IT’S had its financial ups and downs over the years but Aston Martin has always produced cars of the very highest calibre – and it’s in rude health now as it prepares to celebrate a marvellous landmark.
Next Tuesday, 15th January, this most charismatic and glamorous of car manufacturers will be 100 years old and the firm are planning a year-long series of events to commemorate the achievement.
On the actual centenary of the company’s official incorporation, the oldest surviving Aston Martin, the A3, and a stunning new Vanquish, the brand’s ultimate GT, will star in a photocall at Henniker Mews in Chelsea, the firm’s original home, where a plaque will be unveiled.
The makers of James Bond’s most famous car naturally have a great sense of style, which will be evident when the main celebrations take place during a week-long festival in July.
It will include open-house activities at Aston Martin’s headquarters at Gaydon, Warwickshire, a 1,000-guest birthday party and a spectacular concours event in central London, featuring 100 iconic cars amid a gathering of 1,000 Aston Martins.
A number of centenary drives will also be held, including a Bond-themed route around England and Wales taking in some of the best-known film locations, a drive through the highlands and islands of Scotland and a rally across six European countries in six days. In America, the Pebble Beach centenary drive offers a chance to visit some of California’s scenic regions before the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
It was the year before the outbreak of the First World War when Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford founded their new venture. They called it Bamford & Martin which soon became Aston Martin, acknowledging Bamford’s success at the Aston Clinton Hillclimb in Buckinghamshire, where he had raced their first cars.
Aston Martin became well-known as providers of cars to enthusiastic racers and over the century that followed they came to represent sporting prowess, technical innovation, design, craftsmanship and performance.
In the first 90 years the company built fewer than 15,000 cars. The open-bodied two-seater sports specials of the pre-war years led to the David Brown era of the 1950s and beyond, which saw the introduction of the legendary DB2/4, DB4, DB5, DB6 and DBS, before the V8 Vantage and Virage led Aston Martin to the DB7, original Vanquish and on into the modern era.
Aston Martin moved into their Gaydon premises in January 2003 during the period in which they were owned by Ford, before being sold to a financial consortium in 2007. Since moving to Gaydon the company has built 45,000 cars to great critical acclaim and commercial success, and now export three-quarters of their cars.
The first Aston Martin, named Coal Scuttle was built in 1915. After the Great War, three more prototypes were built including chassis number A3 which was the third Aston Martin ever built and the oldest in existence.