How would an iconic British luxury sports car brand such as Aston Martin go about celebrating its hundredth birthday? How else but in extravagant style, with the party lasting the entire year, spread across the globe, and absolutely going over the top even at the risk of bordering on bizarre. Taking into account the lifespan of the motor car industry, hundred is a big number!
The party kicked off in spectacular fashion on 15th January 2013, befitting the status of MI5’s top agent James Bond’s favourite automobile, with the Aston Martin’s ultimate grand tourer – the Vanquish – lifted onto the cantilevered helipad at the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel Dubai, the world’s fourth tallest building, by helicopter. Nothing less!
On home turf, more sedate ceremonies were planned – a commemorative plaque was revealed at Henniker Mews in London, which is the original home address of Aston Martin; a Walter Hayes Memorial Lecture by invitation only was held in Park Lane Hilton, London, where in a theatrical performance, Sir John Standing played the role of Lionel Martin, telling the story of his early days and his experience of making the first Aston Martin in Lionel Martin’s own words.
More exciting was the event last month, from 17-20 May, the Nürrburgring 24 hour race, which runs on the daunting 25km circuit that combines the legendary Nordschleife with the modern Grand Prix track.
On May 18, 2013, the collectors thronged to the Bonhams Aston Martin auction held at Aston Martin Works Service in Newport Pagnell, Bucks, which saw a new world auction record price for an Aston Martin in its Centenary year, with the unique 1960 DB4GT ‘Jet’ Coupe selling for £3,249,500 ($4,928,679).
Next few months of June, July and August will see the Le Mans Centenary Parade, an Owner’s club Centenary race at Brands Hatch, more centenary drives including a James Bond-themed route, the Scottish Highlands and islands, European Rally, all of which will include stays at exclusive hotels and much wining and dining. In the USA, a Pebble Beach-Napa to Monterey drive will see participants visit some of California’s most scenic regions before spending the weekend at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance festival of classic cars. Those wanting to participate could register on the Aston Martin website.
Stepping back in history, the founders Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford paired up to sell cars made by Singer and also service GWK and Calthorpe vehicles. Martin used to race specials at Aston Hill near Aston Clinton. A 100 years ago, on January 15, 2013, the duo decided to make their own cars, and M/s Bamford & Martin was founded. In 1914 Martin raced up Aston Hill in Buckinghamshire successfully in their now iconic car and the company was rechristened Aston Martin. The first Aston Martin, called Coal Scuttle was built in 1915 by Martin, where he fitted a four-cylinder Coventry-Simplex engine to the chassis of a 1908 Isotta-Fraschini. Originally based in Henniker Mews in Chelsea, the brand now has its headquarters in Gaydon in Warwickshire.
Asotn Martin has featured in six films (Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, a small appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale and Skyfall. The Aston Martin’s part in ‘The World Is Not Enough’ was lost at the editing tables.
The past hundred years have seen several investors acquire stakes in the cash-strapped brand. Most recently in December 2012, the beleaguered Aston Martin acquired a new shareholder, an Italian private equity firm Investindustrial, which acquired 37.5% stake from Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd’s Kuwaiti owner Investment Dar, £150 million. The much needed fund infusion will be used towards new products and a technology program. Indian tractor and SUV makers Mahindra & Mahindra were also in the fray for the acquisition of stake, but stepped back in the last minute.
Aston Martin currently has 146 dealers in 41 countries, and has a model range consisting of the Cygnet city car, V8 and V12 Vantage, DB9, Rapide and Vanquish. An exclusive Centenary Edition Vanquish was unveiled.
The specifically created specifications of this edition include an all-carbon fibre body, bespoke exterior styling, high-tech luxurious treatment on the inside with deep soft black leather etc, and an overall showcase of exquisite craftsmanship.