Monday, 23 May 2011
Aston Martin power point
Aston I tested in 2007, photographed Isle of Bute
There seems no point in bigger engines in bigger cars, which do 200mph, or would if there was anyplace to do it and anybody brave enough to try. I’ve managed 185 (electrically timed) on a test track and I can not think of a road where I would care to. Neil Lyndon, articulate as ever in The Sunday Telegraph, admits to being enamoured with Aston Martin for 50 years, but says it, “…must be rather like being a fan of Manchester City. Occasional eruptions of fervently inventive world-beating creativity interspersed with ages of miserable underachievement.”
Prompted by the Duke of Cambridge’s appearance in the Prince of Wales’s DB6, Lyndon ruminates on a make Ford acquired in 1994. “It seemed (Aston’s) ship had finally come in. At last it was in the care of indulgent patrons who wanted exactly what all Aston lovers longed for. Ford built a factory at Gaydon the equal of Ferrari’s at Modena They seconded top designers, wrote them a blank cheque and said they were to achieve nothing less than their best work.”
Beautiful proportions, the DB7, even though cobbled from Jaguar parts.
Ford backed away, leaving Aston looking for new backers but, “Cars in the last four years have, at bottom, been variants on existing models. The Virage Coupé is a kind of genetic extrusion from the DB9, which appeared in 2004 and was a rethink of the DB7 of 1994.” It’s all too true. Like Lamborghinis, Astons have become bigger, more powerful, more complicated, faster, and more expensive. At £160,000 they begin to look faintly absurd. Owners no longer appear macho or even sportif so much as profligate. It’s even worse with Bugattis.
The traditional Aston radiator shape has been preserved - just.Aston’s 6 litres and 500 horse power is fine for a toy you use on a track day, or even real racing, yet it is excessive for a road car.
They should get back to high-efficiency smaller cars, exquisitely engineered. There were great 2 litre Aston Martins.
There was a memorable 1750cc Alfa Romeo of the 1930s, of watch-making precision that made fierce mechanical noise. Ferrari’s first masterpiece was a 2 litre V12. The DB 2 Aston was a modest 6-cylinder of 2½ litres designed by WO Bentley. The DB4 of 1958 was 3.7 litres. Jim Clark’s DB4GT Zagato, of cherished memory, had 314 horse power. In 1969 the DBSV8 was 5.3 litres.
Aston Martin DB2/4, engine design by WO Bentley
There is a hint of desperation among supercar manufacturers, announcing ever more extravagant cars at ever more ridiculous prices. Jaguar has said it will sell 250 CX-75s in 2012 at £700,000. Its engineers’ flights of fancy were once D-types, which won Le Mans. Now, it seems, they are just flights of fancy.
Borrowed plumes. The late Victor Gauntlett, who owned the company, lent me his personal DB2/4 for the RAC Golden Fifty Rally.