Even I have come to accept that sports car marques can barely survive, and certainly not thrive, without having an SUV or crossover in their portfolio. Indeed, it seems that even developing a saloon car is not worth the R&D these days, given the news that Mazda will not be replacing the Mazda6, although its new FR platform, RWD, straight-sixes and all, looks tailor made for that job.
Conducting a highly scientific straw poll at work recently, my enquiries were to the full dozen souls what car they’d buy with a big lottery win. Some required momentarily longer than others to respond but eight replied with “Aston Martin or something,” two preferred properties whilst the remainders spirit didn’t enter the equation.
An impressive opening gambit for the Aston Martin DBX, the company’s first attempt at the ever expanding luxury crossover sector. Made in St. Athan, near Cardiff, Wales: 542bhp, 516 foot pounds of torque from a four litre, twin turbocharged V8, permanent four wheel drive on 22” wheels and available in 42 subtly named hues.
Editor’s note: A version of this piece was originally published on DTW in September 2016.
Marking its debut the year Concorde entered commercial service, the 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, like the Aerospatiale/BAC supersonic airliner it vaguely resembled, would ultimately embody a future which failed to take flight.
There was no means of placing any form of veneer upon the situation facing Aston Martin in 1975, the Newport Pagnell-based specialist carmaker was facing ruin; falling prey, like so many of their UK and European equivalents to a perfect storm comprised of the spiralling costs of adhering to ever-tightening American safety and emissions regulations, and the stark market contraction stemming from the 1973 oil crisis. Rescued from bankruptcy by an Anglo-American consortium, the Lagonda programme was aimed, not only at providing embattled Aston Martin dealers with something new to offer, but also to help Continue reading “Tomorrow’s World”
From an early age my Christmas wish list contained an Aston Martin. Scale models, obviously – my family were not financial wizards. As time moved on and lascivious tastes deepened, the marque remained a written talisman alongside a diminutive Australian singer from a soap opera – neither sadly entering my world – I cannot have been good that year.
When designing with straight lines, in essence we have but three angles to play with. Those less than ninety degrees are acute. Above ninety but below one hundred and eighty become obtuse, whilst those exceeding what aficionados of darts call a ton-eighty are deemed reflex. Car designers being flesh and blood (even human, sometimes) curve such values at their will – or not. Human traits often blend those named angles but not in today’s case. This is the story of William Towns (1936-1993) the straight-laced, French curve-avoiding, oft overlooked automotive designer.
Beginning his automotive design career aged eighteen with Rootes Motors, Towns’ early efforts were centred on the less glamorous and more mundane aspects of design work, on items such as seats and door handles. Through time and perseverance, Towns contributed to the Rootes Arrow project, a.k.a. the Hillman Hunter, before an opportunity in 1963 led him to Continue reading “One-Way Towns Of England”
There is a somewhat hackneyed old joke that summarises the colourful history of Aston Martin rather well:
Question: “How do you make a small fortune in the automotive business?”
Answer: “Spend a large fortune on a prestige British luxury car manufacturer.”
Over the company’s 108-year history, Aston Martin has changed ownership ten times and left most former owners, if not bankrupt, then rather poorer for the experience. Such is the allure of the marque name that a succession of wealthy and (mainly) smart and business-savvy individuals (and the Ford Motor Company) have thrown their hat in the ring, thinking that this time, it will be different. Continue reading “Autour du Virage”
These days, coachbuilding usually acts as a euphemism for customised luxury vehicles of exceedingly high monetary and bafflingly dubious aesthetic value. Usually, but not always.
Limited editions are all about chintzy brass plates and certificates printed onto vellum-look paper. While they may provide a draw to adolescent collectors of action figurines or collectible cards, to today’s class of the super rich, they’re a joke not even worth telling. Or at least one would think so.
In the car industry, a decade-long focus on offering increasingly high levels of customisation options in almost every class of automobile has resulted in a huge spread of personalisation. Just as the number of (non-SUV) body styles has decreased, the availability of customisation options has manifolded. This makes it increasingly more difficult for the luxury wheat to Continue reading “Precious Metal”
In a week where the massed ranks of the world’s motor business and the press pack who report upon them were to have crammed themselves into three preview days at Geneva’s Palexpo, they have instead been required to Continue reading “Farce Majeure”
The carmaker synonymous with Ian Fleming’s fictional superspy is in a tight spot. Just how bad does it look for Aston Martin?
