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Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury cars headquartered at Gaydon, Warwickshire, England. The company name was derived from the Aston Clinton hill climb and the company's founder, Lionel Martin. Today, Aston Martin is owned by a consortium led by Prodrive co-founder David Richards, along with John Sinders, an Aston Martin collector and backer of Aston Martin Racing; and Kuwait-based Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co.
Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. The two had joined forces as Bamford & Martin the previous year to sell cars made by Singer from premises in Callow Street, London. Martin raced specials at the Aston Hill near Aston Clinton, and the pair decided to make their own vehicles. They acquired premises at Henniker Place in Kensington and produced their first car in March 1915. Production could not start because of World War 1 and Martin joined the Admiralty and Bamford the Royal Army Service Corps. All machinery was sold to the Sopwith Aircraft Company.
Inter war years
After the war hiatus, the company was refounded at Abingdon Road, Kensington and a new car designed which would carry the Aston-Martin name. Bamford left in 1920 and the company was revitalised with funding from Count Louis Zborowski. In 1922, Bamford & Martin produced cars to compete in the French Grand Prix, and the cars set world speed and endurance records at Brooklands. The company went bankrupt in 1924 and was bought by Lady Charnwood who put her son John Benson on the board. The company failed again in 1925 and the factory closed in 1926 with Lionel Martin leaving.
Later that year, a number of rich investors, including Lady Charnwood, took control of the company and renamed it Aston Martin Motors, and moved the firm to the former Citroen plant in Feltham. John Benson brought in Augusto Bertelli as designer. The 1929 Aston Martin International was another successful racer and was followed by the Le Mans and the Ulster. Financial problems reappeared in 1932 and the company was rescued by L Prideaux Brune who funded it for the following year before passing the company on to Sir Arthur Sutherland. In 1936, the company decided to concentrate on road cars. Car production had always been on a small scale and from the company's founding until the advent of World War II halted work only about 700 had been made. During the war years aircraft components were made.
The David Brown era
In 1947, David Brown Limited bought the company under the leadership of managing director David Brown — its "post-war saviour". David Brown also acquired Lagonda that year, and both companies shared resources and workshops. In 1955, David Brown bought the Tickford coachbuilding company and its site at Tickford Street in Newport Pagnell, and that was the beginning of the classic series of cars bearing the initials 'DB'. In 1950, the company announced the DB2, followed by the racing DB3 in 1957 and the Italian-styled 3.7 L DB4 in 1958. All the cars established a good racing pedigree for the firm, but the DB4 was the key to establishing the company's reputation—which was cemented with the famous DB5 in 1963. The company continued developing the "grand touring" style with the DB6 (1965–70), the DBS, and the DBS V8 (1967–72).
Despite the cars' appreciation in value, the company was often financially troubled. In 1972, it was sold to a Birmingham-based consortium, and resold in 1975 to the North American businessmen Peter Sprague and George Minden. The new American owners pushed the company into modernizing its line, producing the V8 Vantage in 1977, the convertible Volante in 1978, and the one-off William Towns-styled Bulldog in 1980. Towns also styled the futuristic new Lagonda saloon, based on the existing V8 model. The Americans sold the company to CH Industrial, who themselves turned the company over in 1983 to Automotive Investments who, in turn, lasted barely a year before selling the company to Peter Livanos and company chairman Victor Gauntlett. In 1986, the Ford Motor Company purchased 75 per cent of the company, later gaining complete control of the company.
In 1988, having produced some 5,000 cars in twenty years, the company finally retired the ancient V8 and introduced the Virage range. In 1992, the Vantage version was announced, and the following year the company renewed the DB range by announcing the DB7.
The Ford era
In 1993, Ford finally bought Victor Gauntlett's shares and took full control of the firm, placing it in the Ford Premier Automotive Group. Ford substantially invested in new manufacturing and quickly ramped-up production. In 1994, Ford opened a new factory at Banbury Road in Bloxham. In 1995, the company produced a record 700 vehicles, in 1998 the 2,000th DB7 was built, and in 2002 the 6,000th — exceeding production of all previous DB models. The DB7 range was boosted by the addition of V12 Vantage models in 1999, and in 2001 the company introduced the V12-engine Vanquish.
