Aston Martin's Bulldog Wants Another Shot at 200 MPH

·3 min read
Photo credit: Classic Motor Cars Ltd/Richard Johnson
Photo credit: Classic Motor Cars Ltd/Richard Johnson

Many remember the uncompromising Aston Martin Lagonda sedan styled by William Towns, whose time never quite arrived. But the sedan project, rarely free from drama, ended up eclipsing a related effort by the British automaker to field an even more daring supercar.

The Aston Martin Bulldog concept of 1979 featured a wedge-like profile and gullwing doors before the DeLorean entered production. And it had a powerplant that seems surprisingly modern on paper and a little frightening even today: a 5.3-liter V8 helped by twin Garrett turbochargers paired with a five-speed manual transmission, promising—and perhaps even delivering—a claimed 700 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.

One number it couldn't achieve was the 200-mph mark. Aston Martin managed to take it to 192 mph during tests at the MIRA test track in the UK at the time, before funding for the project ran out and the car was sold to a customer from the Middle East, disappearing out of sight for years. The automaker promised even more at the time, well north of the 200 mph barrier, and a run of 25 cars. But they never materialized.

The Bulldog may not be as well known today as the Ferrari F40 in the pantheon of poster cars of the 1970s and 1980s, but it was certainly in that coveted group of unattainable supercars.

The car has remained in collector hands, making a few rare appearances as the decades flew by, until it was purchased by collector Phillip Sarofim who sought to restore the car to its original glory.

The Bulldog has just wrapped up a complete restoration that has returned it to its original color and specification, picking up a restoration of the year award from the Royal Automobile Club just a few days ago. The shop that performed the restoration, Classic Motor Cars of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, also received specialist of the year honors at the Octane Historic Motoring Awards.

Photo credit: Richard Johnson
Photo credit: Richard Johnson

The Bulldog was also driven at speed for the first time in years following its restoration, achieving 162 mph just a few days ago at the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton in Somerset, under some less than ideal weather conditions.

"The last few days have been something of a whirlwind, to win two prestigious awards within a week is fantastic and is a great tribute to the team at CMC who have worked so hard on the car for the last 18 months," said Nigel Woodward, managing director of Classic Motor Cars. "But to cap that by accelerating through 162 on our first time out with the car is just the icing on the cake."

The next step, however, will be attempting to crack the 200-mph barrier, as Aston Martin promised over four decades ago.

"The car will be tested again either this year or at the beginning of next at the Royal Naval Air Station before we go for the 200-mph record that it never did in 1980. The location of that attempt is still being discussed," said Richard Gauntlett, son of former Aston Martin Chairman Victor Gauntlett, who now represents the owner of the car.

The car's running gear was based on the "Oscar India" Aston Martin V8 Vantage, but mounted in a body that stood only 43 inches in height. Aerodynamics are certainly one element that the Bulldog has in it favor as it attempts to break the 200-mph barrier, but a few other tweaks—like new rubber—might help as well.

"There is still much to do but Saturday's session not only validated the car but also provided a lot of very useful data," Woodward added. "The fact that without trying, and in the teeth of a 50 mph crosswind we sailed through the 160 mph mark in only 3/4 of a mile, at reduced boost and on partial throttle says much. It was only a lack of bravery on my part and the fact that we were still evaluating the car that prevented us going faster."

Share your thoughts on the Aston Martin Bulldog's restoration—and its pursuit of 200 mph—in the comments below.