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The History of Aston Martin: Shaken, Not Stirred

The instant most people hear the words “Aston Martin” an image of James Bond driving around in a DB5 pops into their head. The classic Aston Martin DB5 must be the best known low volume sports car in the world. However, it took 50 years for the company to get from its shaky beginnings to worldwide acclaim.

Founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, Aston Martin was soon put on hiatus by the start of the first world war. Following the war and an injection of new finance in 1922 the company was able to produce three record breaking race cars. This gave Aston Martin a reputation as a maker of sports cars, but couldn’t avert them going bankrupt in 1924 and again in 1925.

New owners took over and produced a series of successful race cars, but the company very nearly failed again in 1932. Following some new investment, Aston Martin shifted its focus from the track towards producing road cars. They sold a few hundred of these before the second world war intervened.

The classic Aston Martin period starts post war with tractor magnate David Brown choosing to buy the company. At the same time Brown decided to purchase Lagonda in order to gain access to their straight 6 engine. The first car that the Lagonda engine was used to power was the Aston Martin DB2 in 1950. This car established a lot of the classic Aston Martin design cues that would be gradually refined up to the DB5.

From the DB2 onwards Aston Martin began to re-establish itself as a maker of sports cars. The DB3 used some DB2 mechanical parts but was designed as a full blown race car. Relaxation of the rules governing sports car racing allowed Aston Martin to develop the DB3 into the DBR1 which won Le Mans outright in 1959.

In Ian Fleming’s original novel version of Goldfinger James Bond drove an Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk 3. By the time that the film came out in 1965, the DB5 was Aston Martin’s current model so this was used instead and a motoring icon was created.

By the time Goldfinger came out, Aston Martin was well on the way to launching the DB6. Visually, this car was very similar to the DB5 from the front, but had altered rear styling. Technologically the car was a little dated and didn’t look quite the same as the car that everyone now wanted – the DB5, which was withdrawn from sale in 1965. Nevertheless, Aston Martin managed to sell nearly 2,000 DB6 cars before the model was retired in 1971.

The car that would carry Aston Martin’s fortunes right through to the end of the 1980s was the DBS launched in 1969. For most of this model’s life it was known simply as the Aston Martin V8. During the first few years of manufacture the DBS could be purchased with a straight six, but this was abandoned in 1972 and the name of the remaining DBS V8 was shortened by dropping the DBS.