2003 was a significant year for Aston Martin. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., Aston Martin introduced the new AMV8 Vantage concept car. Expected to have few changes before its introduction in 2005, the new AMV8 Vantage brings back the classic V8 engine and will allow the company to compete in a larger market. The year also saw the opening of the Gaydon factory, the first purpose-built factory in Aston Martin's history. Also introduced in 2003, was the new DB9 coupé, which replaces the ten-year-old DB7. A convertible version of the DB9, known as the DB9 Volante, was introduced at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.
In December 2003, Aston Martin announced they would return to motor racing in 2005. A new division was created, called Aston Martin Racing, who will be responsible, together with Prodrive, for the design, development, and management of the DBR9 program. The DBR9 will compete in the GT class in sports car races including the world-famous 24 hours of Le Mans.
In light of mounting financial pressure, and after internal review of costs and value, Ford decided to look at selling parts of its Premium Automotive Group. After suggestions of selling Jaguar Cars, Land Rover or Volvo Cars, Ford appointed UBS AG to sell Aston Martin by auction. At the end of August 2006, Ford announced that it would be willing to sell all or part of Aston Martin. Bill Ford said: "As part of our on going strategic review, we have determined that Aston Martin may be an attractive opportunity to raise capital and generate value". Auto Express reported that Ford hopes to achieve £600m from the sale. The Financial Times reported on 1 September 2006 that Ford wanted $2 billion.
It was reported that the world’s two biggest luxury goods firms are locked in a battle to buy Aston Martin from cash-starved Ford. Swiss-based Richemont and French holding company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy have emerged as most likely to take on Aston, despite having no previous experience in the car industry. Sunday Telegraph announced that Permira, Alchemy Partners and Texas Pacific Group are lining up bids of up to £500m, along with Jac Nasser, now a partner at One Equity, the private equity arm of JP Morgan. BMW have excluded themselves, as have most of the recognised car companies, in light of the cash-rich private equity money.
The first round of the auction closed on 30 November, 2006. One of the four survivors is Syrian-born billionaire Simon Halabi, who recently bought the Esporta fitness-club chain, while the Australian bid includes James Packer, Australia's richest man.
While the auctions seems to be going well, recent reports indicate that Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez is unhappy with the way Ford is handling the sale of the company. The bare, unmanned Aston Martin stand at the recent Detroit North American International Auto Show was reportedly Dr. Bez' way of expressing this.
The German auto newspaper Autobild reported on 2 February 2007 that the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH had bought the company for an undisclosed sum. The paper cited "Anonymous, but well-placed sources" with the information. It was later reported by Autocar magazine that LVMH had denied the news as "rubbish".
On 12 March 2007 a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards purchased Aston Martin for £475m ($925m). Prodrive has no financial involvement in the deal. Ford will keep a stake in the company (valued at £40m). The consortium also consisted of John Sinders, an Aston Martin collector; and two Kuwait investment companies, Investment Dar and Adeem Inveestment Co.
Aston Martin's model naming can be confusing to the uninitiated. In general, high performance models use the "Vantage" name, while convertibles are called Volante.
Pre War cars
- 1921-1925 Aston Martin Standard Sports
- 1927-1932 Aston Martin First Series
- 1929-1932 Aston Martin International
- 1932-1932 Aston Martin International Le Mans
- 1932-1934 Aston Martin Le Mans
- 1933-1934 Aston Martin 12/50 Standard
- 1934-1936 Aston Martin Mk II
- 1934-1936 Aston Martin Ulster
- 1936-1938 Aston Martin 2 litre Speed
- 1937-1939 Aston Martin 15/98
- 1939-1939 Aston Martin 2 litre C-Type
Post War GT cars
- 1948–1950 Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports (DB1)
- 1950–1953 Aston Martin DB2
- 1953–1957 Aston Martin DB2/4
- 1957–1959 Aston Martin DB Mark III
- 1958–1963 Aston Martin DB4
- 1961–1963 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
- 1963–1965 Aston Martin DB5
- 1965–1969 Aston Martin DB6
- 1967–1972 Aston Martin DBS
- 1969–1989 Aston Martin V8
- 1993–2003 Aston Martin DB7
- 1993–2003 Aston Martin V12 Vantage
- 2002–2004 Aston Martin DB AR1
