Today, Aston Martin is one of the world’s most desirable brands; designing, engineering and manufacturing around 3,500 exclusive sports cars at its Gaydon headquarters in Warwickshire.
Founded on 15 January 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as Bamford and Martin Ltd in Henniker Mews, London, Aston Martin has since become an iconic UK automotive brand famous around the world. This year the company celebrates its centenary, focused around a week of special events from 15 – 21 July.
Following Lionel Martin’s successful runs at the Aston Hill climb in Buckinghamshire, the ‘Aston Martin’ name itself was first used in 1914, and within a year the first car had been built and registered with that name. Taking its first steps in motorsport in 1922, the first Aston Martin entry to the famous Le Mans 24-hour race followed in 1928, and class victories were claimed in 1933.
In 1947 Aston Martin entered a new era, as British entrepreneur David Brown acquired the company. The next decade saw significant expansion of the business with the purchase of the Lagonda marque, relocation of manufacturing to Feltham in Middlesex, and production of the DB2, DB2/4, DB Mk III road cars and the Le Mans winning DBR1 racing cars.
Newport Pagnell became the company’s manufacturing base in 1954, and is still considered by many today to be Aston Martin’s ‘spiritual home’. The factory was the birthplace of the famous DB5 model in 1963, which is now recognised around the world thanks to its starring role in the James Bond films.
The 1970s and 1980s saw ownership of the company change three times before the Ford Motor Company acquired a 75% stake in 1987. In 1993 the marque’s ‘DB’ moniker was revived on the DB7 model, with Ford taking full control of the company in the same year. In recognition of Aston Martin’s contribution to the UK economy, the company was presented with the Queen’s Award for Export in 1998.
Aston Martin began the new millennium with a new Chairman and Chief Executive as Dr. Ulrich Bez was appointed to lead the business into the modern era. The company opened its new global headquarters – and first ever purpose-built facility – in Gaydon, Warwickshire in 2003.
The company was sold to a consortium of two major international investment houses, led by Prodrive founder David Richards, in 2007. More recently, Aston Martin has celebrated building its 50,000th production car, and now boasts the strongest model range in its 100 year history.
The highlight of the centenary celebrations will be a concours event run jointly by the Aston Martin Owners Club, the Aston Martin Heritage Trust and Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. The event will take place on 21 July 2013 in Kensington Gardens and will feature the largest gathering of Aston Martins in the company’s history.
Earlier this year, SMMT launched the first report of its kind that demonstrates the value of the UK’s unique low volume car manufacturing industry. It highlights some of the challenges these companies face and, importantly, the opportunities for growth that can be achieved with industry, government and other stakeholders working together to support a world-renowned British success story.
Click through to download the report: Specialist car manufacturing – a uniquely British success story.
Watch the video below for an introduction to Aston Martin’s centenary in 2013.