10 Aston Martins You Simply Can't Live Without

Aston Martin had a big birthday recently, so what better excuse to pick our top 10 favourite Astons ever?

Remind me later
Aston Martin DB5 You might have missed it if you’ve been living under a local boulder for the last six months or so, but just in case you have, Aston Martin is celebrating its centenary this year. That’s right - it’s been 100 years since Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford joined forces to form Bamford & Martin, selling Singer cars from a little showroom in London. It wasn’t long before they were producing their own cars for Martin to race at Aston Hill – and the Aston Martin racing special was born. Read about Aston's new partnership with AMG. Neither Bamford nor Martin could have known back then that, a hundred years down the line, their company would still be going strong. And what’s more, that its name would have become synonymous with some of the most beautiful, evocative and lusted-after sports cars in the world. We reckon they’d be proud. And casting an eye down the serried ranks of Astons gathered at this week’s centennial celebration in Kensington Gardens, it’s easy to see why picking our ten favourite road cars from Aston’s rich history isn’t an easy task. But we’re not afraid of a challenge – so we’ve done just that for you. Gawp, want, and maybe even drool a little – but most of all, enjoy.

1. 2-Litre Sports (aka DB1)

Aston Martin DB1 Source: turbo.fr
The first car to be produced after Sir David Brown took over the company in 1947, having spotted it for sale in a classified advert in The Times, was officially called the 2-Litre Sports, although enthusiasts today know it as the DB1. A two-seat roadster body clothed the 2.0-litre engine developed by Sir Claude Hill for the earlier Atom concept car, whose triangular grille was refined to the shouldered trapezium shape we know and love today. Only 16 examples were built before the model was superseded by the DB2; nevertheless, this was the first of the DB cars, and as such, it laid the foundation for Aston Martins as we know them today.

2. DB4 GT Zagato

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Source: extravaganzi.com
Widely touted as the most desirable classic Aston ever, the Zagato was based on the DB4 GT, though it featured an uprated version of that car’s 3.7-litre straight-six. Power, therefore, was up to 316bhp, giving a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds – lightning fast in 1960, when the Zagato was unveiled. Astonishing to think that 25 cars were planned, but the factory only made 20 due to low demand – the last two had to be sold off cheaply to HWM, the Aston Martin dealer – yet today, the DB4 GT Zagato is reckoned to be worth in excess of £1 million.

3. DB5

Aston Martin DB5 Source: kootation.com
The DB5 needs very little introduction. It’s the car that made Aston Martin famous, thanks to an association with a rather suave chap who went by the name of Bond. But it almost wasn’t to be – legendary Bond producer Cubby Broccoli supposedly wanted a Jaguar E-Type for his first Bond film, Dr No, but with Jaguar struggling to make enough E-Types to satisfy demand, it’s said that Sir William Lyons told him that wasn’t going to be possible. So apparently Broccoli phoned Aston Martin, one of Jaguar’s chief rivals, and they were only too happy to oblige. The tie-in made the DB5 an instant object of desire, and gave Aston Martin’s prestige an enormous boost. Most were powered by a 282bhp 4.0-litre engine, though the optional Vantage powerplant added triple Weber carbs for a total output of 314bhp. Only 65 of the 898 DB5 Coupes were so equipped.

4. Lagonda Series II-IV

Aston Martin Lagonda It’s fair to say that the Series II Lagonda created something of a stir when it was unveiled in 1976. You can see why. In a complete departure from the curvy lines of the Series I car he’d previously created, stylist William Towns chose a stark, razor-edged look for the Series II, featuring a narrow, wedgy front end with pop-up headlights; a long, low roofline; and a near-vertical rear screen. It was bold, futuristic and fantastic, and the interior was just the same, featuring an LED dashboard with touch-sensitive switchgear and complicated electronics that, sadly, proved to be less than reliable. Power came from a 280bhp V8 engine, but the Lagonda was a heavy old beast, weighing in at over two tonnes, so performance was rather leisurely. It didn’t matter, though. The Lagonda proved extremely profitable for Aston Martin, with export markets keeping demand high. Changes for the Series III cars were limited to the dashboard displays, before a more comprehensive facelift for the Series IV softened some of the edges and dropped the pop-up headlights in favour of six – count ’em – headlamps across the front end. Today, it’s still one of the most striking things on the road.

