As the sun sank towards the horizon on practice day at the Silverstone Grand Prix, spectators were treated to a record-setting spectacle. One hundred and ten iconic Aston Martins, representing its storied 110-year history, took to the track – and they weren’t hanging about.
The parade was led by two Valkyries, each easily capable of matching the times of the F1 cars lapping earlier in the day. On this occasion, however, drivers of the long line of stunning Aston Martins were more interested in soaking up the applause than setting fast times.
The two Valkyries flanked the new DB12 super tourer, launched earlier this year, and were closely tracked by one of Aston Martin’s DB5 Goldfinger Continuation series (which later delighted spectators by deploying its ‘smokescreen’). The official Aston Martin Vantage FIA Safety Car and DBX707 Medical Car also made the grid, having finished F1 practice session duties earlier.
The bloodline outside the new state-of-the-art Aston Martin Formula One factory
Flying the flag for Aston Martin’s pre-war racers were a 1936 Aston Martin 2-Litre ‘Red Dragon’ and Nick Mason’s LM18, one of the trio of Ulsters entered in the 1935 Le Mans.
Another head-turner was an ultra-rare ex-works 1953 DB3S/5, driven by Roy Salvadori in 1954 as part of an Aston Martin 1,2,3 sweep at Silverstone and subsequently at Goodwood by Stirling Moss. Its pilot, Alastair Gillespie, entered into the spirit of the day by sporting a very ‘50s flat cap rather than a modern racing helmet.
Representing the company’s earliest days, Neil Murray’s 1923 Bamford and Martin side-valve tourer, first sold in November 1923, gamely kept up with the pace around Silverstone’s sweeping curves. Murray had previously owned TT1, nicknamed ‘Green Pea’, which began Aston Martin’s international racing adventures at the 1922 French Grand Prix. Yet his love of the marque was kindled in 1950 by the post-war DB2.
“I was around 13 years old and managed to sneak into the Earls Court Motor Show via a back entrance,” he smiled. “I went first to the Ferrari stand, but it was the DB2 that caught my eye. Unlike the Ferrari’s leaf-sprung rear suspension, the DB2 had coils all round and the Lagonda six-cylinder engine.” That, and its elegant Frank Feeley-designed bodywork began a lifelong allegiance for the young Murray.
Italian coachbuilder Zagato was well represented, its models including a pale blue DB4GT Zagato that started the 50-year association with Aston Martin. Other Zagato specials included a rare Vanquish shooting brake in blazing metallic orange, a DB7 Zagato, V12 Vantage Zagato and a V8 Volante, the quintessential ‘80s grand tourer.
The pre-war Aston Martin Ulster 1.5-litre LM18 owned by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd
Unofficial parc fermé was the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One® Team’s Technology Campus, just a short walk from the circuit. Throughout the day owners and friends strolled, chatted and admired each other’s precious vehicles. The total value of the 110 parade cars would have stretched to tens of millions, yet the talk was of shared values rather than the monetary kind.
”From an early age I made owning an Aston Martin a life goal.“
Typical of the day’s participants was Vantage V8 owner Chris Chandler. “I used to cycle past the factory when I was a kid; I was fascinated by the cars I saw emerging from the workshops. At 21 I popped in just to ask for a brochure. They offered me an interview!” Chris became a marketing assistant in 1985 and has happy memories of his years there, bringing along some of his 80s sales materials to display at the day’s event.
Another owner, Charles Porter, had arrived in his Rapide AMR. “From an early age I made owning an Aston Martin a life goal. I achieved it ahead of schedule…I bought my first Aston Martin at 40.” Charles now owns a V12 DBS and Vantage V12 as well at the Rapide. “I blame the factory tours…every time I do a tour I seem to buy another car.”
After the parade laps, their cars parked, the day’s participants were invited to tour the F1 team’s 400,000 square feet state-of-the-art Technology Campus, where Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll’s Formula One racing machines are developed and crafted. Champagne, soft drinks and canapés by Tom Kerridge set the seal on a day that will never be repeated. Iconic, indeed.