Aston Martin DB4/DB5

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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.

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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

 

 

Citroën 2CV – Rick Stein “Long Weekend”

Rick Stein, the British chef, who’s perhaps best known for his TV shows, cookery books and restaurants in the Cornish coastal village of Padstow – nicknamed “Padstein” due to his impact and success in the town. However, one lesser known and wholly unremarkable fact is that Rick, a descendent of a German brewing dynasty, like me, also used to own a Citroën 2CV.

During his early career he worked at a variety of locations in France and clearly loves the country, the food and the iconic Citroen 2CV.

Last night the BBC re-ran the first episode of his May 2016 series called “Long Weekends” in which Rick visited Bordeaux. As usual, his presentation is excellent, including cut backs to his Cornish home that see him repeat the recipes – the Moules marinière looked great – learned in French regional capital at some fine restaurants including the eponymous “La Entrecôte”. You cannot help but warm to his passion for food with his confession that he believes he is as much an enthusiastic eater as an accomplished chef!

The best supporting role in this engaging film is the mid-blue Citroën 2CV – “hire car” – that hurtles the driver – an initially less confident Rick Stein who struggles to remember the configuration of the challenging umbrella handled gearstick – around the backstreets of Bordeaux. Further afield, after hurtling down country roads, he arrives in the the famed coastal town of Arcachon with its beautiful dunes and beach to sample equally renowned oysters from the shell.

The Citroën 2CV contributes more to this episode of the Long Weekend than could have been imagined buy the production team, its timeless quirkiness, its essential Frenchness combined perfectly with Rick’s egalitarian ‘Man of the People’/simplistic approach.

For those who love these beautiful cars just as much a I do please see our earlier review:https://aestheticons.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/citroen-2cv/

For those who have access to the BBC player service the show can be seen here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b078dj4

For those who may be thinking it might be fun to rent a 2CV in western France I have located – but have not tested – the following:

http://www.tourdecanard.com/en/contact.html

 

 

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Co-Axial

I though I really only loved Rolex Submariners – and possibly their little brother the Black Bay by Tudor (a future Aestheticons review). I was wrong. Aside from feelings of disloyalty I have started to covert the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Co-Axial – shown here.

The story of how I came across this beautiful example of Swiss timepiece perfection is perhaps best left undiscovered but this is without doubt one of the most fabulous examples of this fine lineage of Omega watches that can trace its origins – like the Rolex Submariner  https://wordpress.com/post/aestheticons.wordpress.com/66 – to the early post WW2 period.

The Omega Seamster, a line of automatic winding chronometer watches, have been produced by Omega since 1948. Its close ties with the James Bond film franchise saw a 2012 version of a similar model to the range appear in “Skyfall”.

La Generale Watch Co – later to become Omega – was founded by Louis Brandt in 1848 at La Chaux-de-Fonds, (Switzerland). Early works consisted of assembling key wound pocket watches from locally made componts which were sold in the UK, Italy and Scandinavia.

In 1894, Brandt sons developed an in-house manufacturing, quality and production control process using interchangeable components and the results were the fist watches to be sold using the Omega brand. By 1903 due to its success Omega brand was established as its own company.

Paul-Emile Brandt, the 23 year old grandson of founder, due to the death of his father and uncle in 1903 found himself in charge. His influence on Omega was immense navigating through the post First World War period and economic depression to a highly successful merger with Tissot in 1930.

In 1947, Omega created the first tourbillon wristwatch calibre in the world the 30I.  Unlike conventional Tourbillion movement’s whose cages rotate once per minute, the 30I’s cage rotated one time each seven and a half minutes. In 1949, one of these movements delivered the best results ever recorded by a wristwatch up to that date. These were the movements that were used for the Seamaster.

Through further mergers and integration by the 1970s, the company had become Switzerland’s number one producer of finished watches, outselling Rolex.

Omega suffered in the late 1970’s due to the arrival of quartz movements particularly from Seiko.

