on track. With three cars now ahead Moss began one of the great comeback drives, snatching victory out of despair thanks to Aston’s pocket Atlas.
No.54 ASTON MARTIN ‘COAL SCUTTLE’
The very first car to emerge from the Kensington premises of Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, in 1915. Nicknamed after a popular household accessory du jour, it ploughed a lonely furrow for several years because World War One interrupted the firm’s manufacturing plans.
No.55 ASTON MARTIN BADGE
The wings don’t go back to B&M days; they appeared with Bertelli and the move to Feltham around 1927. Initially more naturalistic, they got a makeover in the 1930s when racing journalist ‘Sammy’ Davis, a founder AMOC member, clipped them to resemble an Egyptian scarab beetle. David Brown inserted his name during his reign, but the crisp, clean stylised logo has remained broadly the same since.
No.56 CARROLL SHELBY
Tough Texan Shelby was a shock to sleepy Feltham when he arrived asking for a car, but John Wyer knew talent when he saw it. Initially foisted on Aston by Sebring’s organisers in 1954, the dungaree-clad chicken farmer quickly became a marque stalwart, campaigning his works-supported blue-striped white DB3S around Europe. Later he was a vital member of both sports car and Fl squads, and in ’59 partnered Roy Salvadori to Aston’s apotheosis Le Mans victory at last.
No.57 ASTON MARTIN ONE-77
There is exclusive.., and then there’s the Aston Martin One-77. The name reflects the fact that only 77 were made, with full carbon chassis and 7.3-litre 750bhp V12. Other impressive numbers included 200mph-plus top speed and a CO2 rating of 572g/km. That means a Band M VED rating of 1490 per annum, although such details are unlikely to deter anybody capable of meeting the 11,150,000 asking price.
No.58 THE OTHER ASTON MARTIN ONE-77
A slightly cheaper alternative to the One-77. The limited-edition One-77 bicycle retailed for just 125,000 (although we’d also counsel purchase of a stout padlock).
No.59 FRANK FEELEY
Until the DB4 era, it was Frank Feeley’s instinctive eye that shaped Aston’s look, and he had a natural eye for a fine curve. Joined Lagonda in 1926 aged 14, shaping the LG cars, then in the Brown days clothed everything from the 2-litre, or DB1, to the memorably curvaceous DB3S and its coupe variants featuring those extraordinary cutaway arches. But as Brown shifted production to Newport Pagnell, Feeley declined to move too. Enter Touring and the DB4…
No.60 ASTON MARTIN DB7
It took about 25 years, but the DEIB’s spiritual successor eventually arrived. There were one or two setbacks during early road tests cars catching fire, mainly but it seemed quite popular between conflagrations. The public certainly liked it, for it sold in greater numbers than any previous Aston Martin.
No.61 ASTON MARTIN DB8
This should be part of the current range, but the story goes Aston felt uncomfortable launching a 12-cylinder car with an ‘8’ in its name, hence the DB9…
No.62 ASTON MARTIN DB4GT ZAGATO VEV
As if the Zagato body wasn’t distinctive enough, the memorable numberplate of this DB4GT features in some of the great photography from 1961. One of two Zagatos bought by the Ogier stable, 2 VEV won when the Ferraris weren’t playing, but the Italian-clothed machines ate up too many tyres to be contenders. Still, a shot of Jim Clark in the TT, lights on and tyres screaming for mercy as the pugnacious Aston comes to heel for the master, should make anyone’s blood turn to five-star.
No.63 ASTON MARTIN CC100
Unveiled earlier this year during the Nurburgring 24 Hours race weekend, this is a concept car created to commemorate Aston Martin’s centenary. Styling cues were pinched from the 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1, which consequently makes this Aston’s approximate equivalent of the modern MINI or Fiat 500.
No.64 2-LITRE SPORTS (DB1)
Voluptuous consequence of the aforementioned Atom — the first car produced during David Brown’s tenure and now often labelled “DB1”. Society considered it terribly expensive at the time, with a list price only 12 shy of 11500.
No.65 AMOC INTERMARQUE
It has been a club racing staple for many a season, but in the year 2013 it is heartening to note that this team-themed race series features drivers representing Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche… and Sunbeam.
No.66 ASTON MARTIN DB2 ‘VMF64’
Doesn’t trip off the tongue as smoothly as EMU or VEV, but in 1950 and ’51 this highly successful DB2 racer cemented Aston’s image among the grandest of grand tourers, thanks in part to fastidious preparation by new recruitJohn Wyer. An extensively lightened team car, it placed third at Le Mans, winning its class twice there and once in the Mille Miglia. The trademark sporting fastback look and ‘three-step’ radiator are all present as Aston Martin shifts into third gear and gets motoring.
