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GQ May 100 years of Aston Martin
Posted: April 2013 | Publication:
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Click here for my GQ piece on 100 years of Aston_Martin
Sorry, the caption on page 58 should read DB5 not DB4 GT


Here is the Original, more comprehensive version:

1913 to 2013 -  100 years of Aston Martin

Martin. Aston Martin

Their cars were made legendary by a certain fictional secret agent. Several times over the years Aston Martin was at the brink of extinction. Despite changing ownership on numerous occasions, the company is now celebrating its 100th anniversary. And the outlook is better than ever. GQ motoring editor Dieter Losskarn deliberates about the heritage and the long-standing relationship with Bond – while driving a Vantage V8.


He must have one of the best jobs in the world. Relaxed working hours and the chance to drive the most desirable cars in the world. His name? Harley. Wayne Harley. Wayne is curator of one of South Africa’s most precious automobile collections, exhibited in the Franschhoek Motor Museum. In one of the four halls he is just starting a legend. The green 1959 Aston Martin DB4 GT Superleggera comes to live with a heartwarming rumble and grumble. He moves it outside into a hot winelands afternoon, to meet his modern sibling, the silver V8 Vantage, I brought up from Cape Town.
I can see, that Wayne is more of a classic heritage guy. It is difficult for him to say anything positive about the new Aston. And I must admit, the undoubtedly gorgeous looking Vantage somehow pales a bit in the presence of one of the most valuable cars Aston Martin has ever built. According to Wayne only 75 DB4 GTs were ever produced, between 1959 and 1963. Of which 45 were right-hand drive models. Nowadays a car like this wouldn’t change hands under 1 Mio. £. So by hindsight the car couldn’t have had a better nickname in the 1960s, when it was called the banker’s hotrod.
Introduced at the London motor show in October 1959, it was build to race. Shorter and 85 kgs lighter than the regular DB4. And it was fitted with a more powerful engine, featuring three Weber carburettors, increasing the power from 240 to 304 hp. All DB4 GT Superleggera bodies (Italian for superlight) had a skeletal steel tube framework, supporting an aluminium body. Six of the 75 bodies built were even lighter, sans radios, speaker and heaters.
But the DB4 acted only as a pre-cursor to perhaps the most famous and most recognized cinematic car ever, the DB5. First seen in ‘Goldfinger’, starring Sean Connery, in 1964. It made a nostalgic surprise comeback in the latest 007 movie ‘Skyfall’. In ‘Skyfall’ James ‘Daniel Craig’ Bond still owns the classic DB5, he won from the villain in ‘Casino Royale’, during a poker game. It doesn’t matter, that since ‘Casino Royale’ it changed to right-hand drive and inherited all the historic gadgets, from ejection seat to machine guns in the turn signals. And it now bears the same number plate as Connery’s car in 1964: ‘BMT 216 A’. In Bond movies it is necessary to suspend disbelief once in a while.
One of the actual four film cars from ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ was auctioned off in June 2010 for 4.6 Mio. US-$. If you haven’t seen Skyfall yet, don’t despair in the end. The DB5 in the movie wasn’t blown up. European company Voxeljet used a massive 3D printer to create three 1/3 replicas. They have fantastic detail and are indistinguishable from the priceless original, even in close-ups.One of those was blown up. Another one sold at Christie’s for a staggering 100 000 US-$.
I am driving my silver DB5 on a regular base. Usually racing it against a white Ford Mustang convertible. Chasing it through tight corners, while drifting around them. It is pretty battered up by now. One of the headlights is missing, I lost it, when I overturned a couple of times. Luckily, all this happened in a 1/32 scale car, on my 1/24 Carrera slotcar track, the special 1994 30th anniversary ‘Goldfinger’ edition.
Talking about model cars. This is probably the closest a mere mortal will ever get to owning a bit of James Bond DB5 memorabilia. In the 1960s, when ‘Goldfinger’ appeared on the big screen, it used to be the most wanted toy: Corgi’s DB5. Just like the film car, it featured the bullet-proof shield, that springs up from the rear boot lid. The famous ejector seat, that fires the passenger through the opening of the sun roof, and machine guns, that emerge from the front indicators. The model also came with a secret instructions envelope, containing a spare ejector seat baddie. On introduction the Corgi models did cost around 50 pence. Corgi sold more than 2 Mio. units worldwide. Now, you can fork out up to 500 Euros on Ebay for a complete car, with box and baddies.
And while the Bond film producers had to loan their very first DB5 from Aston Martin in 1964 to modify it, today James Bond is an official part of the company’s heritage. At one stage it was very close for Jaguar or Jenson to become the Bond car, but the producers were adament. They prefered the Aston Martin. A godsend for the brand.
After Goldfinger Aston was fond of Bond. For the exhilarating car chase sequence in the first couple of minutes of ‘Quantum of Solace’, Aston Martin supplied seven DBS cars. Bond is chased around Lake Garda in Italy by two Alfa 157 with machine-gun firing baddies. He prevails as usual and reaches Siena, sans driver’s door.
Amazing that Aston Martin’s history is twice as old as the 50-year long relationship with Bond. Going all the way back to 1913, when the company was founded by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as ‘Bamford & Martin LTD’. Personally, I am glad, that a year later Lionel successfully raced at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, hence the name change to Aston Martin. Bond would have never pulled it off in a Bamford Martin.
Back to the present. Wayne just locked away the precious DB4 GT and I am on my way to Franschhoek pass. I saw all the Bond movies, I played with the Corgi DB5, ejected the villain on countless occasions, raced my DB5 slot car against the white Mustang and now I am driving a real Aston Martin.
The expectations are great. Maybe too great. It surprisingly doesn’t sound as good as a Mercedes SLS or Jaguar XKR-S. And after having experienced a double-clutch auto gearbox in a Porsche, it is actually painful to go back to a single one. In auto the Aston is jerking me around like a puppet. In manual mode and when you take your foot off the accelerator, before shifting gears, it is a bit better. After a while, I can enjoy the extraordinary driving dynamics of the vehicle. The engine is positioned close to the centre, the gearbox in the back, resulting in excellent roadholding. While the auto box might be a bit disappointing, the looks, without any vintage Aston present, aren’t. I park it in one of the bays at Chapman’s Peak drive. The rays of the late afternoon sun are forever chiseling new lines and shapes into the silver skin of the baby Aston. Time to dream. Like Wayne, I also like my job.