5. V8 Vantage

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Recognisable by its blanked-off grille – fitted to reduce front-end lift – the Vantage was the car the ’70s V8 always should have been. Although it might not have shared their pop-up headlights and low roof lines, it was every bit as much a supercar as contemporary Ferraris and Lamborghinis. It was powered by a 375bhp 5.3-litre V8 when it was first released, although as time went on, the Vantage gained power, with the final cars producing around 420bhp. This was the car that laid down the template for Astons as we know them today: thunderous, V-engined supercars clothed in understated Savile Row suits.

6. DB7

Aston Martin DB7 But if the V8 was the car that laid down the template for today’s Astons, the DB7 was the one which showed us back in 1994 how future Astons would look. Gone were the old, bluff front ends – replaced instead with a slinky low nose, faired-in headlamps, curvaceous glasshouse, wide haunches and slim taillights. The styling was based on the stillborn Jaguar XJ41 prototype, and tweaked to give it an Aston flavour by an as-yet unknown designer by the name of Ian Callum; the result was acclaimed as one of the best-looking cars in the world at the time. Beneath the bonnet, a supercharged 3.2-litre Jaguar engine kicked out 335bhp, allowing a 0-60mph time of 6.4 seconds, though later in the DB7’s life, the V12 Vantage version appeared, endowed with a 420bhp 6.0-litre V12. Which wasn’t too shabby.

7. V8 Vantage Le Mans

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Le mans Although some were a little underwhelmed by the Virage when it first arrived in 1988, by 1999 it had spawned the devastating Vantage model. With twin superchargers fitted to the 5.3-litre V8 and giving 550bhp, it was already one of the world’s most powerful production cars before the Le Mans version arrived. Only 40 examples were produced, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Aston Martin’s 1959 victory at Le Mans, and though the Le Mans was available with the stock 550bhp, it’s the 600bhp V600 version that everyone remembers. It instantly took the title of ‘world’s most powerful production car’, and sustained Aston Martin’s reputation for brutish, smokey V8-powered muscle.

8. DB9

Aston Martin DB9 The importance of the DB9 to modern-day Astons can’t really be overstated. With the DB9 Aston Martin debuted its new VH architecture – a modular platform that could be used Vertically within the Aston Martin range, or Horizontally across other brands within then-parent company Ford’s portfolio – and which still underpins all Astons on sale today. But what mattered to most people on its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003 was the way the thing looked. If the DB7 had been pretty, the DB9 was sensational. Cues from the DB7 and Vanquish had been beautifully updated and incorporated into a long, low and perfectly proportioned body. The car was instantly an object of desire for… well… anyone who had eyes, really. And under the bonnet, an evolution of the DB7’s 6.0-litre V12 gave the DB9 450bhp, enough to see it to 60mph in 4.7 seconds.

9. One-77

Aston Martin One-77 There’s no Aston Martin quite like the One-77. The company planned this car to be the ultimate expression of an Aston Martin; only 77 were built – hence the name – all with a price tag of over £1.1 million. Racing technology under the skin was overlaid with an exceptionally luxurious interior; as a result, it was reputed to be twitchy and edgy to drive, but exhilarating too; a car that you had to learn to get the best out of. Power – 750bhp, to be precise – came from a 7.3-litre V12, giving the One-77 a 0-60 time of under 3.7 seconds and a top speed in excess of 220mph. In other words, this was, and remains today, the king of Aston Martins.

10. Vanquish

Aston Martin Vanquish The first-generation Vanquish was not universally loved thanks to an idiosyncratic gearbox, but this second-generation model, still in production today, has been much better-received. You can see why – just look at it. And if that wasn’t enough, it makes a noise like Axl Rose just after someone’s stepped on his toe, too. Aston Martin describes it as the ultimate GT, and it manages a unique trick of matching comfort with precision – not to mention, balls-out V12 performance. It’s everything an Aston should be – and if it shows the way the company’s heading, it has us plenty excited about the next 100 years.