Motoring: Revealed, a new model for 007: Aston Martin, maker of the James Bond car, has taken the Geneva Motor Show by storm with a successor to its famous Sixties models, writes Gavin Green

WHILE the big players were busy launching a range of (mostly) intriguing new models, one of the world's smallest car-makers, overseen by a 68-year-old former Ford manager, unveiled the star of the Geneva Show.

Aston Martin, in the doldrums for most of the past 20 years, has returned to its roots, and the limelight, by launching a smallish, fast and pretty sports car called the DB7. At under pounds 80,000, it is inexpensive by Aston's recent standards. The company's cheapest car is the pounds 133,000 Virage.

The DB7 is the spiritual successor to the DB4, DB5 (as used by James Bond, with ejector-seat and front machine- gun options) and DB6 Astons of the Sixties. These were created when Aston was owned by Sir David Brown, maker of the first all-British tractor. The fact that Sir David is no longer directly involved with Aston - although he was recently made honorary life president - makes little difference. No set of initials motivates an Aston enthusiast quite like Sir David's.

Less palatable for enthusiasts is the fact that the DB7 is a direct result of Ford's 1987 takeover of the little Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, firm. Without Ford's cash, there would be no DB7, and probably no Aston Martin. Costs have been reduced by using an engine block and suspension and floorpan components from Jaguar, now part of the Ford family. The engine is a 3.2-litre straight six supercharged unit, delivering 335bhp.

The car is the brainchild of Walter Hayes, the former Ford vice-president. Less than a year after retiring, Mr Hayes, who was responsible for Ford's move into Formula One motor racing, was asked to come back to oversee Aston Martin.

'It was perfectly obvious to me that Aston had never made itself into anything approaching a business,' he says. 'I also felt that the market for expensive, high-performance sports cars was fragile. But there is a great layer of enthusiasm for cars just below these

machines. That's how the DB7 came about.'

The new car will be built at the Bloxham, Oxfordshire, factory that produces the Jaguar JX220 supercar. When production of the JX220 ceases at the end of the year the plant will be modified to accept the DB7. Production starts in April 1994 and deliveries begin two months later. Aston hopes to build 600 cars a year, a modest goal.

Should Aston reach this target, it should become quickly profitable - a rarity during the company's 74-year history. Mr Hayes said recently: 'A loyal customer and friend recently asked if he could buy a car at cost, as a favour. 'Certainly,' I replied. 'That'll be double the retail price.' '

Aston Martin is one of the few European car-makers to predict an improvement in the market this year. Volkswagen believes an upturn will not occur until early 1995, and expects the total European car market to shrink by more than 10 per cent this year. The German market, buoyant last year, should contract by more than 20 per cent.

This did not stop the mass makers from launching some of the most exciting new cars seen for years at Geneva, Europe's most important annual motor show. After years of follow-my-leader, same-again styling and engineering, the major manufacturers are at last showing some nous.

The new Vauxhall Corsa, which replaces the Nova in April, is a cute little car, available in a range of wacky interior and exterior colours.

Citroen's Xantia, replacement for the BX, boasts the most advanced suspension of any mass-made road car. It is a development of the bigger XM's Hydractive suspension, which in turn owes its antecedents to the hydropneumatic suspension pioneered in the Fifties by the Citroen DS.

Peugeot, which owns Citroen, also uncovered the 306 at Geneva. Like the 309, which it supplants, the 306 will be built at Ryton, near Coventry. It is a handsome, if cautiously styled car, looking just like a grown-up 106. Together with the 106, it will eventually replace the 205, one of the greatest cars of the Eighties.

More distinctive is the latest Lancia Delta, step one in Fiat's plans to build sportier and bolder looking cars. This fresh-looking, classy and roomy machine may, at last, resurrect Lancia in Britain. UK sales start early next year.

Porsche, like Aston Martin, has had a dreadful past couple of years, the victim of an anti-yuppie backlash, engineering inertia and its own arrogant pricing. Worldwide sales are at a third of the levels of the mid-Eighties.

Geneva saw the European debut of a prototype for a new sub- pounds 30,000 bot-

tom-of-the-range Porsche, due to go on sale in 1995. The Boxster is a small, beautifully detailed, mid-engined open-top two-seater. Like the DB7, it has a number of old-fashioned styling cues but still looks timely. This is a refreshing change for a manufacturer renowned for updating old models. It is also the most exciting Porsche since the 911, now 30 years old, and still the company's most popular model.

Geneva Motor Show is at the Palexpo (next to the airport) until 14 March.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links