Founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, the company started life as ‘Bamford & Martin’, but their first years were hampered by the outbreak of World War One. Having designed and developed a car ready for production in 1915, both Martin and Bamford joined the armed forces and the company seemed over before it had begun. Post-war, however, the pair joined up again and set about producing cars to race in the French Grand Prix, setting world speed and endurance records.
Bamford & Martin was plagued with money troubles, going bankrupt in 1924 and again in 1925 after being bailed out. Both founding partners left and the factory closed in 1926. That same year, investors took control of the business, renaming it Aston Martin and developing new cars, mostly open two-seater sports cars. In 1932 Aston Martin’s financial problems reappeared and Aston Martin decided to concentrate on road cars, producing just 700 before the Second World War halted production again.
Many of Aston Martin’s models bear the ‘DB’ title, but where did this name come from, and what does it mean? In 1947, David Brown Limited, a gear and machine tools manufacturer, rescued Aston Martin from their ongoing financial troubles by purchasing the company, putting it under control of its Tractor Group. Aston Martin began to build the DB series, naming it after their saviour, with the famous DB5 rolling into the history books and onto the silver screen in 1963.
Celebrity fans include Andy Murray, Ben Affleck and Steven Spielberg. And of course, once you’ve been behind the wheel of an Aston Martin as James Bond, you can’t help taking a little piece of 007 home with you – Pierce Brosnan owned a V12 Vanquish until it was destroyed by a house fire, and Daniel Craig auctioned off his limited edition, customised Vanquish for charity recently, raising £334,000.
As seen on screen
First appearing in 1964’s Goldfinger, Aston Martin began a love affair with 007 that outruns any of his on-screen liaisons. The DB5 was Bond’s first Aston Martin, leading to a beautiful relationship over 11 films, spanning 50 years of cinema history. Following the DB5 came a steady stream of the latest and greatest shiny new models. Bond drove the Aston Martin DBS, V8 Vantage, V12 Vanquish and DB10, all kitted out with appropriate tyre spikes, cannons and jetpacks. The film franchise boosted sales of the Aston Martin DB5, and it is still, to this day, seen as one of the most iconic cars ever produced.
After six years of losses, Aston Martin’s DB11 brought them back into profit in 2017. A good year for the company, 2017 also saw a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1/1 sold at auction for $22,550,000. The car had seen racing legends Carroll Shelby and Stirling Moss in the driving seat and was the most expensive British car ever sold at auction.
In the pipeline, Aston Martin has planned their first ever hypercar, producing only 150 road cars. The Valkyrie is otherworldly; with its open underfloor and aerodynamic shape, we’ve not seen anything like it before. It’s only when you get to the trademark grille that it becomes obvious that this beast sits within the Aston Martin family. It’s been inspired by Formula One and is the closest you’ll get to an F1 car on the road. Aston Martin has begun with a blank sheet of paper for this one, using their ties with Red Bull Racing to make it truly unique, utterly stylish and outlandishly quick.
Here’s hoping Aston Martin’s fortunes have changed for good…