A British icon that was designed by Aston Martin in the late 1970’s to show off the capabilities of its new engineering facility, and was intended to become the fastest production car of the time, has been fully restored and revealed to the world.
The Aston Martin Bulldog, styled by legendary British designer William Towns and powered by a 447kW 5.3-litre turbocharged V8, was a one off concept car that Aston Martin created at the height of the brilliant ‘wedge’ era to “prove that it was not only a small company of renowned motoring artisans but that it’s engineering prowess was also world-class.”
With its styling inspired by the equally-wedgy Aston Martin Lagonda (also designed by Towns), the company planned to put the Bulldog into production, and for it to be capable of more than 200mph (332kmh) making it the fastest production car of its time.
However, testing and development were halted with the car tantalisingly close to reaching that goal, having achieved 191mph (307kmh) in testing.
* Aston Martin takes aim at Ferrari
* Aston Martin and Corgi unleash the ultimate movie collectable
* Aston Martin lops the top off the Valkyrie
* Feel like splurging on some classic European machinery?
Despite the Bulldog capturing the headlines – and the imagination of the public – at the time, it disappeared into obscurity following its cancellation.
“The Bulldog became something of a mythical beast, lots of people knew about it and wondered where it was after it was sold by Aston Martin to an owner in the Middle East. It then disappeared from general view,” said Richard Gauntlett, son of Victor Gauntlett who became chairman of Aston Martin in 1981 and originally cancelled the Bulldog project due to cost concerns.
“There were sightings all over the world – in the late 1980s it was spotted in a lock-up in Arizona, it was back in the Middle East in the 1990s, but finally RM Sotheby’s tracked it down in Asia.”
RM Sotheby’s car specialist Alexander Weaver said that the Bulldog was part “an exceptional collection” where it had quietly resided for decades.
“After extensive discussions and negotiations the owner agreed to part with the long hidden Bulldog, and we were able to facilitate a sale to our client and friend Phillip Sarofim, through our Private Sales division.”
Sarofim, who is based in the USA, then hatched a grand plan for the Bulldog – to finally crack the 200mph mark and then embark on a world tour – so he quickly handed it over to Classic Motor Cars (CMC) in the UK for restoration, with Gauntlett overseeing the project.
“We want to put the car back to its original configuration, but we may include modern components and technology to improve the cars’ reliability,” managing director of CMC, Nigel Woodward, said at the time.
Woodward said that CMC had “a huge history file on the car” and worked with engineers who originally built the car, but there was still much about the Bulldog that was unknown – at one point in its history it was painted green (it was originally white and grey), and was also given carburettors at some stage.
“When we received the car, it didn’t look too bad, but closer inspection revealed that there was a great deal to do. It was decided to carry out a full nut and bolt restoration,” said Woodward.
“The car had received damage by being lifted by a forklift truck. It had not been run for years, and immediately became apparent that many parts would have to be rebuilt if it were to run at 200mph.”
Aston Martin and Corgi have partnered up to build a full-size version of a scale model of a full-size car.
Now, 18 months and 6,000 hours later, CMC has revealed the final result.
“We have tried to be as faithful as possible to the original design and concept by not only returning the car to its paint and trim scheme, but also engineering the car in such a way that major mechanical components are now located as the designers originally intended,” said Woodward.
“This, and future proofing the car so that it remains drivable now forever, has been achieved by incorporating state-of-the-art engine management systems and modern components such as liquid cooled turbochargers which will ensure that Bulldog is preserved for future generations.
“We were fortunate in having a great team and being able to work with two of the original engineers – Keith Martin and David Morgan – as well Lizzie Carris, the wife of the designer of the car, William Towns. This gave us a huge head start on the project and there help was invaluable to the completion of the car.”
Now that the Bulldog’s restoration has been completed, plans for it to finally break the 200mph mark more than four decades after it just missed it are underway, with Aston Martin factory driver Darren Turner behind the wheel.
The Bulldog’s owner, Phillip Sarofim, who flew to the UK for the reveal, said “Richard and the team at CMC have done a great job. The car looks truly amazing. Now we must work on the tests which will be carried out by Darren to make sure that it reaches the 200mph, I have every confidence we will achieve it.”
Turner, an Aston Martin factory racing driver for more than 15 years says he had heard of the legend of Bulldog from within Aston Martin, and when news started to filter out about the car being restored to go for the 200mph target, thought “that was such a cool thing to do.”
“I was following the story and thinking that it would be great to be involved in. When I was asked to drive it I didn’t need to be asked twice,” he said.
“I really appreciate being asked, and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the story of bringing Bulldog back to life and finally achieving what it set out to achieve all those years ago.”