In 1977, the thought of building a 200mph car was far from an easy task. When William Towns designed the Aston Martin Bulldog, affectionally known as K9, to showcase the capability of the sportscar manufacturers Newport Pagnell engineering facility, little was he to know that it would take until 2023 for the Bulldog to reach its original goal of breaching the 200mph barrier.
Even by today’s technologically advanced automotive standards, building a car capable of going more than 200mph is still an incredible feat, but in the 1970s, it was little more than a pipedream.
Nowadays, a supercar company need only wave a cheque with some large numbers on it at a rivals head of engineering to gain all the technological insight it needs to build a superfast car or pop down to a fancy showroom and purchase a rival’s finest creation and reverse-engineer it.
In the 1970s, there was no such thing as a production car capable of breaking the 200mph barrier. Some manufacturers had gotten within a long arm’s length, but none were able to claim to have a vehicle that could get within touching distance or breach the mythical 200mph mark. In those days, the only times you might see the words ‘car and 200mph’ was inside a deck of fantasy Top Trump cards.
At the start of the 1970s, Italy was the dominant force in the production-car speed stakes, with Ferrari and Lamborghini vying for the title of the World’s Fastest Production Car builder. However, a British Engineering team, who carried the legacy of a particularly well-known British secret agent, were feeling a little left out.
With its new engineering plant in Newport Pagnell, Aston Martin designer William Towns and his team were convinced they could build a car capable of shooting past the 200mph barrier and, in doing so, put the prancing horse and the snorting bull’s noses out of place.
In 1979, the Aston Martin Bulldog was unveiled as a one-off concept vehicle, with the claim it could theoretically reach 237 mph. At that time, the Bulldog was known by the less-catchy name DP K901, and the company’s plan was to build 15 to 25 of the vehicles.
The engineers at Aston Martin knew that they had built the fastest production car in the world with its Bulldog as it had already recorded a top speed of 191mph at the MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) test track, agonisingly close but still short of the target.
Before the Aston Martin Bulldog had the opportunity to reach its full potential, the project was shelved due to higher-than-anticipated costs. A while later, the car was sold to a Saudi Prince for £130,000, and on his first drive, the engine blew up!
It then made its way into a private collection in America and subsequently made its way into the hands of another collector named Philip Sarofim. Philip asked Richard Gauntlett, the son of the former owner of Aston Martin, Victor Gauntlett, to help with doing a full nuts and bolts restoration on the car.
Richard chose Classic Motor Cars Ltd in Bridgnorth, Shropshire (CMC), for the Bulldog’s restoration work, and over the course of 18 months, the company’s skilled engineers spent 7,000 hours restoring, testing and adjusting the vehicle, bringing it back to its glory days.
Following the completion of the work in November 2021, the car, driven by Darren Turner, a three-time Le Mans 24-hour class winner and works driver for Aston Martin, embarked on some speed tests. Later in 2021, at the Naval Air Station at Yeovilton, Turner took the Aston Martin Bulldog to an impressive 176mph.
On the 6th of June 2023, on a hazy day under grey skies, Darren Turner once more got behind the wheel of the Bulldog at the Machrihanish airfield, a former NATO base in Campbeltown, Scotland. That day was all about fulfilling a dream, and Darren did exactly that when he took the Aston Martin Bulldog to an astonishing 205.4mph!
With the Aston Martin Bulldog’s legacy now complete, all the team who worked on this extraordinary project can now look back and revel in achieving something that has been 40+ years in the making by taking a 1970s-built car and breaking a barrier many deemed impossible at that time.
About Classic Motor Cars Limited (CMC)
CMC is an owner-managed Trust where the staff own the company and is a partner of The Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT), an employer-led response to bridging the skills gap by creating industry-ready apprenticeships and delivering the best upskilling opportunities, including courses that teach apprentices classic car skills.
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