Aston Martin celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013. Such provenance Makes its current sportscar marketplace rivals (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and McLaren) all young pups in comparison. Racing is core to Aston Martin DNA. The zenith of Aston Martin racing is its outright victory in the 1959 LeMans 24 Hours. That winning car, sports-racer DBR1/2 (#2 of 5 made), piloted by Englishman Roy Salvadori and Texan Carroll Shelby, is Aston Martin’s Touchstone.
Aston Martin debuted in 1913, but has never had an easy time of things. Its corporate bio has had more players than a Premier League season. Commercial success has been elusive, with “angels to the rescue” a recurring theme.
For many enthusiasts, the Golden Era for Aston Martin were the David Brown led years from 1947-72. That period defines how Astons are thought of today – as bespoke luxury Grand Tourers, with powerful engines placed up front.
One of David Brown’s earliest moves as AM owner was to purchase the Lagonda brand, and with it the W.O. Bentley designed 2.6L inline six-cylinder engine. Tadek Marek designed the larger 3.7L inline six-cylinder engines that AM debuted in 1954. Tadek followed-up with a V8 design of 1969. (Later still, a V12 joined AM offerings in 1999).
Brown attracted high quality people. Managing Director of 1959, John Wyer, went on to manage the multi-LeMans winning Gulf Oil racing teams. Racing Team chief of 1959, Reg Parnell, a fixture of Post-WWII British racing. Ted Cutting was design engineer of the DBR1, a fairly conventional design for the era. The DBR1 received updated bodywork for 1959, with some aerodynamic tweaks.
While the DBR1/2 drivers Salvadori and Shelby are forever enshrined in LeMans lore, a closer reading of the 1959 season, (see Time and Two Seats by Janos Wimpffen) highlights Stirling Moss’ critical role both in the LeMans victory, and the 1959 season championship title.
Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar and Aston Martin all contested the 1959 World Endurance Championship. Moss kept everyone on the edge of their seats to clinch the title for Aston on the last lap of the last race, dashing the hopes of Ferrari and Porsche.
Ironically, Aston Martin’s prodigious 1959 Endurance racing success came as that program played second fiddle to AM’s F1 single seater debut. That F1 effort invested in a front-engine car design, just as the F1 circus came to the collective realization that engines placed behind the driver were superior in single seaters. After two ill-fated F1 seasons, Aston returned to Sports Racing endeavors in the early 1960s, but now as “also-rans”.
Fortunately, Hollywood provided Aston Martin with a salve; A co-starring role for the DB5 production car in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. Not a stock DB5 mind you, but one with machine guns, oil dumps, wheel-cutting hub blades, and an ejector seat. Such Bond movie product placements continue important to AM today.
Of the many saviors that kept AM going, the Ford Motor Company tenure of 1991-2007 was important for securing the future. A modern factory with reception center at Gaydon was one of the key FoMoCo moves. I was fortunate enough to tour Gaydon not long after it opened. It seemed to me then that Aston had a bullet-proof future. If only the Great Recession hadn’t changed the course of history.
While the brand’s product since 2007 has steadily improved, its financial health has not. Another savior has arrived on the scene in 2020, in the form of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, leading yet another rescue package. As Stroll also owns a good chunk of the Racing Point F1 team, that entity will be re-liveried in British Racing Green as the Aston Martin F1 Team for 2021.
Yet, the marketplace success for the new DBX Aston SUV is more pivotal to AM’s future than any racing activities. Though on another optimistic note, Aston again achieved significant success at LeMans in 2020, with a class victory in GTE (production-based cars) with the Vantage GTE.
Guatemala Verde is an excellent marble for sculpting. Its rather hard, though not as hard as Belgian Black. The particular Guatemala Verde billet employed here is mid-green, though dark-green varieties can also be found. In this mid-green version, there are darker green and near-black veining as well as black, white and brown mottling.