Aston Martins are the very definition of cool.
Any dictionary worth its salt should state the definition of cool as “see Aston Martin DB9”.
Aston Martin has produced many of the greatest automotive cultural icons over the last hundred years or so. These aren't just premium luxury vehicles – these are supercars in the strongest sense of the word.
They are also supercars fit for superstars. Their blend of futuristic and classic styling, combined with their incredible performance, has helped them to stake their claim on the silver screen as James Bond’s car of choice.
There have been no less than 11 used in Bond films, from Sean Connery's DB5 in Goldfinger to Daniel Craig's DBS V12 in Casino Royale.
Among other less fictional celebrity Aston Martin drivers are Ben Affleck, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and tennis legend Rafael Nadal.
Aston Martin was founded by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin in the early years of the 20th century.
The Aston Martin name came from Lionel Martin's success at the famous Aston Hill climb in Buckinghamshire, England.
Further success, however, was going to have to wait as Bamford and Martin's car-making dreams were rudely interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.
In 1920 Bamford and Martin had returned from military service and had built their first car. Aston Martin was on the road to success and its journey began from the headquarters established in London’s fashionable Kensington.
Aston saw early success at the French Grand Prix, with two cars completing the race just two years after Aston's first car was produced.
Unfortunately glory on the track did not immediately spell financial success. With economies teetering on the verge of collapse the fledgling business felt the strain and Aston Martin went into bankruptcy.
Luckily, a group of prescient investors saw Aston's potential and restarted the company as Aston Martin Motors Ltd. Lionel Martin had left the company just before its collapse.
The new owners finally got the company on track and released a range of sports cars including the 1.5-Litre, the International, the ambitiously named Le Mans, the MKII and the Ulster. They used this new range to take the 24 Hours at Le Mans by storm.
Aston Martin's 1.5-Litre model took a clean sweep of the podium at 1933's 24 Hours of Le Mans, establishing its name in racing history.
Having mastered the track, Aston Martin cars was ready to take on the challenge of the public roads. Production numbers climaxed during 1937, before dipping off due to World War II.
Aston Martin pushed the limits of engineering with the Aston Martin Atom. This futuristic prototype used a space-frame chassis with independent suspension and curvaceous, silver bodywork.
For the second time in its history a war intervened: during the Second World War Aston Martin was reduced to making aircraft components and its production of road cars was drastically reduced.
Also for the second time in its history the company was saved from collapse by the intervention of an investor. This time British industrialist David Brown bought Aston Martin and was hailed as its “post-war saviour”.
With David Brown's business expertise at the helm, Aston acquired Lagonda, and with that, a 2.6-litre engine designed by W. O. Bentley himself.
With this new-found strength, they launched the classic DB series, starting with the DB2 in 1950. The DB2 went on to take second and third place at the Le Mans the following year.
Throughout the 50s, Aston Martin capitalised on the success of its DB series by launching the DBR1 race car, the DB MK III and the DB4.
The DBR1 took Aston's form on the racetrack to the next level, winning 1959's World Sportscar Championship with wins at the Nürburgring 1000km race and more Le Mans victories.
Aston Martin released a high-performance grand tourer model of the DB4 – the DB4 GT, which was to become one of the most valuable collector cars in Aston's history. There were only 100 ever made, and they can easily reach over £1m ($2.07m AUS) at auction.
Aston Martin also released a collaboration with Italian coachbuilder Zagato of which only 19 were ever made, and another collector’s classic was born.
Aston Martin's newly released DB5 was chosen to be James Bond's getaway of choice in the classic Goldfinger and this established an enduring partnership between the suave superspy and the elegant supercar.
The DB5 is often cited as the most beautiful car to ever be made and it has certainly stood the test of time with its enduring elegance and indefinable grace.
The DB5's amazing design and pop culture influence caused it to be a big hit commercially, despite its luxury car price tag. Aston Martin released the DB6 and the DB6 Volante shortly afterwards, before continuing on to the Aston Martin DBS, the DB6 MKII and the DBS V8.
Aston Martin changed hands once again and was bought by Company Developments Ltd – this time in much better financial circumstances.
Unfortunately, the new management failed to keep up the highs of the 60s and Aston Martin once again fell into receivership but its reputation ensured plenty of interest in investing the company out of its financial problems.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin released the Aston Martin V8. Built entirely by hand, each car took a painstaking 1,200 man-hours to produce. Aston Martin's fans had been waiting a long time to see a larger, powerhouse of a car, and once they got what they wanted they continued to buy it for the next two decades.
The first car released under the new ownership was perversely a Lagonda, re-launching the marque that Aston had bought many years before.
In a completely unsurprising turn of events, Aston Martin changed hands once again to Victor Gauntlett and Pace Petroleum. This put Aston Martin in a stronger financial position than ever before, with more and more investment being poured into the company.
In 1987, the Ford Motor Company acquired a 75% stake – ensuring that Aston Martin would never have to worry about money again.
That year Aston Martin brought all its expertise and talents together to make the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato. In the same year, the V8 Volante was used in the Bond film, The Living Daylights.
In 1988, Aston introduced the Virage at the NEC international motor show, giving Aston Martin a fresh new sports car to bring them into the 90s.
The 1990s and beyond
The DB series returned with a vengeance with the launch of the DB7, which was in production for the next ten years. This has been the highest production run of any model Aston has ever made – with over 7,000 being driven worldwide.
The Ford Motor Company took full control of Aston Martin in 1993.
Aston Martin's classic DB5, as seen in Goldfinger, returned to the silver screen for Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan.
In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Aston Martin with the Queen's award for export for its contribution to the UK economy and its international reputation for excellence and quality.
In the early 2000s, Aston retired its 5.3-litre V8 engine that had been in production for a solid 30 years.
In 2001, Aston Martin produced the 5,000th DB7, and celebrated this in style with the release of the V12 Vanquish, which was the Bond car in the classic Die Another Day.
Aston finally returned back to the racetrack, where their story effectively began, with the release of the DBR9 in 2005, based on the DB9 road car. Aston Martin also released the DB9 Volante and the V8 Vantage in the same year.
In 2006, Aston Martin celebrated the milestone of producing 30,000 cars.
Let’s think about that: with just 30,000 cars released in almost a century the Aston Martin marque has ensured its focus has been on craftsmanship rather than mass production. As a result its cars have quickly earned classic status.
Aston Martin proves that to influence popular and motoring culture it is quality not quantity that counts.
The rest, as they say, is history repeating itself.
There was the release of the Aston Martin DBS, which featured in Daniel Craig's Bond debut Casino Royale. This was followed by the launch of the V8 Vantage Roadster at the LA motor show, the V12 Vantage and the DBS Volante in quick succession.
In 2012, Aston Martin released its new flagship car, the Vanquish. This grand tourer combined everything that Aston Martin had learnt in design, engineering and cutting edge technology into one supercar, which many claim is the best in its history.
Just as James Bond never dies, he just comes back in a few years as a fitter, shinier model - Aston Martin has shown resilience with a calm style that will resonate through the ages.