Last week I asked what famous racing driver was married to
Charly? Clue: He was faster in the wet at the 1929 Tourist Trophy than all other
drivers in the dry. The answer was one of the all-time greats in motor racing,
Rudolf Caracciola. His wife was called “Charly”, not “Charlie”.
So to this week. I’ve asked this one before, but nobody got
it right. Where did the name Aston Martin come from?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you buy this company?
For sale, small car manufacturing business. Has only had 13
changes of ownership. Most of these because of bankruptcy, insolvency or
perpetual loss-making. Doesn’t sound like a sound investment? I would have to
agree, but as you read above, FoMoCo got paid $848 million for Aston Martin.
This deal did not see AM returning to British hands either, no matter what you
read. The money (and that’s the important part) came from Kuwait and Egypt.
Here’s how AM has done financially since 1913. In 1920 it had to be propped
up with funds from Count Louis Zborowski. In 1924 the company went bankrupt and
was bought by Lady Charnwood, who put her son John Benson on the board. In 1925,
it failed again and the factory closed in 1926, with founder Lionel Martin
leaving. Later that year, a number of rich investors, including Lady Charnwood,
took control of the company and renamed it Aston Martin Motors. In 1932,
financial problems reappeared and the company was rescued by L. Prideaux Brune
who funded it for the following year before passing the company on to Sir Arthur
Sutherland. During the war years aircraft components were made, and then in
1947, David Brown Limited bought the company under the leadership of managing
director Sir David Brown. David Brown also acquired Lagonda that year, and both
companies shared resources and workshops. Students of trivia will note that the
number plate on press photographs of Aston Martins is AML (Aston Martin
Lagonda). In 1972, it was sold to a Birmingham-based consortium, owned by
William Willson, (MBE), and resold in 1975 to North American businessmen Peter
Sprague and George Minden. The Americans sold the company to CH Industrial, who
themselves turned the company over in 1983 to Automotive Investments who, in
1984 sold the company to Peter Livanos and company chairman Victor Gauntlett. In
1987, the Ford Motor Company purchased 75 percent of the company, later gaining
full ownership in 1993, after buying Victor Gauntlett’s shares and placing it in
the Premier Automotive Group. Now, in 2007, Aston Martin is effectively owned by
Middle East Kuwaiti investments. Lionel Martin would probably be more than
faintly amused. His company name still exists, but at what total cost?
Aston Martin under the hammer
Ford Motor Co. sold the Aston Martin luxury sports car brand
to a consortium of investors in a deal valued at $925 million (479 million
Aston Martin Vantage
However, Ford is keeping a share of Aston Martin valued at
$77 million (40 million pounds) and will hold a separate class of stock in the
independent company. Ford will get $848 million from the sale.
The investors are led by David Richards, chairman of
Prodrive, a U.K. auto engineering and motor sports company, the man who was also
the guiding force behind BAR Honda F1, until there was a fall-out between them.
The investor group includes Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co, both of
Kuwait, and an investment bank from Egypt.
Richards said he would be actively involved in the running of
Aston Martin, which will not be connected with Prodrive.
Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez will run the company for another
five years. “There will be no change of direction in the future,” Bez told
reporters. “We are aiming to become the No. 1 prestige car company in the
Bez said Aston Martin was a cottage industry when he became
CEO in 2000 and built only 800 cars that year. Last year, Aston Martin built
7,010 cars. Aston Martin launched its latest sports car, a convertible version
of its V8 Vantage, on March 13. Bez also said Aston Martin had increased its
world dealer numbers to 125 from 60 last year.
Ford will continue to supply engines for Aston Martin from
its plant in Cologne, Germany.
Richards said his new Formula One racing team will not be
branded Aston Martin but Prodrive will continue to support Aston Martin’s sports
car racing activities.
Fisker Coachbuild brings back the art of the ‘carossiers’
In the good old days of motor cars, you ordered your chassis
and power train from the manufacturer, and then went to a specialized
‘carossier’ for the body. I have driven a 1951 Ferrari 195 Inter, whose body was
fabricated by Ghia-Aigle in Switzerland, hand beaten from aluminium sheet over
specially sawn off tree stumps. This shows extremely high levels of
craftsmanship, and spectacularly low levels of technology!
Fifty-four years later, Henrik Fisker and Bernard Koehler,
two former colleagues at BMW, have founded Fisker Coachbuild, LLC to recreate
those golden days, but this time applying the latest Hi-Tech manufacturing
methods, rather than hammers and tree trunks.
However, it still will require a leap of faith by the
purchasing public, though if the interest shown at the recent Frankfurt Motor
Show is anything to go by, the leap will not be too high, provided your wallet
is thick enough to allow for a cushioned landing. Fisker Coachbuild presented
the Latigo CS coupe and Tramonto roadster, both dramatically styled vehicles,
based upon the 6-Series BMW and the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG respectively, for
which prospective owners in the US will have to be prepared to pay close to
quarter of a million US dollars. A hefty impost over the cost of the ‘run of the
mill’ models at $70,000 and $123,000.
Fisker Coachbuild has gone to great pains to divorce
themselves from the add-on aftermarket. There are plenty of parts already
available that allow a 6-Series or an SL owner to customize their vehicle, but
Fisker’s focus on hand-finishing makes it clear these aren’t a bunch of
aftermarket bolt-ons. “We know we have to be leaner, faster, and higher quality
than anyone else. Otherwise, we don’t have a place in this business,” Fisker
To start with, Fisker Coachbuild makes extensive use of
digital design and engineering software. In particular, Fisker says that his
firm has come up with technology that makes the development process incredibly
fast. On average, he believes the firm will be able to go from concept to
production in just seven months.
Though Fisker likens the company to a classic carrosier, there are some
distinct differences. Most notably, they are not producing one-off designs. They
intend to build limited batches, typically no more than 150 of any particular
design, with the goal to roll out two new designs annually, and produce each
product for no more than a year. And they are not using tree stumps!
If you really want to spend money!
Received an email from Galal Ebrahim of Alain es-motors,
www.es-motors.com in Dubai, offering me some secondhand bargains in the supercar
bracket. Here you are, and if you buy one, a small kick-back under the table
would be appreciated.
Maybach 62, 2005 model with everything that opens and shuts,
Export price: euro 385,000 (that’s almost 17 million baht on a straight
exchange, and then there’s the small matter of import duty…)
Porsche Carrera GT 2006 model. Tachometer: 4000 km, sales
price: euro 279,000. Plus another Porsche Carrera GT 2006 model. Tachometer:
3500 km, sales price: euro 317,000.
If Sir would like something completely different, then there
is a Pagani Zonda F Coupe Clubsport 7.3, 2006 model with 650 km on the tacho for
a mere euro 465,000, and another one with everything and 900 km on the clock for
But if you are after the ultimate buzz, there’s a couple of
Bugatti Veyrons, one with 600 km and the other with delivery mileage only. 1.2
million euro for the used one and 1.3 million euro for the new one.
I would imagine that they don’t appreciate tyre kickers!