A further merger of R&D department of Omega and ASUAG a Swiss movement specialist resulted in a full merger of a holding company ASUAG-SSIH in 1983. The company was acquired in 1985 by a group of private investors and renamed SMH, Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie. In 1998 it became the Swatch Group, which now manufactures Omega and other brands such as Blancpain, Swatch, and Breguet.

In 1999, Omega made history by introducing the first mass-produced watch incorporating the co-axial escapement, invented in 1970 by English watchmaker, George Daniels. The co-axial escapement functions have virtually no lubrication. As a consequence watches containing this function are shown to have longer service intervals and greater accuracy.

My new watch will have a stainless steel 41.5 mm case is presented on a brown leather strap. This certified chronometer is powered by the OMEGA Master Co-Axial calibre 8500 which is resistant to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 gauss and can be seen through the transparent case back.

Image from Omega

Shazam

There are only a few times in business life when you can genuinely say that you were there at – or about – the beginning of a global phenomenon.

In 2000/01 together with a group of colleagues with various depths of experience in media investments I founded a group called the “Music Business Angels” (MBA) -indeed we joked that our MBA business cards would be as near as we’d ever get to putting the initials “MBA” on our business cards!

We had a number of detailed connections in the entertainments and technology sectors and I cannot remember how the meeting came about but we were contacted by the enterprising, Shazam Entertainment Limited, which had been founded in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang, and Dhiraj Mukherjee.

I cannot precisely remember but I think it was either Chris Barton or current CEO, Rich Riley, who came in to see us seeking our assistance to direct them towards various sources geared to making media/technology investments.

The unique points of the Shazam system were explained to us and a rough test demonstrated the underlying science of the solution that Shazam was proposing to the frustrating problem of hearing a track played in a club, not knowing anything about the song and wanting more information. It was recognised buy these far sighted engineers/entrepreneurs that a phone contained the ability to use its handset to “listen” to a track played through a loud speaker.

Remember this is long before we all become overly familiar with apps and at its inception Shazam was a technology that “listened” to the digital form of a recording, analysing the captured sound and matching  it with an acoustic fingerprint – called a “spectrogram” – held in its audio database.

The Shazam service launched in 2002 in the UK only was known as a “2580” phone service, being the short-code that users were required to dial into their phones to get the music recognised. After 30 second of “listening” to the track with the handset being held up to the sound source, the phone would hang up and a text would be received containing the song title and artist name.

In July 2008, Shazam for iPhone 2.0 was launched as a free app that connected with  iTunes allowing tracks to be purchased.

It is possible for Shazam to identify pre-recorded music being broadcast from any source provided always that the background noise level is not too high so as to corrupt the signal being assessed. Once a match is identified it sends back to the user’s smart phone information such as the artist, song title and album title from which the song comes.

The “listening” recognition app is the basic version – with limited monthly free uses. Other iterations have included a premium service allowing unlimited use for a monthly fee and the ability for the Shazam system to sit on the users Mac to detect – without being prompted – and report on screen what is playing in the soundbed of a TV show or commercial.

Staggeringly by October 2016, Shazam announced that its mobile apps had been downloaded more than 1 bn times, and that over 30 bn “Shazams” have been downloaded since launch. Its audio database now contains more than 11 m songs.

My MBA colleagues and I were hugely impressed by the commercial opportunity presented by Shazam. However, stimulating potential funders to commit to this newly developed software proved more difficult. 20/20 hindsight is, of course, a marvellous thing, but the road paved by the likes of the Shazam founding team have made media and tech funding more accessible for today’s entrepreneurs.

Image from Shazam

Porsche 911 Targa

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The Porsche Targa has the distinct characteristic of being is a semi-convertible car body style with a removable roof section and a full width roll bar behind the seats. The term was first used on the 1966 with the launch of the classic Porsche 911 Targa and the name, “Targa”, remains a registered trademark of Porsche AG.