It really wasn’t supposed to go this way. Following in the footsteps of Ferrari, in the wake of their highly successful floatation on the stock market, Aston Martin’s fortunes, while shining fleetingly, increasingly look like reverting to all too familiar type. But this time the stakes are much higher.
Ever the British second fiddle to the eternally gilded Maranello stallion, Aston’s Martin’s balance sheets can only be viewed as consistent insofar as they inevitably end up drowned in scarlet ink. Last year AML was floated on the stock exchange, its management attempting to Continue reading “No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die”
Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t.
It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.
A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!
Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to Continue reading “The One That Got Away”
Intended as the crowning glory of a newly-independent, never-more-glamorous Aston Martin, the One-77 turned out to symbolise something else entirely.
2007 must have been a year of triumph for Dr ing Ulrich Bez. Over the course of the previous seven years, the German engineer and Aston Martin managing director had turned an outdated, but well loved marque trading on past glories and an awful lot of goodwill into a serious prestige sports car brand. On top of that, he’d overseen the sale of the company from Ford to a consortium backed by Kuwaiti investors. Bez was now no mere executive henchman anymore. He was the true boss.
After having spent most of his career playing second fiddle (most notably to his direct superior at BMW, Wolfgang Reitzle, who’d also hired Bez to run Aston Martin during his brief stint in charge of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group), Bez had become the undisputed boss of not just any old business, but a company that had refused to Continue reading “Best Of The Bez”
Retrofuturism didn’t necessarily arrive at Ford with J. Mays. It’s more likely to have started with a man named Callum. No, the other one…
As the Ford Motor Company grew its upmarket brand portfolio during the late 1980s, it became a matter of increasing importance to ensure each marque could carve out a coherent stylistic identity, one which not only honoured tradition, but that ensured no genetic traces were misplaced or appropriated.
Complicating matters during this period was the fact that Aston Martin had been gifted an Ian Callum-penned version of Jaguar’s cancelled XJ41 two-seater, which would eventually Continue reading “Antique Roadshow”
Thank you for your patience. Here now is the set of links connecting the 1964 Morris Monaco to the 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato.
BMC sold the Morris Six in Denmark as the Morris Monaco sometime between 1964 and 1976. You might be intrigued to know that a rear centre arm-rest only became available a month after sales began. More interesting than that is that Pininfarina were involved in mitigating Alex Issigonis’ design intentions. I suppose they tidied things here and there though there is still a very great deal wrong with the shape. For the next connection we must Continue reading “Connections: Solutions”
Instread of launching into the obligatory 1100 words, I will merely ask readers to try to find the connection between the 1964 Morris Monaco (sold in Denmark) and the 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato.
A word of warning. The trail of connections moves through time and space and does not always proceed in chronological order. Also, this is more like a game of dominoes. It’s not a version of “degrees of Kevin Bacon” where one person links everything somewhat tenuously.
Defining luxury in an age of conspicuous consumption isn’t easy. Judging by two concepts encapsulating futuristic decadence, this task will not become any less challenging in the years to come.
The fight for luxury supremacy of the future officially started in March 2018, at the Geneva International Motor Show. There, Aston Martin chief designer – pardon: Vice President & Chief Creative Officer – Marek Reichman openly criticised the traditional purveyors of automotive luxury, namely Crewe’s Bentley and Goodwood’s Rolls-Royce, of pandering to an obsolete definition of top-end motoring.
Ah 1967: The Summer of love. Sgt. Pepper. Twiggy. Bond.
But leaving popular culture aside, the mood music was more sombre. In the UK, land speed record holder, Donald Campbell died attempting to break the water record on Lake Coniston in his Bluebird K3 jetboat. While back on terra firma the advent of the Road Safety Act set a maximum permitted blood alcohol level, allowing breathalyser tests to be performed on drivers for the first time.
Up to now we’ve managed relatively few words on the subject of Aston Martin. It’s probably time we remedied that.
It wasn’t necessarily a matter of prejudice, but I suspect a degree of ambivalence might have crept in. Certainly in recent years under the leadership of the over-rated Ulrich Bez, the storied British marque came to rival Bentley as purveyors of overstyled and increasingly vulgar trinkets for the well heeled and indolent. Continue reading “Drophead Candy”
This post is something of a ragbag and it’s missing one photo.