No.67 DAVID RICHARDS
At Aston’s helm since 2007. When he ran Fl teams, the media appreciated his approachability. When he worked in rallying, however, some journalists were wary because they felt him “a bit too Fl…” He’s a successful businessman, but also an enthusiast. Heart in the right place, then.
No.68 KENSINGTON GARDEN CENTENARY
The royal park is used to motor car concours, but not on this scale Astons as far as the eye could see. And what a selection, from oldest survivor A3 via the great ’50s and ’60s models to the eye-boggling CC100 concept, all within crisp white picket fences.
No.69 O.H.M.S.S DBS V8
Yes, it’s another Bond Aston… voluptuously elegant, but fatally flawed. It appears only occasionally during On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 1,1 Branch really should have fitted bullet-proof glass to spare poor Diana Rigg, the late Mrs Bond…
No.70 DAVID BROWN
Aston’s history has lurched from crisis to receivership and back again, and there is a litany of saviours. But among those, polo-playing Yorkshire entrepreneur David Brown deserves the gratitude of all marque supporters. Wealthy from building tractors, he switched to high-performance sports cars in 1947 (long before tractor maker Ferruccio Lamborghini) after seeing the ailing company advertised in The Times. Quickly added Lagonda and Tickford, then continued to fund both road and race car development without worrying too much about making money… Putting his name on the badge looked egotistical at the time, but considering his legacy we can forgive him.
No.71 SIR MALCOLM CAMPBELL
When he wasn’t chasing speed records, or winning the Grand Prix de Boulogne, Sir Malcolm Campbell had a reputation for driving road cars of distinction. His inventory include a 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans and a 1934 Lagonda T45 Tourer. Naturally, both were painted blue.
Pinched from Italian, but just as béchamel sounds much more exotic than white sauce, Volante has a much more sophisticated air than plain old convertible. Used for all rag-top Astons from 1965 on. Not very logical — where does ‘flying’ come in? — but a sexy element in Aston’s V lexicon.
The first one. Another of Ian Callum’s masterworks — a symphony of squat power, tensed muscle and barely contained aggression, animated by that sensational V12. Far from Aston’s recent run of serving the same dish with different dressings, the Vanquish grew out of a 1998 show car and had a carbon-fibre and aluminium chassis with six-speed paddle-shift gearbox.
No.74 VB VANTAGE
Compact refinement of the well-established Aston Martin profile and — even after 10 years — it looks delicious from every angle. Naturally available in several flavours, but as with food simpler is better, aesthetically speaking. There’s a Volante, too, but why would you slice off the most handsome part? That sweep from roofline into rear-quarters is masterly.
Fifties film melodrama directed by Ralph Thomas centred around a Mille Migliastyle road race and featuring the only decent performance by the two 1954 racing Lagondas. Ironic, as they had been slated to do the MM but failed to make it there. If you think Pat Symonds was poorly treated by Renault in 2009, spare a thought for Stanley Baker, hunted down and killed on team orders! Meanwhile there’s a feast of MM footage starring the Feltham pair as Warren Ingrams’ before they’re pushed off a cliff. Which is just what John Wyer wanted to do with them…
James Bond (Roger Moore) drives an Aston Martin (DBS) in a series (The Persuaders) that has nothing to do with James Bond. The DBS was finished in Bahama Yellow and Moore was reunited with it not so long ago, for a promotional shoot. Co-starring with Tony Curtis (‘Danny Wilde’), Moore played Brett Rupert George Robert Mark Anthony Andrew Sinclair, 15th Earl of Marnock. Or Lord Brett Sinclair, according to the title credits…
No.77 DUNDROID 1953
First year of the neater, lighter DB3S, which went to Ireland for the Tourist Trophy with two wins under its bonnet. While some, including chief Jaguar rival Moss, disliked the twisting, bumpy public road Dundrod circuit, Peter Collins, driving with Pat Griffith, loved it and not only won but lapped Moss. Yes, the C-types had gearbox trouble but the Astons didn’t. It was a major boost for Aston’s racing hopes but for ’54, over-confidence would see the team blow a gasket.
No.78 MARSH PLANT ASTON MARTIN DB4 LIGHTWEIGHT
Officially, there was no Lightweight model in the Aston sales catalogue.., but a fair few were created for racing purposes (assorted steel parts being ditched in favour of aluminium). Aston aficionados regard the Lightweight as a logical development the company might feasibly have pursued, given time. We pick the Marsh Plant example for one reason alone: it was in this car, at Snetterton on August 6 2000, that the late, great Gerry Marshall recorded the 600th win of a race career that began during the early 1960s.