The Porsche 911 coupe first debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963. Designed by Ferry Porsche, the son of the Porsche founder and his cousin, Ferdinand Piech, who developed the air-cooled flat-six engine. Launched as the 901, an objection from Peugeot who claimed naming rights to any three digit configuration with a zero in the middle resulted in Porsche renaming their new car the “911”.

Ferry on the launch of the Targa in 1965 described the car thus – “The Targa is neither a coupe nor a convertible”.

It is said that Porsche got the name, “Targa”, from the Targa Florino, a famous Sicilian road race. In Italian and Castellano, the word “Targa” means “number-plate”.

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The Targa style roof opening became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting from fears that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) may ban convertibles because of safety concerns for the occupants should a car overturn.

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Over the years Porsche designs have varied. In 1996 the Porsche 993 Targa featured a retractable glass roof a design that continued into the 996 and 997 models. The glass roof retracted underneath the rear window revealing a large sky-facing opening. For me, in the earlier models of this style this gives the windscreen an almost too high pitch that affects the overall aesthetics of the car.

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The car received criticism as it was descriebed as a “coupe with a gigantic sun roof” – simply not what Porsche had intended and perhaps too far away from the core of this iconic car?

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With the introduction and production of more recent 911 Targa, including the Type 991, Porsche decided to take the latest Targa in a different direction from that of the previous water-cooled Type 996/997 cars.

Is 2014 car has somewhat returned to its earliest Targa roots by the utilizing of a solid roof panel spanning over the front seats which was mechanized for automated lift-away and storage under the rear glass roof, which itself is mechanized to lift up and out of the way as the roof panel is placed into its stowed position.

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Porsche seem to have decided that life should imitate art having produced a Targa that seems to take some design cues from a rather sophisticated toy from the late 1970’s. When I worked in the Christmas Holidays between University terms, I got myself a job at the now defunct Army & Navy Stores – a department store in Guilford (Surrey UK) in their Toy Department. I worked for a company called Bandai who were the licensees in the UK of the Transformer toy series. Those of you with either long memories or younger kids will know that Transformers were an amazing toy that “transformed” from a car to a Robot – for example – and subsequently has become a very successful film franchise. The range of car Transformers that I was selling – and I did hugely well outselling all other assistants – included a Porsche 911 in grey that transformed into a robot with green eyes. I still have one.

In August 2016 – the 50th Anniversary of its first Targa – Porsche announced an “Etna” blue Porsche Exclusive of the 911 Targa 4S Exclusive Design Edition – a collector’s edition!

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The 2018 version is here – quite possibly one of the most beautiful modern era Porsche Targas made.

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STOP PRESS

Our friends from Class Driver have recently posted the most remarkable film made by the Porsche Club of America about a secretive collection of over 65 Porsche cars dating from the late 1950’s to date each car being not only in pristine condition but all are uniquely painted white.

Enjoy the film here White Porsche Collection 

I defy any Porsche fan can control their passion for these fantastic vehicles – even a beautiful die-cast model should satiate some of the “must have one” moment. I have found the perfect two die-cast models – please click the Amazon link below the image in each case:

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Schuco 450035400 1:18 Scale Porsche 911 S Targa – 1972″ Model Car

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Porsche 911 (991) Targa 4S Metallic Blue 1: 18

You will need a range of various mechanical skills to maintain your 911 – built between 1965 -1989 – but you’ll also need a Haynes Manual – please click the Amazon link below the image

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Porsche 911, 1965-89 Coupe, Targa and Cabriolet Automotive Repair Manual (Haynes Automotive Repair Manuals)

The role of a Porsche in our lives cannot be understated. So celebrate your passion with this colourful T shirt – please click on the Amazon link below the image

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Dressdown Box 964 T 12 Colour Grid – Mens T-Shirt – White – XL

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Image Credit – Porsche AG and the Porsche Club of America with grateful thanks.