Tech and Spec

Aston Martin Vantage V8

V8 4.7-litre; 313kW and 470Nm


0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds
Top Speed 290km/h




Current Aston Martin model line-up
Vantage (V8, V8 S, V12 coupé & convertible)
Rapide S


Aston-ishing history
1913 The company was founded by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as ‘Bamford & Martin LTD’.
1914 Birth of the Aston Martin name.
1920 Relocation to Kensington
1922 French Grand Prix – two cars completed the race.
1926 After running into financial problems, a group of investors rescued the company by forming ‘Aston Martin Motors LTD’.
1928 Aston Martin entered the Le Mans 24h race.
1933 On the podium at Le Mans with the 1.5-litre model.
1939 Reveil of the Aston Martin Atom, an avant-garde prototype.
1947 Begin of the David Brown (‘DB’) era. The English industrialist bought the company and expanded the business with huge enthusiasm and energy. He also bought the Lagonda marque.
1951 Success in Le Mans with the new DB2 model.
1954 Production was moved to Newport Pagnell.
1956-1958 DBR1 race cars, DB MK III and DB4 being introduced.
1959 DBR1 team secured the 1959 world sportscar championship. The DB4 GT was launched.
1960 Cooperation with Italian coachbuilder Zagato to launch the DB4 GT Zagato.
1963 Success at Monza for the DB4 GT and launch of the DB5.
1964 The beginning of a long-standing relationship: a silver birch Aston Martin DB5 became James Bond’s car of choice in the third Bond film ‘Goldfinger’.
1965/1966 Launch of the DB6 & DB6 Volante.
1966-1970 DBS, DB6 MK2 & DBS V8 launched.
1972 ‘Company Developments LTD’ took over the company and the V8 entered production.
1975 Only three years after the last take-over Aston is rescued once again by a consortium of enthusiastic businessmen. The first car under new ownership is the Lagonda, a re-launch of the iconic sister marque.
1980 Another ownership change. Victor Gauntlett and Pace Petroleum bought the company.
1986 V8 Vantage Zagato launched.
1987 Ford Motor Company aquired a 75% share of Aston Martin.
1988 Virage launched.
1993 Resurrection of the ‘DB’ moniker, with the DB7, produced at a new facility at Wykham Mill, Bloxham. Ford took full control of Aston Martin.
2000 Dr. Ulrich Bez is the new CEO. In the same year production of the 5.3-litre V8 engine, designed by Tadek Marak came to an end after 30 years.
2001 5000th DB7 produced. Launch of the V12 Vanquish.
2003 Aston Martin’s new global headquarters opened.
2004 DB9 and V12 Vanquish S launched.
2005 Aston Martin returned to the racetrack with the DBR9.
2006 DBS launched.
2007 In March Aston Martin was sold to a consortium of two major international investments houses. Ulrich Bez continued as CEO.
2009 V12 Vantage & DBS Volante launched. Aston Martin unveils the one-off super car One-77, which won the design award in the concept and prototypes class at the Concorso D’Eleganza in Italy.
2010 Unveiling of the Cygnet concept city car. Production started the same year.
2011 V8 Vantage & Virage launch. Unveiling of the V12 Zagato in Italy.
2012 New Vanquish & DB9 launched.
2013 Aston Martin is celebrating a 100 years of successfully surviving in the motor industry.

Bonding with Aston Martin
1964 ‘Goldfinger’
In the third Bond film a new car is introduced: Sean Connery drives a silver birch DB5, with the number plate ‘BMT 216 A’. DB5 sales increase after the release of the movie.

1965 ‘Thunderball’
Sean Connery drives the DB5 again, with additional gimmicks, such as a rear-facing water cannon and a boot-stowed jet pack.

1969 ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service’
Bond one-timer George Lazenby drives a DBS.

1987 “The Living Daylights’
After almost twenty Aston Martin-less years, Timothy Dalton makes his Bond debut in a V8 Vantage.

1995 ‘Goldeneye’
Pierce Brosnan is the new Bond and the iconic DB5 returns for the first time since 1964 to the big screen, albeit with a slightly altered number plate: ’BMT 214 A’.

1997 ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’
Pierce once again drives the classic DB5 in a couple of scenes.

2002 ‘Die Another Day’
Pierce Brosnan ‘upgrades’ to the V12 Vanquish.

2006 ‘Casino Royale’
Best Bond ever, Daniel Craig, gets the DBS as a business car. There is a very special appearance by a DB5, which Bond wins from a villain in a poker game on the Bahamas.

2008 ‘Quantum of Solace’
One of the best car chases ever. Daniel Craig races through an Italian marble quarry and some tunnels – in the DBS.

2012 ‘Skyfall’
In the long-awaited 23rd instalment of the Bond franchise the now legendary DB5 has its sixth and most significant appearance. After winning it and shipping it back to England, it is now Bond’s private car, with a new number plate. The old one from 1964: ‘BMT 216 A’. Q converted the car to right-hand drive and fitted alll the nostalgic gimmicks, as a present for Bond. Spoiler Alert: The real DB5 wasn’t blown up in the movie.



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