1947 was an odd year for the rebirth of any small automobile company
in England; in the troubled postwar economy, even some of Britain's oldest
and most established car companies were struggling to survive. Bankrupt
and in receivership, a tiny Buckinghamshire sports car producer named Aston
Martin caught the eye of wealthy industrialist David Brown and largely based
on his love of fast cars and Aston's past competition and engineering prowess,
he purchased the little company and added it to his manufacturing empire.
Better known for mass-producing gears and agricultural tractors, the Huddersfield-based
David Brown Group bought another defunct automobile company one year later
and, combined, the resulting new division became Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd.
For the 25 years he owned Aston Martin Lagonda, Sir David Brown was responsible
for the company's resurrection and many triumphs due to his intimate involvement
in its direction, operation and participation in competition. The cars that
bore the initials of their benefactor represent the lasting essence of what
was Aston Martin's golden age.
was such a thing as the DB1, the first Aston Martin to be fully realized
auspices of David Brown was the DB2. Fitted
with a W. O. Bentley designed six-cylinder engine acquired through his purchase
of the Lagonda works and constantly improved throughout its long production
life, the DB2 and the variants which evolved from it epitomized the concept
of a "gentleman's express" to a degree never equaled by its rather
staid and home-grown competitors.
As one of Britain's crowning automotive stars, Lesney opted to add a
very accurate model of the DB2 to its 1-75 lineup and over the years offered
in only two colors (which were both very true to the prototype) and a few
different wheel variations. As is appropriate for its subject, this model
set a precedent for accuracy in miniature Aston Martins which has happily
been upheld by most other manufacturers.
It must be noted the the late 1950's was one of the best times for Aston
Martin's racing activities. Beginning with the DB2R, Aston Martin attacked
GT car racing and Le Mans in particular. In 1959, the beautiful Aston Martin
DBR1 was the overall winner at Le Mans. It is a shame that no examples of
these GT racing models have been done in small-scale. Following their success
at Le Mans, Aston Martin shifted their racing focus to Formula 1. They were
not successful against the new mid-engine F1 cars however, Matchbox did
produce this short lived open-wheel racer. It makes a nice companion piece
to the 1961 Ferrari 156 by Matchbox that won the Championship for Phil Hill.
the DB4, Aston Martins for several years wore two small chromed-script badges
side of their bonnets that said "Superleggera".
With its coachwork designed by Touring, the term was Italian for "super
light", and referred to the car's combination of a lightweight tubular
chassis clothed in hand-formed aluminum body panels. The DB4 also came as
the DB4GT with more power and less weight. The design house of Zagato went
one step farther with the magnificent DB4GT Zagato. This is considered by
many as the most beautiful Aston Martin and perhaps the best design ever
from the house of Zagato as well. Project 215 was a racing version of the
DB4 that could have challenged the Ferrari 250 GT0. The stylish fastback
racer was unfortunately still-born but survives today on the vintage racing
circuit. It is criminal that none of these DB4 variations exist in 1:64
scale. The DB4GT Zagato would be a very popular choice from a company like
Johnny Lightning or in a Hot Wheels collector edition.
While the DB4 certainly received notice in automotive circles by being one
of the fastest production cars in the world for several years, it was not
until the arrival of its successor, the stunning DB5, that Aston Martin
would truly become a household name. Selected to star as James Bond's gadget-equipped
service car in the film "Goldfinger", a 1964 Aston Martin bearing
the British registration of BMT 216A became perhaps the single most recognizable
car in the world. Quick to seize a, pardon the pun, golden opportunity,
Corgi released one of the most complicated and popular diecast toys ever
in with its 1:46 version of James Bond's Aston. Surprisingly, no one ever
offered a model of this famous car in 1:64 scale; now, after a 34 year absence,
Johnny Lightning has issued a well-proportioned miniature of this most handsome
of cars. A well-shaped casting that is clearly modeled after the Bond car,
JL unfortunately chose to equip its DB5 with mag-style wheels rather than
a more appropriate wheel design that would appear more like the original
Dunlop chromed wires.
