Aston Martin has been the final word in prestige supercars and premium luxury for 101 years. Over that time the firm has changed hands multiple times, and ventured in to a plethora of different markets but the brand of Aston Martin has triumphed, and is still revered amongst a huge cross section of cultures and age brackets.
Aston Martin featured amongst the top 20 in the 2014 CoolBrands survey, with some of the most recognised, revered and lauded brands in Britain. No other car manufacturer made the list, proof that it goes beyond building cars to become one of the most influential brands in the world.
An Aston Martin is still as much of a head-turner now as it was when it was first introduced. First it's the noise that grabs attention; from the purring note of a naturally-aspirated V8 to the heady growl of a 6.0 litre V12, the sound of an Aston is instantly recognisable.
Then it's the looks that keep the attention; elegant, sweeping curves that surround and covet the iconic grille - which has largely remained the same since the 1948 Aston Martin DB1. Lagondas now come in many different guises; from drop-top roadsters, to practical four-door sports cars, to the ultimate grand tourers - but always remain true to the brand.
To see where the magic really began, it's important to take a look back in to the history of Aston Martin - a story of reinvention and resurgence. Founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the name we have come to know today was borne out of their successes racing special models (constructed from other vehicles) in the Aston hill climb.
After the war, Aston Martin relocated to Kensington, and built its first two cars to compete in the 1922 French Grand Prix. The start of Aston's long and distinguished racing career began with setting world speed and endurance records at the historic Brooklands racing track. Over the next few years around 50 cars were built in different configurations, largely for racing and record breaking purposes.
However, financial problems caused the company to close in 1925. A year later the firm was re-opened, officially under the name Aston Martin Motors LTD with financial backing and a board of investors. Between 1926 and 1937, a number of different models were produced, including the 'Le Mans', 'International' and 'T-Type'.
The cars in question gave Aston a steady footing which soon made them synonymous with excellent engineering and quality design - hallmarks they are still recognised for today. In 1928 they entered their Le Mans model in to the famous Le Mans 24hr endurance race, which had first begun in 1923 and at that time was still dominated largely by Bentley.
By 1933, Aston Martin racing pedigree was well and truly set in stone, with their racers taking all three podium places in their class at Le Mans. At the same time, their popularity and demand for road cars also increased and prompted a shift in direction away from racing - and by 1937 there were 140 quality engineered road cars being built every year. In total, over 700 examples were built up until 1939.
The successful business was acquired in 1947 by industrialist David Brown, who acquired coachbuilders Lagonda in the same year. After relocation to Hanworth Park in Feltham, the two manufacturers shared resources and began producing the Legendary DB (David Brown) series of vehicles. Production of the DB2 began in 1950, quickly followed by successful podium finishes at Le Mans in 1951.
Soon after, the DB Mk. II, the DB Mk. III and the Aston Martin DB4 followed suit, being produced as quality road cars with great comfort, engineering and looks. Car by car, the designs started to resemble the iconic Astons known and sought after today.
On the racing side of their history, the Aston Martin DBR1 was reaching its peak, an excellent track car which had suffered from numerous race retirements since being introduced in 1956. Eventually, the car achieved astounding successes in the form of a 1958 Le Mans 24 Hour Race victory and a gruelling Nurburging 1000km race win - a testament to the manufacturer's determination to succeed after years of struggle.
1963 saw the launch of a brand new model to add to their line-up, probably the most widely recognized Aston ever built.
Bond. James Bond.
Ian Fleming, in his 1959 bestseller Goldfinger had penned that the tough, resourceful secret agent James Bond drove an Aston Martin DB III laden with gadgets such as reinforced bumpers and a special pistol compartment.
However, by the time production for the film adaption of Goldfinger had begun in 1963, there was only one choice of motor for the debonair agent; Aston Martin's newest production car, the DB5.
Producers of the James Bond films had been gunning for an Aston since the very first film Dr No, and finally had the chance to use what they considered the ideal car for any British agent. Laden not just with an ejector seat but with an oil slick and twin machine guns, the pairing achieved cult status together and started what is one of the longest running film partnerships of all time.
The DB5 made an appearance again in Thunderball, sporting a water cannon and jetpack storage in addition to various other gadgets. Great aesthetics, great performance and being driven by Sean Connery helped propel the DB5 in to the spotlight, exposing Aston Martin to a global audience.
The following DB6, which shared a lot of components with the DB5, was also extremely popular and served as the brand's longest running production of any vehicle so far from 1965 to 1971.
Over the next four decades, James Bond and Aston Martin collaborated on-and-off on a number of films, such as the notable V8 Vantage which appeared in the 1987 film The Living Daylights. Cars for the film were donated personally by Chairman Victor Gauntlett, and were of course kitted out with a range of gadgets such as outriggers for skiing the slopes.
