Aston Martin's ride has been anything but smooth -- the brand has changed ownership multiple times during the automobile's long history, occasionally experiencing tough financial times. Founded in 1914 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, Aston Martin began its rocky history at the start of World War I. The full name of the company comes from Martin's last name and a stretch of road in Herfordshire, England, used for racing called the Aston Hillclimb. After World War I briefly halted production, Aston Martin continued to produce cars specifically for the racetrack, focusing on speed more than luxury. Competition cars proved to be a strain on finances, however, and Aston Martin changed hands several times until World War II.
In 1947, however, tractor manufacturer David Brown purchased the company. Models under Brown's ownership took on his initials -- DB -- and Aston Martin soon achieved worldwide recognition. The DB5, for instance, gained instant notoriety when it appeared in the 1964 James Bond film "Goldfinger." Fitted with high-tech gadgets and weaponry, the rockets and oil slick buttons were just a spy fan's daydream, but the car looked cool enough to catch the attention of moviegoers and achieve iconic status.
Brown's departure in the 1970s marked a return to difficult times, and the 1980s weren't smooth, either -- the unfortunately named Aston Martin Nimrod, a disappointing return to the racetrack, didn't help. The company was saved yet again in 1987, when Ford Motors bought up 75 percent of Aston Martin, later acquiring the remaining 25 percent in 1994. The latest installment in Aston Martin's history occurred in March 2007, when Ford sold it to a small group of Aston Martin devotees.
Fortunately for sports car enthusiasts, Aston Martin is still here -- the brand refuses to disappear, and it's for good reason. Although the company has experienced several financial setbacks over the course of its history, the spirit and design of each new model along with a loyal interest in their cars have kept Aston Martin up and running. Read the next page to see how the Rapide carries on the tradition.