Off radar

The Fallen Stars
Aston Martin Bulldog

Impossible challenge or revenge?

Photo credit: Classic Motor Cars Limited

Deciding to call a car designed to break a record “Bulldog” is a bizarre choice considering they are clumsy and slow dogs. Towards the end of the 70s, Aston Martin, which was going through a difficult period, decided to focus on promoting the result of a land speed record above those set by its direct competitors: Ferrari 512BB and Lamborghini Countach: 200 miles per hour, 322 km/h. 

The work of the designer Williams Towns and then chief engineer Mike Loasby gave birth to a very clean and simple car, following the design trends of the period

To achieve this, they designed the Bulldog, powered by the first turbocharged engine to come out of Gaydon, a twin Garrett AirResearch turbocharged 5.3-litre V8 engine, mounted centrally. 

Stylistically, the car followed the trend of the moment, which gave it its particular wedge shape. The car also featured an innovative fairing hiding its five centre-mounted headlamps, and electrically operated gull-wing doors. The promise to exceed 200 miles per hour, however, was a little too bold. It did manage to reach 191mph (307 km/h), but this moral defeat dented the credibility of the brand and forced William Towns and Mike Loasby to leave the company. And so it was that the idea to produce a limited series of the Bulldog found itself without internal sponsors and the model remained a unique example. 

The Bulldog’s very advanced twin turbo mid-rear engine moved the driving position forward creating an almost perfect symmetry between front and rear

Today, more than 40 years later, the collector Philip Sarofim, the current owner of the car, will entrust a professional driver with the task of achieving the result they couldn’t reach at the time. We’ll have to wait and see if a completely restored “Bulldog” can exceed 322 km/h. It would certainly be a sweet revenge for… the breed!

The large gullwing doors, very heavy to be raised by hand, were electrically operated
The large front spoiler to increase grip and the curious headlight fairing that opened thanks to a single bulkhead are the most obvious features of this model
The Bulldog last year at the Hampton Court Concours d’Elegance fresh from a restoration that aims to (finally) conquer the record
The Bulldog in the early 80s during preparation for the record attempts on the British track, MIRA