Aston Martin: 100 years of sports car excellence
As the centenary year draws to a close, the exclusive band of owners past and present, along with many of the brand’s enthusiasts worldwide can look back on an unrivalled 12 months of activity.
The marque has compiled a digest of its centenary year highlights and is creating a special section on its website: www.astonmartin.com/100 – that acts as a digital store for its centenary memories.
Events to celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday started in London’s Henniker Mews on 15 January 2013. A ceremony was held outside the premises in Chelsea where Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford took the momentous decision to found what was to become one of the world’s most renowned sports car companies. A plaque now hangs at the site of the firm’s first premises in Chelsea.
Just a few days later the centenary focus moved to Dubai where the ultimate GT, the Vanquish, made history by becoming the first car to be airlifted onto the helipad of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. The sports car was placed precisely 1,000ft above the ground, in front of some of the region’s most important dignitaries, media and enthusiasts. The video of that exceptional feat has since gone on to receive more than half a million views on YouTube.
In March, came celebrations in Switzerland as the brand unveiled perhaps the most tangible, and exclusive, of its centenary activities: the Centenary Edition sports cars at the Geneva International Motor Show. Limited to just 100 of each model – Vantage, DB9, Rapide S and Vanquish, these cars feature details carefully created to honour Aston Martin’s 100 years of craftsmanship.
At the Nürburgring 24 Hours in Germany in May, the 200,000-strong crowd of spectators at what is one of the most gruelling races in the world witnessed a number of centenary-themed occasions.
First came the global public debut of the exceptional CC100 Speedster Concept. Created as a stunning celebration of 100 years of sports car excellence, the CC100 looks both to the past and the DBR1 – Aston Martin’s 1959 Le Mans and World Sportscar Championship winning car – and to the future with its teasing glimpses of potential future design direction.
Just ahead of the start of the 41st Nürburgring 24 Hours, a cavalcade of more than 100 Aston Martins took to the infamous road circuit for a celebratory parade lap.
Led by the CC100, the parade comprised cars from the marque’s glittering past and stylish present with numerous VIP drivers and scores of enthusiast owners who had travelled across Europe to take part in the iconic gathering.
Among the 100 models making the 22 km lap were the DB5 used in the James Bond film, Skyfall, a One-77, the 1959 Nürburgring 1000 km-winning DBR1 with its original driver Sir Stirling Moss at the wheel, and a Centenary Edition Vanquish bearing the number plate ‘100 YRS’.
Also in May the focus returned to the UK, and to the historic home of the marque at Newport Pagnell, where Aston Martin Works hosted the Aston Martin Centenary Sale. The annual Bonhams auction of Aston Martin and Lagonda cars, the 14th to be held at Works, celebrated 100 years of the marque and saw the unique Bertone Jet DB4GT achieve a world record price of £3,249,500, the highest price ever paid at auction for an Aston Martin.
June witnessed Aston Martin’s annual pilgrimage to the world’s most famous 24 hour race at Le Mans, with Aston Martin Racing fielding a strong team for the endurance classic.
On Friday prior to the race, members of the Aston Martin Owners Club from around the world journeyed to the Hotel de France in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, their traditional pre-event meeting spot and home to numerous Aston Martin racers over the years including the race-winning team of 1959. On race day itself a selection of rare and historic Aston Martin sports cars from across the years paraded around the circuit ahead of the start in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators.
It was back to the track in July as the Aston Martin Centenary Festival brought race cars ranging from classics such as the DB4 Lightweight up to the DBR9 and the latest Vantage GT3 onto the Brands Hatch GP circuit. In the same month the brand took the starring role at the Silverstone Classic, a long-weekend of amazing motorsport memories billed as “the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival”.
Meanwhile, the exceptional CC100 Speedster Concept was running demonstration laps throughout the quintessentially British Goodwood Festival of Speed. The 6.0-litre V12-powered concept car made its UK dynamic debut in West Sussex as a special centenary treat for the fans of the famous event.
Completing the British brand’s participation at Goodwood was Aston Martin Racing’s World Endurance Championship car – the Vantage GTE – piloted by AMR Works drivers, Darren Turner and Bruno Senna.
