The new Aston Martin hardback book by Matthew Vale is the latest in a long line of books discussing the roller coaster history of this revered marque. To the author’s credit (or certainly that of the layout artist), he refrained from making the cover shot a Silver Birch DB5, and took the road less traveled by using a DB MkIII. This seemingly innocuous detail told me right away that this may not be your run-of-the-mill, seen-it-all-before rehash.
The book opens with a timeline synopsis, giving a brief but well detailed overview of the milestones along the way since the inception of the company, right up to the present-day Gaydon era. This may be nothing new for the aficionados who will casually glance at the book before adding it to their library, but it gives perhaps, the casual observer or new owner looking to research the company, a well thought out timeline of how we got here.
Another nice feature (but how can we tell its accuracy – this is Aston Martin after all!), is the annual production figure table. This makes for an interesting way to view growth and decline from a bird’s-eye view, and chronicles each major player in the company’s lineage.
The book is well illustrated with many photo’s I have never seen before. They are a good mix of contemporary shots from the early days, up to photos of owners’ car taken at present day local events. This is by no means a coffee table-style book with lavish photos and it does not purport to be such. Rather it shows many different models and many technical photos and drawings. I am not a fan of the cut-out-style shots used in many places, but it’s a small niggle given the overall selection of useful and interesting photos.
The text is an informative dialog about the cars and the people without being a story book. It talks of the major players and also about each model with details of chassis, interiors, suspension styles as well as interiors and body designs. There are so many books available on specialist marques, that it’s hard to find a niche in there amongst them. This one charts the history with an informative breakdown on myriad subjects in one place, and makes the story interesting to read. There are several pages dedicated to the various engines used, with some of this information rarely seen in a book like this.
The author has searched out a few great anecdotes for the reader as well. Think about about the beginnings of Aston Martin and a tycoon savior named Count Louis Zborowski. His cars were named Chitty Bang Bang. Ian Flemming who wrote the sublime Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also came up with a series of stories about an eponymous spy. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? I wonder why he drove an Aston Martin? Great stuff!
Talking of Mr. Bond, there is of course the obligatory chapter on the subject as well as more than a token nod to the racing programs which are such a major part of the Aston Martin DNA. The author goes into good detail without diving down a rabbit hole which again, isn’t the point of the book. For those needs, there are specialist books on any subject you like when it comes to Aston Martin and its very checkered history.
All in all, this book has most of the information one could wish for in a single publication all in a neat package. You can learn of the tumultuous beginnings, right through to the Bond-mania and the Le Mans success, including the halcyon days of David Brown and the modern success story of the current cars.
The new offering from The Crowood Press is not without its mistakes, but then again, which book isn’t? It would be a vain author on a rare day who was deluded enough to think that he got it all right. Having said that, this book is easy to read and is informative enough to the masses that they won’t catch the few errors, nor will it matter to them, because there will always be the anoraks on club night down at the pub who will delight in setting the record straight.
If you are searching for an Aston book for yourself or as a gift, get this one while you can, hopefully sure in the knowledge that the recipient hasn’t got it yet!