No.79 JOHN MYER
Legendary case-hardened team manager with a penetrating eye for detail and a deaf car for excuses. Joined Aston for 1950 as chief development engineer and sandpapered the team into shape with endless testing and thorough preparation. Continued to run the teams with a rod of carbon steel and his famous ‘death ray’ stare while overseeing development through to 1963 when racing stopped and he set off for careers with Ford, Porsche and Mirage. But his first Le Mans victory was when that dusty DBR1 of Shelby and Salvadori crossed the line in 1959. Who glares wins…
No.80 ASTON MAETIN DP4
The last hurrah of racing Aston Martins until the next one. After the 1962 toe-in-water Project 212, Brown sanctioned one prototype and two rulestretching ‘GT’ cars increasingly distant from their DB4GT roots and boasting extended low-drag skins. After the ‘wrong tyres’ debacle at the Goodwood TT, Salvadori drove the race of his career in 0194/R to steal the 1963 Coppa InterEuropa at Monza from Mike Parkes’ Ferrari 250GT0. A couple of victories in France apart, it was the end of works Aston Martin racing for a while.
No.81 THE BIRDS
Hitchcock’s realisation of a Daphne du Maurier short story took it a long way from Norfolk all the way to California’s Bodega Bay. But he gave Tippi Hedren an open DB2/4 to transport her, elegantly headscarfed, towards her avian encounter. Sit back and enjoy the six-cylinder soundtrack to the trip along winding cliffside roads above the Pacific and don’t miss the two lovebirds in their cage banking through the corners.
No.82 T2-LITRE SPEED MODEL
Gorgeous to behold and the epitome of how any 1930s sports car should look but how easy would it be to scald your elbow on its cockpit-side exhaust?
No.83 BERTIE WOOSTER’S MKII
In the canon, PG Wodehouse doesn’t specify a marque for his hero beyond the old two-seater”, and frankly it’s hard to imagine intellectually negligible Bertie choosing such a sporting make as an Aston Martin… And of course ITV’s choice of Mk11 is about a decade too young. But the sight of Steven Fry’s Jeeves proceeding down a country house drive in bowler-hatted splendour with half of him above the windscreen is a recurrent pleasure.
No.84 CORGI TOYS
A contender for the finest toy of all time, Corgi’s James Bond DB5 has been reissued a couple of times, but originals fetch a fair few bob on eBay… and 1960s boxes are being advertised for £50-plus on their own. There are other Corgi Bond Astons, of course, but only one has this much charisma.
No.85 FOUR DOORS
We don’t need the awful Porsche Panamera to tell us it’s hard to design an elegant four-door sports car. Yet AML has a commendable back catalogue of truly handsome four-doors. Lagonda Rapide, Mr Brown’s Dralon-lined DBS-and-a-bit Lagonda, Towns’ razor-edge Lagonda: even under different designers the firm’s aesthetic senses held firm while adding extra doors. And look at today’s Rapide — at a glance you barely notice them. Sublime.
No.86 TRI-ANG MINIC MOTORWAYS
Scalextric has conjured some very nice Aston Martins, but its oft-forgotten 1960s rival made some, too. Minic slot cars complemented Hornby train sets… and it is hard to reproduce elegance in 00 gauge (aka 1/76 scale). Two of its best efforts were catalogue numbers M1574 (Aston Martin DB4) and M1581 (DB6), although we also have a sneaking admiration for M1543 (the Humber Super Snipe).
No.87 ASTON MARTIN DB3S
Not initially a contender for victory at the top level, the DB3S staked out Aston’s ambitions and John Wyer’s. Robust and sweet-handling, the cars side-stepped the disappointing DB3 and quickly brought results. Clad in some of Frank Feeley’s finest body designs, the 35 beat the Jaguar C-types in the ’53 TT and Nine Hours and went on to become Aston’s chief weapon, cheerfully over-running its sell-by date when the DBR1 was slow to arrive. As late as ’58 the Whitehead brothers took second at Le Mans in their private entry. And DB3S could have been the Cobra: in 1962 Shelby discussed using it for his new V8 project…
No.88 MANUAL CRAFTSMANSHIP
For all the world’s technological advances during the 100 years since Aston Martin’s creation, its cars remain largely hand-built. Sometimes, the old ways are still best.