- 2004– Aston Martin DB9
- 2005– Aston Martin V8 Vantage
- 2008– Aston Martin Rapide
Post War Supercars
- 1977–1989 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
- 1986–1990 Aston Martin V8 Zagato
- 1989–2000 Aston Martin Virage
- 2001– Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
- Rapide - probable addition to the range in 2007 - a long, 4 seater Grand Tourer
- Aston Martin DBS - limited edition (300 units) model to make its debut in the James Bond film Casino Royale
See also: List of Formula One constructors
- Aston Martin DB3
- Aston Martin DB3S
- Aston Martin DBR1
- Aston Martin DBR2
- Aston Martin DBR3
- Aston Martin DBR4
- Aston Martin DBR5
- Aston Martin DP212
- Aston Martin DP214
- Aston Martin DP215
- Lola - Aston Martin
- Aston Martin Nimrod (1981-1984)
- Aston Martin AMR1 (1989)
- Aston Martin DBR9 (2005-)
- Aston Martin DBRS9 (2005-)
Astons on film
The very British glamour of Aston Martin cars meant they were a natural choice for the character of James Bond, author Ian Fleming giving his hero a DBIII in the seventh novel, Goldfinger. This became the third in the series of film adaptations, and a long association between 007 and the marque began on screen with the silver DB5 that appears in Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965). This was James Bond's company car, and then, in GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), appeared to have become his private car. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) there appears, at the beginning and end of the movie, a metallic-green DBS. After an interlude with Lotus, Aston Martins were again used: a charcoal-grey V8 Volante and Vantage in The Living Daylights (1987). After switching to BMW for several films, the Vanquish appeared in Die Another Day (2002). In early 2004, Henrik Fisker, Design Director at Aston Martin, revealed that James Bond will be driving the new DBS in Casino Royale to be released in 2006. Traditionally, the James Bond Astons have featured a variety of incredible gadgets that real-life purchasers might have been disappointed not be offered as optional extras!
The Italian Job (1969) features a silver DB4 Convertible, owned by crook Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine. Later, this car is destroyed in a Mafia ambush, along with a pair of E-type Jaguars. The cars were meant to serve as getaway vehicles in the subsequent robbery "in case anything goes wrong." The gang decide to proceed despite this loss, and the question of what happens if anything goes wrong is pointedly ignored by Croker. Interestingly, the filming of the Aston going over the cliff was not considered dramatic enough by the director (due to the explosion looking too "faked") and so rather than destroy another Aston, a Lancia mocked up to look like its British counterpart was pushed over the edge for the second take. In the 2003 remake with the same title, the character Handsome Rob, played by Jason Statham, ends up driving an Aston Martin, but not the Vanquish that he wanted. Instead, it is a DB7 Volante.
An Aston Martin also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
Aston Martin has also had a presence in the toy industry; one of the most famous toy cars ever was the Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5, pictured here. First released in 1965 and then re-released some years later, it has provided many generations of children with a taste of the Aston Martin legend.
Also, in the James Bond series, Aston Martin's Vanquish is released. A few years later, David Watson came out with a recreation of a V12 Vanquish.
Sponsorships and 3rd Party Affiliations
Aston Martin currently sponsors 1860 Munich a professional football team from the German Bundesliga 2.
Racing/Competition: DB3 · DBSS · DBR1 · DBR2 · DBR3 · DBR4 · DBR5 · DP212 · DP214 · DP215 · Nimrod · AMR1 · DBR9 · DBRS9 · Rally GT · Vantage GT2 · Vantage GT4 · LeMans Works LMP1 · Rapide 24h Nurburgring
|Lionel Martin||Corporate website||A brand of Prodrive Ltd.|
|A subsidiary of Ford's PAG||Aston Martin and Lagonda road car timeline, 1948-present|||
|Grand tourer||DB1||DB2||DB2/4||DB III||DBS/Vantage||DB7||DB7 Vantage||V8 Vantage|
|V8 Vantage||V8 Vantage||V12 Vanquish||DBS|
- Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. - Official Company Site
- Aston Martin Racing - Official Company Site (Racing)
- Aston Martin Owners Club- Official Aston Martin Owners Club Site and Forum
- Aston Martin Car Leasing in UK
- Aston Martin Reviews in the Press
- A Private Tour of the Aston Martin Factory
- Aston Martin Gallery Aston Martin in Moscow gallery
- Aston Martin Picture Gallery
- Aston Martin’s Nurburgring Test Center Opens up for Business
- Aston Martin's Kuwaiti Owner Acquires 40% of Prodrive