July also witnessed what was, perhaps, the highest profile activity in its centenary year with a public celebration in Kensington Palace Gardens, London.
The ambitious event, jointly organised by Aston Martin, the Aston Martin Owners Club and the Aston Martin Heritage Trust – and staged in partnership with The Royal Parks and The Royal Household – saw rare and historic cars exhibited, together worth more than £1 billion.
A Centenary Timeline display took visitors to the event on a 100-year journey from the origins of the marque in Henniker Mews, Chelsea, to the current global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Every iconic Aston Martin road car was represented from ‘A3’, the oldest surviving car, to the most current models.
A Centenary Selection display comprised a diverse collection of cars rarely seen outside private collections including a brace of bespoke Zagatos and the trio of Bertone Jets. Aston Martin’s 50-year ‘love affair’ with James Bond was celebrated in fine style as seven of the movie cars were on display, including the iconic DB5 from Skyfall.
Aston Martin owners from across Europe got their chance to participate in the centenary festivities by joining an epic 1,000-mile rally. Travelling through seven countries in just five days the route took in some of the most scenic drives in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France before arriving at July's Aston Martin centenary celebrations in London.
July also saw a special Centenary Week of activities at the brand’s global headquarters in Gaydon. Conceived for owners and enthusiasts to be involved as never before, events included factory visits, design master classes, exhibitions and an unprecedented “Dine on the Line” pop-up restaurant delivering Michelin star-standard cuisine at the very heart of the production line.
In August, the brand’s American fans had their chance to witness centenary celebrations at the 2013 Pebble Beach Automotive Week, where Aston Martin had the honour of being a featured marque.
CC100 made its North American debut and shared the limelight in California with two of Aston Martin’s newest models – the extreme V12 Vantage S and luxurious Vanquish Volante.
Also that month, the brand’s Chinese dealers offered their own take on 100 years of sports car success. China’s first Aston Martin rally set off for Hong Kong from the marque’s impressive showroom in Pudong, Shanghai.
Participants travelled through nine cities over the course of nine days finishing in Hong Kong with a dramatic closing ceremony held with the amazing view of Victoria Harbour as its backdrop.
Into September, and the centenary focus once again turned to Europe, with the eyes of the automotive world on the Frankfurt Motor Show. Aston Martin chose to emphasise both the historic, and the modern, with the DBR1-inspired CC100 Speedster Concept sitting alongside examples of the Vanquish Volante and V12 Vantage S in Germany.
Meanwhile, back in Britain and back on the track, the marque was stealing the show at the Goodwood Revival where the Aston Martin Project 212 car was driven to victory in the Revival’s blue riband event, the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy Celebration race.
In November Aston Martin was once again in the news, this time courtesy of its place at the historic pageant, the Lord Mayor’s Show. No fewer than six of the brand’s sports cars – including a unique Vanquish dressed in the livery of the British Government’s ‘GREAT’ campaign – made their way through the city’s streets as tens of thousands of admiring spectators looked on.
Aston Martin’s centenary artist-in-residence, James Hart Dyke, encapsulated the spirit of the centenary by unveiling the exceptional works he created over the course of the year to record the celebrations for posterity.
Hart Dyke’s works were previewed by luminaries from the world of art in W-One, the exclusive Aston Martin brand centre in London’s Mayfair.
Of course there have been a myriad of other celebration activities around the world during 2013 as owners, enthusiasts and dealer partners have taken every opportunity to display their affection for this great British luxury sports car maker.
Summarising the highlights, Aston Martin Global Brand Communications Director, Janette Green, said: “Condensing 100 years of achievement into 12 months of celebration brought many planning and logistical challenges as we organised a multitude of events and activities around the globe. However as the centenary year draws to a close everyone associated with the brand can reflect proudly on the fun, commitment and passion displayed by Aston Martin staff, owners and enthusiasts worldwide.
The Aston Martin Yearbook includes exclusive content of some of the most iconic Aston Martins from the past 100 years, as well as full pictorial coverage of the celebrations throughout 2013. The centenary souvenir is available to order at www.astonmartinyearbook.com