It’s fairly undisputed that James Bond drives the coolest cars. So it stands to reason that as the maker of cars claiming this title in no less than 10 iconic Bond films, Aston Martin’s legacy as a status symbol equally sleek and powerful is longstanding. For over a century, the company has been innovating English automobiles as coveted today as their first iteration. To celebrate our UK launch last month, we’re taking a closer look at some of Britain’s most celebrated automakers, and the iconic Aston label kicks off our series.
A rocky start
Founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the original name of Bamford & Martin Ltd. was supplanted just a year after its genesis in honor of one of Lionel Martin’s successful runs at Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England.
The brand’s early days were plagued by financial troubles and production was halted by both World War I and World War II. The company changed hands several times as they came to the brink of bankruptcy and suffered further financial woes, only to be saved by successive investors and new owners. Despite the tumultuousness of their early days, however, the automaker began to make a name for itself in prestigious races.
The 1922 French Grand Prix played host to Aston Martin’s racing debut; two Aston Martin cars completed the race. After financial issues forced closure in 1925, a group of investors salvaged the company the following year and the first Aston Martin was entered in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in 1928. In 1933, the 1.5L model swept the podium places at the Le Mans.
Engineering innovation is a particular point of pride for the brand — one early example is the 1939 Aston Martin Atom, which used an early form of space-frame chassis and independent suspension. This tradition of excellence has continued throughout Aston Martin’s history. In 2009, for instance, the One-77 was unveiled as the most powerfully naturally aspirated car in the world.
Doggedly overcoming the ownership changes and financial troubles that consistently afflicted them, the automaker continued to ascend in notoriety and scale, offering models ranging from the DB5 to the Vantage by the time Ford purchased the company in the early 1990s.
Bonded to Bond
Throughout all this, Aston Martin has maintained a love affair with James Bond — or perhaps the reverse is more accurate. Bond first drove an Aston Martin in 1964’s Goldfinger, when the iconic DB5 was his ride of choice. In 2006, Casino Royale was the first Bond film to feature two Aston Martins — the brand-new DBS and the DB5. Most recently, the DB10 was specifically created to feature in 2015’s Spectre.
In the years since Aston Martin’s centenary celebration in 2013 — marked by the largest gathering of Aston Martins ever with over 550 on display at Kensington Gardens — the brand has continued to make strides with vehicles that are equally pleasing in aesthetics and performance. The V12 Vantage S, for instance, launched in June 2013, accelerates from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, the brand’s fastest accelerating car.
And if getting on the road isn’t your priority, the Vulcan leaves little to be desired for supercar enthusiasts. Launched in 2015, the track-only vehicle epitomizes the over-the-top aspirations to excellence the brand has come to be known for, in one sleek, 800-plus bhp package.