Aston Martin logo.
Aston Martin first came into existence in 1908, when Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin fitted a four cylinder, side valve, 1398cc Coventry-Simplex engine to a Isotta-Fraschini racing chassis. A chassis, which had been designed by Ettore Bugatti. The cars name was derived from Martin, himself, and from the Aston Clinton hill climb course where their earlier Singer cars had performed well in competition.
The first Aston Martin production car had to wait until 1919 and was not on sale until 1921. It bore a distinct similarity to the contemporary Bugatti and retained the Coventry-Simplex engine. The first Aston Martin was noted for being exceptionally quick; top speed 70 mph, with first class road holding and precise steering.
In 1924 the company passed through the hands of the Charnwood family without any success and by 1926 had been taken up by Bert Bertelli and W.S. Renwick. They produced a new Aston Martin, a two seater with a 1.5 litre single overhead cam four cylinder engine. However, as ever, resources were limited and by 1930 only 30 of the cars had been produced. With a little financial re-organisation in 1928 the new Aston Martin International went into production. An unusual sportscar, because it had four seats and a low, rakish style which immediately became fashionable.
In 1932 Sir Arthur Sutherland bought the company and the International was allowed to flourish. The car became a success in various sportscar races and trials, culminating in a win at Le Mans where Bertelli and Driscoll won the Biennial Cup, after which a two-seater Le Mans was introduced.
In 1934 the Aston Martin Ulster was introduced, effectively a replica of the works racing car, and still considered to be one of the most attractive 1930's type sportscars to go into production. However these cars were much heavier than the contemporary Riley's and MG Magnettes. Only 17 road cars were produced, along with several racing cars.
1936 saw a new 2 lire model with synchromesh transmission, a great advance for the time, and ushered in a new era for Aston Martin. The car won the Leinster Trophy Race of 1938, driven by St John Horsfall, who went on to set the best British performance at Le Mans. Once again the company struggled, particularly after WWII.
In 1939 a new car called the Atom was designed but a version with multi-tube space frame and a powerful 2-litre engine could not be financed. In 1947 the industrialist David Brown stepped I to buy the company (he also bought Lagonda, and it's amazing new six cylinder engine) and the new design, now called DB1, went on sale in 1948. The car went on to win The Spa 24 hours race, but few DB1's were ever sold. It was then decided to mate the 2.5-litre Lagonda engine with the DB1's tubular chassis and the DB2 was created, an all-time classic. Its Aerodynamic two-seater coupe body styled by Frank Feeley, ex Lagonda, and sold for 1915 Pounds, the drophead costing 128 Pounds more! The even more powerful 123 bhp Vantage engine was also made available as an option. Once again there was some success at Le Mans.
Next came the DB2/4, with 2+2 seating and a hatch back but this soon gave way to the DB3 and then the DB3S with a shorter wheelbase and a more shapely bodyshell. This car was an instant success with wins in the Goodwood Nine Hour for example.
In recent years the company has changed hands several times and cars of distinction continue to be made. Perhaps now most associated with James Bond and the lovely DB5, however the Vantage, Virage and Lagonda models should all be briefly mentioned in this thumbnail history.
Current Aston CEO Ulrich Bez will stay on in that position; Richards will be the company chairman, and Sinders will take over as head of Aston Martin's North American operations.
Ford had been shopping its boutique sports car maker since August 2006 in an effort to obtain much-needed cash for core Ford operations. The sale of Aston will close by mid-year, with Ford retaining a $77 million investment in the company.
At a press conference announcing the transaction, the new owners assured that the investment group backs Aston's long-range product plans, including building the four-door Aston Martin Rapide by the end of decade. The company plans to produce up to 2000 Rapides per year.
In addition, a product pyramid revealed a future flagship dubbed DBX positioned above the Rapide. Although the car may be a Vanquish replacement, it also may be a super-flagship above the Vanquish and not currently in the Aston portfolio. Richards said Aston might want a car in the mold of the Audi R8, suggesting the builder of front-engined sports cars may break tradition and offer a mid-engined model.
Despite Prodrive's strong background in all-wheel drive, the new owners said that no sport/utility vehicles, or even awd products, are in the Aston pipeline. (source: Autoweek).
Ford today starts the delicate process of choosing a new owner for Aston Martin.
As of today's deadline, up to six bidders are understood to have presented offers for the Ford-owned British sports car company, valuing Aston at between £500 million and £550 million ($981 million to $1.08 billion), according to sources familiar with the bid process.
Because of the detail involved in assessing each bid, Ford is unlikely to name the winning bidder for at least one month. Even then, according to sources, the bid process could enter a third phase if two or more bidders are neck-and-neck.
Offers are understood to have come from Canadian-based supplier Magna International, British buyout specialists Doughty Hanson, the Syrian property millionaire Simon Halabi, and a consortium including the Australian media tycoon James Packer. The identity of the two further bidders remains unknown.
Although Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez is believed to harbor a keen interest in continuing to manage the company, regardless of ownership, it was unclear whether he was aligned with any of the bidders.
(source: AutoWeek, 01/31/07, by Julian Rendell.)
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