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Happy birthday Aston Martin 150113

Happy 100th birthday Aston Martin

By Andrew Marsh, 17.01.13
Posted in: Manufacturer Profiles | Public

On the 15th January 1913 the company Bamford and Martin was formed, assembling their first car after a series of highly successful modified Singers. That first car used a ladder chassis from Isotta-Franschini, and engine manufactured to the company specification by Coventry Simplex and a whole gaggle of parts from major suppliers. As was usual for the day, the vehicle manufacturer made a running chassis complete with radiator and engine cover, to which a customer might add bodywork commissioned from a coach builder – some of whom were still building horse drawn devices at this stage. Shortly after this first car was completed, Robert Bamford resigned from the company, transferring the shares to Mrs Martin.

It took until 1920 before the second prototype car was built with a completely different engine and ladder chassis, with manufacturing commencing in London on a tiny scale from 1921 onwards. From 1921 to 1984 just 10000 cars were built, most of which survive to this day. Consider that with the advent of the current form of Aston Martin, it took from 1884 to 2009 to build the next 40000 cars.

The name of Aston Martin is derived from the founder’s name (Lionel Martin) and one of his most successful hill climb venues at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, England. Of all the company owners the most influential was Sir David Brown who not only bought Aston Martin in 1946 but also Lagonda company in 1947 to form a single company Aston Martin Lagonda. Why was Lagonda bought? Primarily to get access to a fantastic 2.58l 6 cylinder engine designed by W.O. Bentley, which was used for production Aston Martins and Lagonda models up to DB4 unveiled in 1958.

The current company is considerably better grounded than it has been in the past – with the exception of the Sir David Brown era – but some things do not change. Ownership can be quite a shock for some customers. The vehicles are created more to be a long term member of the family than something bought on a whim – even though many of its current customers do exactly that. Whilst durability and reliability are an order better than the vehicles built even 209 years ago, they are still somewhat off the pace compared to vehicles which can be purchased for a set of Aston Martin wheels.

Aston Martin centenary celebration in Dubai 170113

An Aston Martin Vanquish was airlifted to the heli-pad of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai on 17th January 2013 as part of the centenary celebrations. The heli-pad is more than 200m above sea level, and this is the first time a car has been launched from the hotel venue. © Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd

Core values of hand craftsmanship and a unique engine – as they did right from the start. Will the company survive? Without being run as a loss leader for a larger organisation (such as Bugatti in relation to Volkswagen Group, for example), it has to rely on doing more with each dollar of investment than much larger companies achieve – and maintain the aspiration magic that keeps customers coming. That is a tall order.

However the reason the company keeps going is exactly the same reason the author worked for them – no one wants to kill the company off, and most want it to aspire to ever greater heights of success. After all, it surely cannot run behind the tail pipes of Ferrari for ever?

Happy birthday.

Aston Martin centenary edition Vanquish side

Aston Martin have marked the centenary with a special edition of the AM310 Vanquish. Just 100 of these cars will be built. © Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd

 

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