Modern feature films such as Die Another Day and Casino Royale utilised modern Astons, from the Vanquish to the DBS V12. However in 2012, the back-to-basics theme of new release Skyfall was suitably matched by choice of car, as a familiar old friend made a reappearance in to the franchise - the DB5. From Casino Royale onwards James Bond cars included little in the way of gadgets, but the DB5 in Skyfall still had an ejector seat installed - a homage to the original car which made its debut almost 40 years earlier.
Aston Martin changed hands twice between 1970 and 1975. The first car to emerge from the new ownership was the Aston Martin Lagonda, reusing the Lagonda marque to launch a brand new luxury four-door saloon.
The revolutionary design, which divided opinion, certainly made a bold statement and ensured extremely strong sales figures amongst those wanting an expressive, angular design unlike other sports cars of the era. The striking angles and box-like grille were unlike any Aston Martin before it, whilst the interior consisted of computers and dials which brought it in to the future. At the time, it was the world's fastest four-seater production car.
Production of the Lagonda was so successful it continued right through until 1990, with later models even utilising CRT monitors found on old televisions as the dashboard.
In 1980, Victor Gauntlett took over the running of Aston, passing the 10,000th production car mark in 1984. A continued partnership with Italian coachbuilding outfit Zagato resulted in the Volante Zagato model; an update of the ageing V8 Vantage, which provided the resources for Aston Martin to launch their first production car in 20 years - the Virage.
The Virage was a real return to form for Aston Martin - a premier vehicle designed for the very top end of the market with luxury and technical ability as standard. With influences from the Lagonda, the new look Aston managed to reinvent perceptions and put a new face to the brand. A classic British sports car.
It came in several versions, including the Vantage model which was fitted with a range-topping 600bhp twin-supercharged V8 engine. The car weighed over two tonnes but still managed to achieve a 0-60 time of just 4.6 seconds - thrusting the luxury car brand back in to the limelight as a performance manufacturer.
In 1991, Ford agreed to take over control of Aston Martin from Gauntlett, and soon announced the revival of the DB series with the new DB7 in 1994. The DB7 was the smallest Aston in the line-up but editions such as the V12 vantage also made it the most powerful car to date, with sharp looks to match that still influence the current range.
Other editions of the DB7 were also produced - even an exclusive Stratstone edition in a special black colour had a run of 19.
The Milennium and Beyond
2003 was an important year for Aston, as they opened their very first purpose-built factory in Gaydon which is the location of their current headquarters. In the same year, a sequel was announced to the DB7 in the form of a brand new Aston Martin DB9.
Soon after in 2005, Aston made a historic return to the racetrack using a modified production car known as the DBR9. Under the moniker of Aston Martin Racing, the car competed around the world in GT events and the Le Mans 24 hours race which is so intrinsic to their racing pedigree. In 2008, the Aston Martin Racing team had their second consecutive class victory at Le Mans - putting their stamp back on the racing calendar and continuing winning tradition.
Meanwhile, the flagship Aston Martin DBS was becoming an extremely popular production car, noted for unrivalled comfort in the supercar class, whilst also having aggressive performance that matched up with the very best such as the Ferrari 458.
The DBS made appearances in both the Casino Royale and the Quantum of Solace, which solidified the car as a worldwide icon for modern Aston. Whilst filming for Royale the DBS helped to break a world record for the most cannon rolls in a car - after the DBS was fired from a nitrogen cannon and tumbled down a hill rolling seven times.
The current range was bolstered by the addition of familiar vehicles such as the Aston Martin Rapide, the Virage and the new V8 Vantage whilst 2009 saw the unveiling of the ultimate concept, the One-77.
Part feat of engineering part technological showcase, the award-winning 77 was the most powerful naturally-aspirated car in the world at the time of release. The 7.3 litre V12 pumped out 750bhp, which is almost 9 times more than the original Aston DB1 and a good marker of how far Aston Martin have progressed in their 101 years.
More recently, a new version of the Lagonda has been announced, in the form of an executive super-saloon exclusive to the middle-eastern market. The imposing four-door saloon boasts a huge chrome inverse trapezium grille enclosed by dagger-like LED headlamps, which hint casually at styling cues that could soon make their way on to the rest of the range.
Whatever form the next generations of Aston Martin come in, you can be sure that they will remain amongst the coolest cars in the world. A rich history in both competition and consumer markets is backed up by cars that remain some of the most desirable to own, with timeless styling and engineering at the peak of technology. Every Aston brings with it a rich heritage that can be felt with each turn of the wheel and roar of the engine.
Stratstone have a long-standing partnership with Aston Martin and offer a range of Aston Martins both pre-owned and new to suit anyone looking to own this motoring icon.