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)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones