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Aston Martin

Aston Martin are a manufacturer of expensive luxury automobiles. Up to 2002, a total of 16,000 cars had been built by Aston Martin.

The company was founded in 1914 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. The two had joined together the previous year to sell cars made by Singer. Martin raced specials at the Aston Clinton Hillclimb and the pair decided to make their own vehicles. They acquired premises in Chelsea and produced their first car in March 1915.

The company name was derived from Aston Clinton and Lionel Martin.

1968 Aston Martin DBS Vantage

After the hiatus of war the company was revitalised with funding from Louis Zborowski and in 1922 produced cars to compete in the French Grand Prix and also set a world speed and endurance records at Brooklands. Marin left in 1925 and the following year a number of rich investors, including Lord Charnwood, took control of the company as Aston Martin Motors and moved the firm to new premises in Feltham. The 1929 Aston Martin International was another successful racer and was followed by the Le Mans and the Ulster before the company, now owned by Sir Arthur Sutherland, decided to concentrate on road cars in 1936. The advent of war halted work and the company languished throughout the conflict.

In 1947 the company was bought by David Brown, its "post-war saviour", who also acquired Lagonda in that year and both companies shared resources and workshops. In 1954 Brown brought the current Newport Pagnell site and this was the beginning of the classic series of cars to bear the initials DB. In 1950 the company announced the DB2, followed by the DB3 in 1957 and in 1958 the Italian style 3.7 litre DB4. All the cars established a good racing pedigee but the DB4 was the key to establishing the company's reputation which was cemented with the popular DB5 in 1963. The company continued to develop the 'grand touring' style through the DB6 (1965-70) and the DBS and DBS V8 (1967-72, later renamed the Vantage).

Despite the popular appreciation of the cars the company was often financially troubled. In 1972 it was bought by a Birmingham-based consortium and in 1975 by the North American business men Peter Sprague and George Minden. The American owners pushed the company into modernising its line, producing the V8 Vantage in 1977 and the convertible Volante in 1978 and the William Towns styled Bulldog in 1980. These changes, especially the Bulldog, were not successful and in 1981 the Americans sold out to CH Industrial, who themselves gave up in 1983 to Automotive Investments, who lasted barely a year before selling the company to Peter Livanos and Victor Gauntlett. In 1986 Ford Motor Company purchased 75% of the company and the ownership pass-the-parcel slowed.

In 1988 the company finally retired the venerable V8, having produced around 5,000 cars over twenty years, introducing the Virage range. In 1992 the Vantage was announced and the following year the company renewed the DB range by announcing the DB7. In 1993 Ford finally brought the Gauntlett shares and took full control of the firm, placing it in the Ford Premiere Automotive Group. Ford invested substantially in new manufacturing and quickly ramped up production. In 1995 the company produced a record 700 vehicles and in 1998 the 2,000th DB7 was built and in 2002 the 6,000th, exceeding production of all previous DB models. The DB7 range was boosted by the addition of V12 models in 1999 and in 2001 the company introduced the V12 engined Vanquish

The very British glamour of Aston Martin cars meant they were a natural choice for the James Bond series of action films, notably the silver DB5 that appears in Goldfinger (1964). After an interlude with Lotus, Aston Martins were used again in The Living Daylights (1987) and after another hiatus the Vanquish appeared in Die Another Day (2002).

See also: List of Formula One constructors