What connects my pal Russell – an Apostle lookalike – with one of the most successful film franchises in the history of film making and one of the most beautiful and iconic car brands? The answers are, of course, James Bond and the Aston Martin.
On 9th January 1965 “Goldfinger” featuring the silver-birch Aston Martin DB5 (registration BMT 216A) was launched in US cinemas.
In the late 1980’s Russell discovered in the shed of a Sussex farmhouse a trophy but unloved Aston Martin DB4, a convertible version, designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera of Milan. The Superleggera system consists of a structure of small diameter and lightweight tubes that form the shape of the car’s body over which thin alloy panels are attached to cover and strengthen the framework.
Russell lovingly restored this beauty with a light magnolia/blue piping hide interior, and amazing metallic blue paint-job. A bunch of mates posed endlessly in her on London’s Kings Road. Truthfully this was on the cusp of an era when classic cars became assets and their values shot up. He tells the story of turning down an great offer from “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, who was living in Fulham, and really wanted to buy the car.
The Aston Martin story dates back to 1914, are year after Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin founded their company and chose to re-name their car business (founded in Henniker Mews, London SW3) with a name based on a combination of Lionel’s surname and a celebration of his success at the hill climb trials at Aston Clinton (Buckinghamshire, UK).
By 1947 both founders had left the business and David Brown bought the business for £20,500. His initials were used to establish the “DB” brand with DBR1 competing at the Le Mans 24 hours in 1959.
The DB4 went into production in 1958 – at Aston Martin’s new facility in Newport Pagnell – until 1963. The DB5 went into production – also designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera – in 1963 and was launched in 1964.
In another starring role, Michael Caine’s character “Charlie Croker” in 1969 film “The Italian Job” is seen sitting at the wheel of a silver Aston Martin DB4 convertible – virtually identical to Russell’s – which had been stored in a car park whilst ex-convict Croker had been away “shooting tigers in India”. The same car appears to be thrown off the cliff by a Mafia bulldozer but, thankfully, a fake was used. Amusingly, at the time of making “The Italian Job”, Mr Caine hadn’t yet learned to drive and apart from the scene in the car park at no point in the movie is he shown driving.
The Ford Motor Company acquired 100% ownership of Aston Martin in 1994 and sold it in 2007 for a reported $848m to a consortium of investment bankers, Kuwaiti investment companies and both Ford and Mercedes Benz retained small percentages.
Images by Car and Aston Martin