The history of Aston Martin is intertwined with legend. The iconic luxury vehicle has been breaking records since its inception and the James Bond saga has played a major role in popularizing the British brand, founded at the beginning of the 20th century.

‘Spectre’ Vanquish Aston Martin DB10. Photo: Christie’s ‘Spectre’ Vanquish Aston Martin DB10. Photo: Christie’s

James Bond began driving Aston Martins in the 1964 film Goldfinger and has driven them in 12 movies. The specific models used in the films have become hugely popular for collectors. One of the two DB5s used in Goldfinger sold for $3 million, and the 2014 Vanquish (an Aston Martin DB10) that was featured in the James Bond movie Spectre (2015) with Daniel Craig sold for $2.4 million at Christie’s London in 2016. The car was specifically designed for the occasion of the centenary of the Aston Martin brand in 2013.

1963 Aston Martin DB5 from the film ‘Goldfinger’ 1963 Aston Martin DB5 from the film ‘Goldfinger’

James Bond's penchant for luxury cars made for adventure and high speed chases has largely contributed to the brand's iconic status from the 1960s to present.

And the history behind Aston Martin?

Lionel Martin, co-founder of the company now known as Aston Martin Lionel Martin, co-founder of the company now known as Aston Martin

It all began in 1913 with Lionel Martin. He was a business partner for five years with his friend Robert Bamford in a repair shop in London's Kensington district and became a Singer Motors dealer that year, in charge of preparing a sporty version of the famous Singer Ten car.

Intended to compete with the Bugatti, which then ruled the automobile competition, the prototype was built by the two men from the Isotta Fraschini chassis company and powered by a 70-horsepower Climax engine. The car won, against all odds, the Aston-Clinton hillside race in Berkshire. This unexpected success precipitated the creation of the company and the Aston Martin brand the following year, under which the prototype, called ‘Coal Scuttle’, was marketed.

Louis Zborowski in a 1922 Aston Martin Louis Zborowski in a 1922 Aston Martin

After the First World War, the company went bankrupt, but was saved by a wealthy count of Polish origin, Louis Zborowski, a pilot and owner of his own stable in Coventry. Despite Bamford's withdrawal, Lionel Martin was able to produce his own engines and chassis, and, in 1922, the Aston Martin Bunny set ten world records for speed and endurance, including an average of over 77 mph for 16 hours and 30 minutes on the Brooklands circuit. The Aston Martin team entered the competition on July 15, 1922 at the Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France in Strasbourg.

A modern Aston Martin A modern Aston Martin

While the sporting results were encouraging, the commercial success of serial models suffered from delayed ignition, with only 50 cars sold between 1921 and 1925. Count Zbrowski was killed behind the wheel of a Mercedes at the 1924 Italian Grand Prix and the company floundered. Once again in bankruptcy, the brand was bought in 1925 by the Benson family, who kept Lionel Martin in charge.

However, it was a short stay: the following year, the Martin was fired in a judicial liquidation, after which Aston Martin passed into the hands of the Italian engineer and pilot Augusto César Bertelli and his noble British associates. Bertelli became Technical Director of Aston Martin Motors Ltd, then based outside London, after another bankruptcy in 1932, requiring the intervention of shipowner Arthur Sutherland.

The luxurious interior of an Aston Martin The luxurious interior of an Aston Martin

Under his leadership, and that of his son at the helm of the company, 15 years of relative financial stability followed, combined with technical and sporting performances that rocked the automotive world. But in 1947, faced with new, albeit recurring, cash flow problems, the brand fell into the hands of industrialist David Brown, who merged it with Lagonda, another British luxury car brand.

The iconic DB models and their multiple versions were released under his direction, which led to a series of victories and established the company's reputation in the mid-1950s. After winning first place at the 24 Hours of Spa in 1948, the brand won the RAC Rally (Great Britain Rally) with the DB2 in 1956 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959.

It was also under David Brown's leadership that the DB4 and DB5 were produced beginning in 1959 and the James Bond saga marketed these models. With sports and touring cars, Aston Martin developed prototypes for Formula 1, but its forays into the circuits in 1956 and 1959 were not met with the expected success.

Aston Martin was taken over by American investors in 1972, then by Greek shipowners in the mid-1980s, and finally by the American giant Ford in 1993. The production of the DBS V8, the Volante Convertible, the Vantage and the DB7 were successful and cemented the reputation of the British brand at the end of the 20th century as legendary, vintage and at the forefront of technology.

The Aston Martin winged logo, inspired by the Egyptian god Khepri and a symbol of rebirth The Aston Martin winged logo, inspired by the Egyptian god Khepri and a symbol of rebirth

Since 2007, Aston Martin, headquartered in Gaydon, Warwickshire, has been part of an investment consortium that includes David Richards, founder of Provide, American banker John Sinders, and two Kuwaiti companies. Its listing on the London Stock Exchange in October 2018 received a ‘mixed reception’ according to City experts. Despite its somewhat rocky history, the brand’s winged emblem, inspired by the Egyptian god Khepri, is the symbol of a perpetual rebirth.

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