As the culmination
of its series of "Superleggera" cars, Aston
Martin introduced the somewhat controversial DB6, which, unlike its predecessors,
had interior space for four adult passengers and, consequently, a larger
overall profile and a heavier curb weight. While criticized upon its debut
for being more of a gran turismo than pure sports car, the DB6 was still
an elegant and refined piece of automotive art that could trace its thoroughbred
lineage from the DB4 and DB5 more easily than the automotive press would
have its audience believe. At Corgi, the DB6 must have been a favorite:
their standard 1:64 scale model was produced for years in a confusing array
variations. However, no one complained since this casting is one of Corgi's
best ever and it is probably one of the most accurate 1:64 scale models
of a car ever produced by anyone, anywhere.
Despite the fact that Agent 007 never drove a DB6 in any of his cinematic
escapades, Corgi apparently believed that no one would notice and preceded
to rework its pre-existing model of the car into an incredibly complicated
ejector-seat equipped miniature. While this model has largely lived in the
shadow cast by its bigger sibling, it should be noted that installing such
an intricate, working feature into such a small package was no less of an
accomplishment for the Corgi engineers than their work on the original 1:45
scale James Bond DB5. Perhaps the triumph of this novel little model was
recognized and honored by a production period that spanned the better part
of two decades. As a direct consequence of its long life, the model underwent
a baseplate wording change from Husky to Corgi Juniors at the beginning
of the 1970s as well as multiple wheel variations that can make assembling
a collection of these models quite a challenge.
In 1970, Corgi
once again offered a miniature of Newport Pagnell's latest model with the
of a 1:64 scale DBS in the Corgi Juniors range.
A scarce model produced for a very short period, the DBS was an early member
of the "Whizzwheels" range, and, like its brethren, was painted
in the uncharacteristically (at least for Aston Martin) loud color of lime
green and equipped with an opening matte black bonnet. Somehow, however,
the "Whizzwheels" look correct for the model and it is difficult
to imagine it with one of the earlier Husky wheel styles. As with many other
contemporary Juniors, the DBS was also offered in the "Corgi Rockets" line-up
with a Hot Wheels look-alike vacuumized finish and a unique removable chassis.
As with the regular Juniors issue, the Rockets version also had
a short production life and today is probably an even rarer find.
to note is that the DBS was the last Aston Martin employed by James Bond
for a number
of years; a metallic brown DBS is seen throughout "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and a very brief glimpse of
a red DBS-V8 can be caught in Q's laboratory in 1971's "Diamonds Are
Forever". After "Diamonds", Roger Moore assumed the superspy's
role and during his tenure as Bond, 007 was usually assigned a Lotus Esprit
as his "company car". Strangely, Corgi never offered a "James
Bond" version of the DBS even though it offered a wide selection of
other cars and vehicles used in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
To keep pace with the competition it faced from Italy (Ferrari, Lamborghini
and Maserati) and home (Jaguar, Jensen and Bristol), Aston's engineers commenced
work on the development of a new and more powerful V8 engine to replace
the classic in-line six that had served so well for so many years. Yet prior
to placing its new engine into production cars, Aston fully proved its new
V8 engine via competition by supplying the power plant to Lola for use in
their domineering racing machines. This car, known as the Lola Aston Martin
T70, went on to became the subject of a rare Aston Martin miniature by the
Italian firm of Polistil (Politoys).
By 1972, Sir David Brown had lost control of his industrial empire and
a board of directors intent of cutting losses quickly sold off Aston Martin
and by 1975 the company found itself in receivership once again. It looked
as if this was truly the end for Prince Charles' favorite automobile maker,
though fortunately, a group of investors came to rescue Aston Martin and
production of new cars was resumed within a year.
In 1987, after
a far too long 16-year hiatus, Aston Martin was restored to a celluloid role
when a gadget-laden V8 Vantage was selected
to support James Bond in "The Living Daylights". This time, however,
there were no corresponding Corgi models and it was not until Johnny Lightning's
issue late this year that this particular car would be depicted in miniature.
A flawed design that fails to capture the graceful lines of the original,
it is cast with solid, silver-painted quarter lights and fitted with gaudy
mag-style wheels. Nevertheless, the model is a rare treat for Aston fans
and, at least, better than nothing. JL has also offered a second version
of the AMV8 in white with better wheels and rubber tires.
In the 1980's, Aston Martin again made an effort to return to GT racing.
A Group C AMR1 was produced and showed some potential. Lack of financial
support limited the chance for success and Ford later killed the program.
Fortunately, Guisval of Spain produced a very nice example of the AMR1.
It includes accurate racing graphics and correct sponsors.