SEPTEMBER 1, 2006
Aston Martin up for sale
Aston Martin, one of the great British automotive brands, has been put up for sale by the Ford Motor Company. The company has been controlled by the Detroit giant since 1987. Aston Martin has been profitable for the last couple of years and thus is more attractive to buyers than the struggling Jaguar, although the latter may also be sold in the months ahead as Ford tries to balance its books.
Aston Martin sold 4500 cars last year which puts it on a par with Ferrari. The company has a sporty image but has not invested anything like the same in the sport as Ferrari, mainly because the money has not been available. The sporting tradition goes back to the very beginning of the firm in 1913 when car dealers Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin decided to build their own cars and fitted a Coventry Simplex engine into an Isotta Fraschini chassis, calling their creation an Aston Martin, the Aston tag coming from a famous hillclimb up the Chiltern hills near the village of Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire. They found support from Count Louis Zborowski, a wealthy British-based racing driver and in 1922 the company began entering races, taking a team to the Grand Prix de l'ACF in Strasbourg. After Zborowski was killed in 1924 the company ran into trouble and went out of business, to be revived by Augustus Bertelli who kept the firm going until it was sold to R G Sutherland in 1932.
It was only after the Second World War that Aston Martin's reputation really began to flourish, following the purchase of the business by David Brown and the merger with Lagonda that followed. The company entered and won the Spa 24 Hours in 1948 and throughout the 1950s Aston Martin would battle for victory at Le Mans, although that was not achieved until 1959 when the firm scored a dominant 1-2. That year Brown decided to enter Grand Prix racing but the car was front-engined and was obsolete when it appeared. The cars were redesigned for 1960 but performance did not improve much and the team left F1 at the end of 1961.
Aston Martin struggled in the 1970s and had several owners in the course of the next 15 years and while there were several sports car programmes, the company steered cleared on the F1 world.
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