ASTON MARTINON THE ROAD TO BOND
JUST LIKE JAMES BOND HIMSELF, Aston Martin was born out of a spirit of adventure and a taste for the finer things in life. Its story began in 1912, when record-breaking cyclist and amateur racing driver Lionel Martin went into business selling cars with an engineer called Robert Bamford. By 1914, Martin had a plan to design and build quality sports cars for gentleman racers such as himself, and he formed the name Aston-Martin (with a hyphen) from his own moniker and that of Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, where he had recently won a gruelling hill race.
By the 1920s, Martin and Bamford were producing small numbers of cars to order in London andAston-Martins were beginning to make their mark in competition, attracting attention at the Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey and at the French Grand Prix in Strasbourg. Despite good sales in 1924 and 1925, Bamford and Martin went into Receivership in 1926 and the company and brand name were purchased by engine manufacturers Renwick & Bertellito to form a new company called Aston Martin Motors.The successful racing driver and engineer Augustus Cesare Bertelli steered its designs in a new direction, and in 1927 the company launched the Aston-Martin 1.5 Litre, built in Feltham. Middlesex.
The new car and its follow-up International model quickly gained a reputation for quality and speed, but in the face of a global recession the company found itself in financial difficulty. The shipping magnate Sir Arthur Sutherland came to the rescue in 1932, and his son Gordon became Aston Martin’s new managing director, alongside A.C. Bertelli. In 1939, Bertelli’s deputy, Claude Hill, was elevated to chief designer, shortly before World War II put paid to any further development.
During the war, Aston Martin turned production over to aircraft parts, playing a vital role in the defence of the realm. Hill not only designed the joystick for the Spitfire fighter plane, but also the prototype for a new navigation system.When peace was finally won in 1945, manufacturing resources were extremely scarce and exports were key to reviving the British economy. Aston Martin would need a major financial boost if it was to break into the export market (specifically to the USA), and so Gordon Sutherland put the company up for sale. In early 1947, Aston Martin Ltd was bought by David Brown, the owner and managing director of David Brown Ltd. Founded in 1860 by his grandfather, Brown’s company specialised in making gears and gearboxes for a wide range of vehicles and machinery, yet the 43-year-old businessman had long dreamed of designing and building a successful sports car. He found Aston’s latest model, the Atom, to be lacking in power, but saw potential for the chassis to be combined with a more impressive engine.
And so, Brown’s stewardship of Aston Martin began with him buying up the design assets of Lagonda Motors. Renowned for building powerful luxury tourers in the 1930s, Lagonda had recently abandoned car production altogether, leaving its proprietary engine technology up for grabs.With Lagonda’s chief styling engineer, Frank Feeley, also brought on board, the result of this acquisition was the Aston Martin 2-litre Sports model, later renamed DB1.
Under Brown’s ownership,Aston Martin moved into large- scale car production for the very first time. During the 1950s, the company established a dealer network, a service centre and a full racing programme, and a team including chassis designer Harold Beach and engineer Tadek Marek oversaw the introduction of the highly successful DB2, DB2/4 and DB Mark III models. By the middle of the decade, the marque was well established as a byword for luxury and performance, but even greater acclaim was just around the corner.
The Aston Martin DB4 was revealed to the public in the summer of 1958 and went on sale the following year.The first car to be built at the company’s Newport Pagnell works in Buckinghamshire, it boasted a brand-new platform chassis by Beach, a new light alloy engine by Marek, and a stylish new Superleggera body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. Meaning “very light” in Italian, Superleggera construction allowed for innovative body shapes by fitting lightweight outer panels on to a structural steel frame.The sum of these parts was an instant success, and confirmed Aston Martin as one of the most impressive marques on the road as well as the racetrack.
Over the next four years, the DB4 evolved several times, and by 1963 it was ready to become the DB5. Marek had designed a newV8 engine for the car, and Beach had heavily revised the chassis. The car that would become forever associated with James Bond was launched in autumn 1963 to immediate acclaim. Faster and more powerful than its predecessor, but with the same film-star looks, the car seemed destined for big-screen glory, and that’s exactly what happened next...007 MEETS DB5THE ICONIC PARTNERSHIP
JAMES BOND’S association with Aston Martin begins with Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger, published in 1959. In previous OO7 books, Bond had owned Bentleys and used them in his work, but in this seventh outing he takes a car from the secret service pool. Given the choice between a 3.4-litre Jaguar or an Aston Martin DB Mark III (referred to by Fleming as a DB III), he reasons that either car would suit his cover as a man “with a taste for the good, for the fast things in life”, before favouring the latter. He does so partly on account of the Aston Martin’s colour (battleship grey, like his Bentleys before it) and its up- to-date customs permit (known as a triptyque), but he is also swayed by an array of hidden extras. These include reinforced steel bumpers, a Colt .45 stashed beneath the driver’s seat, a machine to “alter the type and colour” of the front and rear lights, and (most importantly to the plot) a radio pick-up that could follow a tracking device.
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