“A very British sense of understatement.” According to Martin Groschwald, president of The Astonishing Drivers Club – Germany’s largest Aston Martin owners’ club – this is the quality that he and his compatriots most admire in their favourite marque of car.
“There are very few car brands in history which have such a feeling of understatement,” he adds. “If you talk to the club members, they say this is what they love most about the Aston Martin. It’s not a big, loud car. That’s not what the brand is all about. It represents Britain in its purest, most respected form.”
Martin is leading his club’s latest road trip, a four-day drive around the UK, visiting Oxford, Bath, the Cotswolds, as well as Aston Martin’s headquarters in Warwickshire, its classic car centre in Buckinghamshire, and its heritage museum in Oxfordshire.
A total of 33 members have made the trip across from Germany, in 19 different Astons, including a DB7 Vantage Volante, a DB9, several V12 Vantages, a DBS Superleggera, a Vanquish S, a V8 Volante, a V8 Vantage, a DBX and a DB11. Martin himself is driving his 1961 DB4.
The club originally started via an online forum for Aston Martin enthusiasts all over Germany. Its official launch was just nine months ago, although Martin and some of the initial members have been meeting on and off for the last four years. Already there are close to 100 members.
Their first road trip was to the Dolomites, in Italy, in 2021, an outing so successful that several others soon followed: the Swiss Alps, the Austrian Alps, and the Route des Grandes Alpes, from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean.
Now the club organises two to three longer road trips a year, plus several day trips. Their latest is the first time they have visited the UK.
“The whole idea of the club is to drive the cars, not celebrate them in terms of objects,” Martin explains. “When people join, we say: ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a new Aston or an old one, you just need to be able to drive the car.’”
For logistical reasons, the number of cars invited on each trip is limited to around 20, and Martin tends to split this up into smaller groups, depending on how fast members prefer to drive.
Martin describes the thrill he and fellow club members experience when cruising through some of the more dramatic scenery: “In the Dolomites, when you see 20 Astons coming your way, it’s really impressive. Or when we went to the Furka Pass, in the Swiss Alps, which is so famous for the James Bond scene [from Goldfinger], that’s a really bold statement.”
Any Aston Martin driver is welcome to join the club, whatever model they own. Although the majority of current members are German, it’s open to all nationalities.
The age range of members is varied too, the youngest member 24 and the oldest 68. “It’s all about the passion and the enthusiasm,” Martin says.
One of the more enthusiastic members is Peter Hornik. This 64-year-old, who works in construction and restoration, and lives in Munich, purchased his first Aston Martin, a second-hand V8 Volante, in 1991. Since then, he has owned several more, including a Cygnet, a DB Mark III, a Vanquish S and a Vantage V12. He currently owns five Astons in all.
“When I was a student, I was always in the showroom at the Aston Martin dealer in Munich. My favourite then was the V8. I looked at the price and thought I could never afford it. But later it was my first used car.”
Peter, who also owns a Jensen-Healey, a Land Rover and a Mini Cooper, admits it’s unusual for a German to own so many British cars.
“It’s difficult to explain,” he says. “I fell in love with Aston Martins. The decision was made by my heart, not by my brain.”
Another very enthusiastic club member is Frank Schmid, a property agent, from Stuttgart, who has collected the marque since the early 1980s. His current set of wheels is a 2021 DBS.
“French food, Italian girls, English cars,” he says when asked why he has such a love for the brand. “Every one of them is beautiful, even the cheapest ones. They have character and, in Germany, you don’t offend people when you drive them. People say, ‘Nice car’. But if you drive a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, people have a problem.”
Martin and the other club members always have an eye on future road trips. For 2024, the Champagne region of France and the Swiss Alps have been planned. Beyond that, they might head off to Scotland, for the famous North Coast 500, around the Highlands; then Norway, the Czech Republic and possibly Romania.
Martin points out how some of these could be very long road trips indeed. “But that’s okay,” he adds. “We all love driving so much. Nobody in our club is scared of driving 200, 300 miles a day.”
Images by Sergej Falk