Although England-based Aston Martin is commonly associated with James Bond, its illustrious heritage stretches far beyond the silver screen. It was founded in London in 1913, and it started racing decades before Ian Fleming created James Bond. From an open-top racer to a gasoline-electric hypercar, here are the company’s greatest models.
The Ulster wasn’t the first Aston Martin, but it was the car that established Aston’s performance reputation. It was a replica of the race car that won the 1934 Ulster Tourist Trophy, hence its name. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine developed 85 horsepower and propelled the Ulster to a claimed top speed of 100mph — heady stuff for the time.
In addition to being one of the most gorgeous cars ever produced, the DBR1 gave Aston its one and only 24 Hours of Le Mans win. In 1959, Carroll Shelby (later of Shelby Cobra fame) and Roy Salvadori drove a DBR1 to victory in the famous French race. Despite trying hard, Aston hasn’t won since, though it has won first in class a few times.
Bond. James Bond. What else do you have to say? The DB5 is inextricably linked with 007. When Sean Connery took the wheel of a DB5 in Goldfinger, he turned Aston Martin into a household name. The DB5 itself was more an evolution of the previous DB4 than a completely new model, but its celebrity status makes it the most iconic Aston by far. It’s so sought-after that Aston Martin decided to make a replica of the car, complete with Bond’s gadgets.
The original V8 Vantage was Aston’s attempt at making a supercar out of a tired model that had been on sale for years. In 1977, the company took the AM V8 and boosted its output to 375hp (later 405hp). The result was a car that could hit 170mph, an impressive figure for the time. The V8 Vantage also ended up in the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, and it’s a favorite of former Aston CEO Andy Palmer, who owns a 1980 model.
The DB7 is arguably the car that saved Aston Martin in the early 1990s. It ushered in an attractive design language that defined the firm’s cars for over 20 years, and a 5.9-liter V12 engine that is only now going out of production. All of this was choreographed by Ford, which owned Aston and Jaguar at the time, and used the latter’s engineering resources to help complete the DB7. Without it, Aston may have been consigned to the history book.