A Maserati Ghibli pulled up next to me at traffic lights yesterday. As ever, I checked out the brightwork around the sideglass. Much to my amazement, Maserati opted for two pieces, instead of one, around the rearmost pane. For the kind of money Maserati want, I’d expect one single part. Opel and Kia can do it.
So goes the old saying anyway. In the year 2000 when we were supposed to be floating on hover-drones and wearing alufoil skinsuits, Porsche still had the engine in the back even if air cooling was out.
And BMW offered the 1950s-inspired Z8 while Aston pursued girth and heft with the Aston Martin Vantage Volante, a V12 topless GT. Where did the future actually go to? It is hard to be sure of if the three convertibles are comparable even if period reviews seemed to think so.
The same year Concorde entered commercial service, Aston Martin introduced what could be considered its roadgoing equivalent. But like the emblematic and embattled supersonic jetliner, the Lagonda embodied a future which ultimately failed to take flight.
In 1975, the Newport Pagnell-based luxury carmaker was facing ruin; falling prey to a perfect storm comprised of the spiralling costs of adhering to ever-tightening safety and emissions regulations, and the stark market contraction which stemmed directly from the 1973 oil crisis. Rescued from bankruptcy by an Anglo-American consortium, the Lagonda programme was aimed, not only at providing struggling Aston Martin dealers with something new to sell, but also to help Continue reading “Tomorrow’s World”
Perplexing this: the market for very costly cars has been booming and Aston Martin have only racked up losses.
Automotive News report that ” a pre-tax loss of £127.9 million ($172.03 million) in 2015, the fifth consecutive year the company has failed to make a profit, as the number of cars it sold fell and as it invests in expansion”. It seems everyone likes Aston Martin but not enough people want to buy them. Hasn’t it always been like this? Continue reading “Costly Cars, Big Losses”
Autocar announced yesterday without any sense of embarrassment that the AMVZC shown as “a concept” last month will go into production largely unchanged.
What a remarkable sleight of hand, I feel. What has happened is that Aston Martin have shown a production car as a concept car, at the Villa d’Este concours. That has yielded a press-release and lots of coverage. A month later they are showing effectively the exact same car as a production car, with yet more coverage.
In this way AM have been able to avoid producing unconvincing and unfeasible trim as a disguise for a production car and get two bursts of coverage by the showing the same thing with two labels. If anyone can tell me where the difference lies between the “show car” and the production car then I’d be grateful. The entire exercise is quite cynical because, with one month between the “show car” and the “production car” it is clear that production was inevitable and there are no serious differences, no time need to evaluate demand or assess the reaction. Thus what has happened is that a production car has been presented as a show car, and I ask is this a first?
Since the Zagato is very striking and the sales are guaranteed, one wonders if this tricksy behavior is really necessary.
This is almost the most exclusive ashtray yet featured. It’s the very small and rather agricultural ashtray of the Aston Martin DB Mk 3 (1958).
This ashtray is centrally located which is good. The height above the gear-lever and relative to the driver’s hip is not so good. It’s not a very deep ashtray. If you think of Fitts´s Law you see that you have a small target and the car is moving too and therefore one’s hand and the target will be jostling. I imagine these cars were littered with debris from failed attempts to dispose of ash. Any decent half-corona is going to make a real mess of this. Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1958 Aston Martin DB Mk3”
Unless you live cut off from the outside world in a nuclear bunker, or spend your days with your eyes and ears screwed shut shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you”, you cannot have failed to notice a new James Bond film is in the offing: Spectre. Wired have helped prime the PR pump with an article on Daniel Craig’s latest conveyance, the Aston Martin DB10. Continue reading “Vehicle Inspectre”
Every so often, a concept car symbolises the crossing of an invisible line. Here’s one of them.
The Aston Martin DBX represents the best clue yet to the Gaydon-based marque’s future intentions. Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer has stated a version of this car will be produced, telling the Telegraph last week; “The DBX is not an SUV, it’s an expression of a GT sports car; a DB crossing over into that usable space… it will be a five-door vehicle, and it won’t grow much bigger than the DBX.” Continue reading “Crossing A Rubicon – Aston Martin’s DBX”