No.89 VANTAGE AIRDAM
Perhaps the most brutal bit of restyling ever. Now we’ve upped power to 380bhp and created earth’s quickest-accelerating saloon, let’s try to keep it on the ground by walling off the underside and sealing the radiator inlet with sheet ally…
No.90 ASTON CLINTON HILLCLIMB
Instead of becoming Bamford Martins, Astons were partially named after the Aston Clinton hillclimb, where Robert Bamford was a regular competitor. With a twist of geography and timing, then, the cars could have become Gurston Martins or Kop Martins.
No. 91 ASTON MARTIN ULSTER ‘LM20’
When a car is known by its number you know it must be special. This Ulster punched well above its 85bhp to claim an amazing third overall in the ’35 Le Mans classic under Charles Martin and Brackenbury. One of three team cars with undertrays, lie-down spare wheel in the tail and 1500cc engines balanced to reach 5500rpm, it was painted red because of superstitious Bertelli. Went on to fourth in the TT and fifth in the ’37 Le Mans — and you’ll see it in action at any major vintage race.
No.92 OGLE SOTHEBY SPECIAL
Sponsored by Wills tobacco, this took the DBS chassis and wrapped it in a startling (even by 1972 standards) wedge of glassfibre and glass. With 22 rear lights that chimed in as braking increased, it dazzled motor show visitors but failed to float the Sothebys-branded cigarettes it was built to promote and was soon repainted Embassy red. You know, the fags your dad smoked..
No.93 IAN CALLUM
Another lucky strike for Aston after the Ford purchase was Ian Callum’s previous experience with the huge combine. His design firm TWR shaped the DB7 and Vanquish. After joining Jaguar, by then also part of Ford, he worked on the DB9. Callum is a dyed-in-the-wool car enthusiast with a hot rod in his garage — the perfect man to instil a new direction at Newport Pagnell.
No.94 YOU TUBE
A rich seam. Start off by searching for ‘Aston Martin Nordschleife’ or ‘James Bond car chase’ and go with the flow.
No.95 WALTER HAYES
The man who sired the DFV didn’t want to see the ailing (once more) marque die, so as Ford Europe VP suggested to Henry Ford II that the Blue Oval embrace AM’s wings. In 1991, after Victor Gauntlett left, Hayes became chairman and inspired the DB7, named with the blessing of retired D Brown. It saved the firm… Hayes loved cars and couldn’t bear to see AM vanish.
No.96 ROBERT BAMFORD
Henry Ford. Herbert Austin. Ferruccio La mborghini. Enzo Ferrari. William Rootes. Marcel and Louis Renault. Armand Peugeot. WO Bentley. Charles Rolls. Henry Royce. Lionel Martin… Their names gained resonance within the automotive industry and retain it still. Martin’s founding partner, however, remains less celebrated.
No.97 TED CUTTING
One of the new boys of the David Brown era, Ted Cutting’s engineering nous gave Aston its famously cutting-edge handling. His first task was the successful DB2 chassis, and by 1955 he was in charge of race car design, producing the ill-fated DBR4 Grand Prix car and the very rapid Project racers. But his greatest achievement was DBR1, the beautiful Le Mans and championship-winning 3-litre sports car, over which he had complete control. Thanks to Cutting it looked right, it was right and it proved him right.
No.98 THE ONE YOU COULDN’T SEE
James Bond has hit impressive levels of car silliness over the years: the amphibious Lotus Esprit; the 2CV car chase (one of the best, we reckon); Scaramanga’s flying Matador; Roger Moore driving half a Renault 11 around Paris… but the invisible Vanquish in the awful Die Another Day tops the lot. Mangled science reaches new levels — and for once, Aston Martin is upstaged in a Bond film by the metallic green Jaguar XK8 driven by nemesis Zao. Those rockets would come in handy over Wandsworth Bridge on a Monday morning.
No.99 ROY SALVADORI
Fret not, for we have not overlooked one of the foremost figures of 1950s motor sport. Roy Francesco Salvadori sounds a little cosmopolitan for a son of Essex, but he was as British as Aston Martin — a marque whose interests he served well. He shared the winning DBR1 with Carroll Shelby at Le Mans in 1959 and was entrusted with the short-lived Aston F1 project in 1959/60. Carried on competing in World Championship Grands Prix until 1962, with Cooper — a team he later managed. Passed away only last summer, shortly after his 90th birthday.
No.100 THINGS ASTON HAS OUTLIVED…
British European Airways. Red telephone boxes. The Ronco Buttoneer. Spangles. Rufforth. British Leyland. Concorde. Hoverspeed cross-channel ferries. TVR. Safeway supermarkets. The Daily Sketch. The original Woodcote. Timothy Whites. Paper version of The Beano…
Thank the Lord for Aston Martin.