The largest gathering of Aston Martins ever took place in London last week to celebrate what is Aston Martin’s centenary year. Having been founded back in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford 2013 marks 100 years of Aston Martin and we take a look back at why it is still today regarded as one of the most prestigious luxury car manufacturers in Britain and around the world.
Whilst the first one hundred years of the company’s existence has not always been plain sailing. The brand has undergone several changes of ownership and prolonged periods of financial difficulty but it remains a marque synonymous with luxury, beauty and motoring excellence.
The business began with some relatively low-key years and did take several decades to become seen as a real force to be reckoned with in the burgeoning field of high class automotive production. A turbulent start was not made easier by the fact that both Martin and Bamford were called upon to serve their country during World War I, and it was not really until the company was rescued by a group of investors in 1926 that their owners could truly look to the future with confidence.
Shortly after this rescue, Aston Martin Motors Ltd started to build itself a strong reputation around the world, largely thanks to the impressive performances of its early racing models at the iconic Le Mans circuit; this included the company taking all three podium spots at the 1933 instalment of the world famous 24-hour race.
With Aston Martin quickly becoming a leading name in the fields of automotive design and engineering around the world, 1947 brought with it another change of direction that would herald the start of a period of rapid expansion and increased production. The company was purchased by the industrialist David Brown, and the following decade saw the launch of the DB series, which surely remains their most loved and instantly recognisable line today. The development and successful release of legendary models such as the DB2, DB2/4, DB MK III and DB4 was made possible by Aston Martin’s purchase of Lagonda, a marque which they still own and whose sharing of technology and resources changed the UK’s prestige car market forever.
A famous association with the James Bond films – which, of course, has continued up to this day – came after the 1963 release of the DB5, which many still believe is the most beautiful car ever produced, and further ’60s success was assured with the DB6, DB6 Volante, DBS, DB6 MK2 and the DBS V8 all hitting the road before the decade was out.
The 1970s saw a return to the turbulent times of the past, with two changes of ownership and entry into receivership, but still brought with it the production of some now classic models like the V8 and Lagonda. This made sure that the company survived these tricky years and had emerged as a stronger brand by 1981, when entrepreneur Malcolm Gauntlett led the company into a sustained period of recovery.
1988’s Virage sports car ushered in a new era, acting as a long-term replacement for the by now ageing V8 line. Incidents of note in the 1990s included Ford increasing their stake in the company to 100%, the release of the DB7, and the awarding of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Export.
In more recent times the company was purchased by the chairman of Prodrive, David Richards, in 2007 and has helped launch the DBS, Rapide and the new Vanquish whilst the DB9 and Vantage remain ever-present, all widely seen as some of the most beautiful cars in the world and firmly re-establishing Aston Martin as one of the major forces to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Looking forward, the future seems bright for Aston Martin, Italian private equity firm Investindustrial bought a signicant stake in the company providing a capital boost and just this week Aston Martin have announced a very exciting partnership with AMG, known for making some of the best engines in the world. AMG will provide engines for the next generation of Astons with likely turbo-charged V8s to be the foundation of future cars into what will be Aston’s second century.
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