The car's name was derived from Martin, himself, and from the Aston Clinton hill climb course where their earlier Singer cars had performed well in competition.
The first Aston Martin production car had to wait until 1919 and was not on sale until 1921. It bore a distinct similarity to the contemporary Bugatti and retained the Coventry Simplex engine. The first Aston Martin was noted for being exceptionally quick; top speed 70 mph, with first class road holding and precise steering.
In 1924 the company passed through the hands of the Charnwood family without any success and by 1926 had been taken up by Bert Bertelli and W.S. Renwick. They produced a new Aston Martin, a two seater with a 1.5 litre single overhead cam four cylinder engine. However, as ever, resources were limited and by 1930 only 30 of the cars had been produced. With a little financial re-organisation in 1928 the new Aston Martin International went into production. An unusual sportscar, because it had four seats and a low, rakish style which immediately became fashionable.
In 1932 Sir Arthur Sutherland bought the company and the International was allowed to flourish. The car became a success in various sportscar races and trials, culminating in a win at Le Mans where Bertelli and Driscoll won the Biennial Cup, after which a two-seater Le Mans was introduced.
In 1934 the Aston Martin Ulster was introduced, effectively a replica of the works racing car, and still considered to be one of the most attractive 1930's type sports cars to go into production. However these cars were much heavier than the contemporary Riley's and MG Magnettes. Only 17 road cars were produced, along with several racing cars.
1936 saw a new 2 litre model with synchromesh transmission, a great advance for the time, and ushered in a new era for Aston Martin. The car won the Leinster Trophy Race of 1938, driven by St John Horsfall, who went on to set the best British performance at Le Mans.
Once again the company struggled, particularly after WWII. In 1947 the industrialist David Brown stepped in to buy the company (he also bought Lagonda, and it's amazing new six cylinder engine) and the new design, now called DB1, went on sale in 1948. The car went on to win The Spa 24 hours race, but few DB1s were ever sold. It was then decided to mate the 2.5 litre Lagonda engine with the DB1's tubular chassis and the DB2 was created, an all-time classic. Its aerodynamic two seater coupe body styled by Frank Feeley, ex Lagonda, and sold for 1915 Pounds, the drophead costing 128 Pounds more! The even more powerful 123 bhp Vantage engine was also made available as an option. Once again there was some success at Le Mans.
In recent years the company has changed hands several times and cars of distinction continue to be made. Perhaps now most associated with James Bond and the lovely DB5, however the Vantage, Virage and Lagonda models should all be briefly mentioned in this thumbnail history.
Having owned Aston Martin for some years Ford sold it in March 2007 for $925 million to founder and chairman of ProDrive, David Richards (who handles Aston Martin motors sports efforts) and to John Sinders, an Aston Martin collector and backer of Aston Martin Racing; and Kuwait-based Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co.