The most globally-renowned of all British luxury sports car makers, Aston Martin is preparing to mark its first 100 years with a celebrations fitting of one Britain’s best loved and most successful luxury brands. The Aston Martin heritage is recognised around the world, launching on the 15th January 1913 when Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford founded a new automotive venture, originally named after themselves. Martin himself raced specials at Aston Hill near Aston Clinton, and after some discussion the pair decided to begin manufacturing their own vehicles, with the first car to bear the Aston Martin name fitted with a four-cylinder Coventry-Simplex engine onto the chassis of a 1908 Italian Isotta-Fraschini.
Bamford and Martin began their business in Chelsea’s Henniker Mews in London, becoming well known as providers of sporting machines to enthusiastic racers and discerning enthusiasts. Production of their first car was completed in March 1915 but like so many promising businesses of the time, plans were put on hold after the outbreak of World War I, with Martin joining the Admiralty and Bamford the Royal Army Service Corps. After the war, the company was refounded at Abingdon Road, Kensington and a new car designed to carry the Aston-Martin name. Bamford left in 1920 and by 1922 had produced cars to compete in the French Grand Prix, which went on to set world speed and endurance records at Brooklands. Competing in the 1922 French Grand Prix saw Aston Martin take its first historic steps in overseas competition with two cars completing the race. Financial troubles plagued the company over the next decade with the business forced to close in 1925 only to be rescued by a group of investors in 1926, forming ‘Aston Martin motors Ltd’.
Like many European car manufacturers the ’30s and ’40s were tough on Aston Martin, with several changes in ownership, with production virtually coming to a standstill during World War II. The brand however was resurrected when tractor and heavy machinery entrepreneur David Brown bought Aston Martin and Lagonda, in 1947, with many future models under Brown’s stewardship bearing his now legendary initials – DB. Frequently acclaimed as the most beautiful car in the world, the Aston Martin DB5 entered production in 1963 and the following years saw the start of one of the most dynamic and lasting Hollywood relationships, one that has left an indelible mark on popular culture and changed the history of Aston Martin forever. After Lamborghini refused to supply vehicles for the new James Bond film, the DB5 was chosen to be James Bond’s car of choice in the classic film ‘Goldfinger’. The DB5, equipped with high-tech gadgetry and weaponry appeared in the 1964 film to instant acclaim and global recognition.
Following on the success of the DB5, energetic product development continued until Brown’s departure in the 1970s marked a return to the difficult times of the past. The 1980s saw several owners come and ago as well as a disappointing return to the racetrack, with the company saved yet again in 1987, this time by US motor giant Ford who bought a 75% share of Aston Martin before later acquiring the remaining 25 percent in 1994. The latest chapter in Aston Martin’s history began in March 2007, when Ford sold it to a small group of Aston Martin devotees. Aston Martin was independently owned from 2007 by a consortium of two major investment houses: Investment Dar & Adeem Investment based in Kuwait, until Italian private equity fund Investindustrial signed a deal on 6 December 2012 to buy 37.5% of Aston Martin, investing £150 million as a capital increase.