1914 saw the birth of the name ‘Aston Martin’, and within a year the first Aston Martin had been built and given the nickname ‘Coal Scuttle’ because of its upswept cowl.
With the Great War halting development, ‘Coal Scuttle’ was the only car in production right up until 1920. Over the next five years however, 60 cars were to be manufactured, with names such as ‘Bunny’, ‘Razor Blade’ and ‘A3’ – the oldest surviving Aston Martin.
Financial problems forced closure in 1925, but the business was soon rescued in 1926. Aston Martin was now on sound footing with a competitive range of sports cars, including the 1.5 litre First Series International, and a first appearance at Le Mans providing the perfect advertisement.
A virtually all-new design intended “to run economically without sacrificing quality" heralded with the introduction of a 'Le Mans' semi-racer and 'New International' sports tourer.
The 1934 Olympia Motor Show saw a further refinement of the 1.5 litre, known as ‘Mark II’. It was a more powerful and robust development of the ‘Le Mans’, and is regarded today as the pinnacle of pre-war Aston Martin development.
Aston Martin's designer Claude Hill was given the task of creating a new 2-litre engine on a tight budget of just £10,000. Hill's new engine was a skilful 1950cc development of the existing unit that made use of most of the existing patterns and tooling.
Aston Martin patented its vision of the future in March 1939. War had broken out when 'Atom' was completed, but privileged journalists were allowed to test drive the car, which was a four-door four-seater, despite limitations on available materials.
The 1948 Motor Show saw the launch of the first car to be produced under the ownership of David Brown – the Two Litre Sports, which used the Atom chassis construction, but has retrospectively become known as ‘DB1’.
The design for the production of the DB2 was considerably modified from the initial concept, with greater headroom and a wider body. The car was “intended for export to countries with properly surfaced road systems” with some 70 DB2s eventually sold in America out of a total production run of 401 cars.
The DB2 was strictly a two-seater with limited luggage space. Aston Martin realised that there would be great demand for a 2+2 version of this car, and so the new DB2/4 was announced at the time of the 1953 Motor Show.
A new, even more handsome DB Aston Martin launched in 1957 – the DB Mk III. Described as “one of the world’s outstanding sports models” by The Autocar, Mk III incorporated a fundamental redesign of the three-litre engine, making it the last of the DB models to be powered by the twin-cam six-cylinder engine.
The new car is shown at the London Motor show in 1958. The DB4 was the first production car capable of 0-100-0 mph in under 30 seconds claiming to reach the 100 mph mark in 21 seconds. The iconic DB4 heralded a new era for Aston Martin and put the company back in competition with other high performance sports car manufacturers.
DB4GT Zagato - an even lighter DB4GT - was unveiled in 1960 with elegant lightweight two-seater bodywork built by Carrozzeria Zagato of Milan. A production run of 25 was planned, but only 19 were made. Modern Zagatos still have the ‘double bubble’ roof, though this is now more a styling signature than an actual aerodynamic necessity.
Billed as the “most famous car in the world”, James Bond’s gadget laden DB5 in Goldfinger became many a schoolboy’s dream. Widely regarded as the most beautiful Aston Martin produced, the DB5 shares many traits with the DB4. However, DB5’s most substantial change occurred under the bonnet with an increased four-litre engine.
Clearly evolved from the DB4 and DB5, the most noticeable styling changes on the DB6 were the Kamm tail rear spoiler, which improved high speed stability; the split front and rear bumpers and a higher roof line (136 cm), and a longer wheelbase (258.5 cm) than DB5, giving an overall length of 462cm. Increased space in the rear made the DB6 a more practical family proposition.
Based on the rigid steel platform chassis of DB6, the DBS was lower and wider than the car it replaced. However, it was actually shorter, despite a slightly longer wheelbase, due to the use of ‘De Dion’ rear suspension. Styling was by the talented William Towns, whose work influenced Aston Martin for many years.
After the sale of Aston Martin in 1972, work started on a comprehensive facelift of the DBSV8, with the adoption of single headlamps and a revised front grille. Known as the AMV8, the car underwent changes in 1973, then after another change of ownership in 1975, continued unchanged until 1977.
October 1976 saw Aston Martin reveal a striking new model, a new four-door Lagonda with innovative digital instrumentation that was a futuristic concept at the time. Lagonda created a wave of publicity for the company and the order book filled rapidly. Series production started in 1978 and continued until 1990.
The V8 engine proved to be a reliable and robust unit, and it was obvious that there was scope for a significant increase in power. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage was announced in 1977, claiming to provide an increase in power of 40% and 10% more torque. This was enough to give a top speed of about 170 mph and acceleration from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds
Praised for its fresh contemporary styling, Virage proved to be quieter and more comfortable than the earlier ‘V8’s, with a new development of the 5.3 litre V8 engine, making it the first truly new Aston Martin in nearly 20 years.
Launched in 1992, with the resources of a major motor manufacturer in Ford at its disposal, this was the second model to be given the name Vantage in its own right. Vantage bore only a passing resemblance to the Virage, with the only shared panels being the door and roof skins.
With Sir David Brown’s blessing to use the magic ‘DB’ initials, Chairman Walter Hayes inspired designer Ian Callum to create a thoroughly modern car that represented what the DB6 would have looked like at the time. DB7 was revealed in 1997 as a more accessible offering to be sold in all markets.
V8 Coupe was a clear styling and design development derived from its predecessor the Virage. Representing one of the final cars before the launch of the DB7, a car that redefined Aston Martin for the modern era, the V8 Coupe remains an enduring member of the Aston Martin heritage line-up.
True to tradition, the Long Wheelbase Volante was introduced a year after the introduction of the Coupe. This elegant convertible benefited from 200mm extra legroom making it a proper 2+2. V8 Volante can be identified by an air vent style indent in front of the rear wheels.
Building on the success of the in-line 6 cylinder DB7, the new Vantage models featured an all-new 420bhp, 6.0 litre V12 engine, with a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. A ‘Touchtronic’ option quickly became available for customers who preferred automatic gearboxes.
Launched at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show alongside Vantage Coupe, the V12 Volante had slightly softer suspension settings and was speed-limited to 165 mph to avoid sealing and reliability issues with the folding hood. Even so, the Volante was one of the fastest convertibles on the market.
V12 Vanquish marked a large step in the company’s engineering featuring a bonded aluminium chassis combined with many pieces of traditional craftsmanship, ushering in a new era for Aston Martin.
The special DB7 Zagato (and US version DB AR1) rekindled the relationship between Aston Martin and Zagato. Only 99 examples of these exclusive and collectible cars were produced between 2003 and 2004.
James Bond’s car of choice in the films ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’, the DBS represented the synthesis between the groundbreaking DB9 and race- bred DBR9. Outstanding power with supreme control: the DBS remains one of the most potent Aston Martins ever made.
The sophisticated DBS Volante was unveiled in March 2009 at the Geneva Motor Show, offering a true Volante experience: exceptional driving, handling and performance, with breathtaking simplicity and elegance of form.
A deposit of £200,000 was needed to secure the most exclusive Aston Martin of the new era, with production limited to just 77 examples. Fusing advanced technology with stunning design, the 7.3-litre V12 One-77 was revealed as the fastest ever Aston Martin, with a top speed of 220mph.
Conceived by a world-leading design team, hand built by expert craftsmen, this is one of the most exclusive cars ever produced.