- the aston martin bulldog, built in 1979, was supposedly capable of 237 mph, but it never exceeded 192 mph in testing.
- a new american buyer for the one-off is having an 18-month-long ground-up restoration done by classic motor cars.
- next plan: aston works driver darren turner is going to try to exceed 200 mph in it, and we'll definitely keep you posted on that.
the late 1970s was the era of the automotive wedge, but none was wedgier than the aston martin bulldog. this is a car that makes a lotus esprit or lamborghini countach look positively curvaceous. the bulldog was intended to be a limited-run supercar, and it featured both a mid-mounted twin-turbocharged engine and a pop-down hood cover that revealed no fewer than five headlights. only a single prototype was built before the project was canceled. aston claimed it would have been the world’s fastest production car, but although the bulldog managed an impressive 192 mph during testing in the u.k. in 1979, it never got close to the 237 mph aston predicted it was capable of.
but now there is an ambitious project to prove that the freshly restored bulldog is indeed capable of the double-ton. a run targeting a 200-mph top speed is scheduled for later in the year with veteran aston works race driver darren turner behind the wheel.
the bulldog was built as a demonstration of aston's engineering prowess, with the plan to produce a limited run of around 25 road cars after the original prototype. it was designed by william towns, who also penned the almost equally linear lagonda sedan, and used a mid-mounted 5.3-liter v-8 fitted with twin turbochargers and making a claimed 600 horsepower. adjusted for horsepower inflation, that figure would have been even more impressive than the bugatti chiron's 1479-hp output is to modern eyes.
but although the bulldog proved itself capable of 192 mph on the mira test track, the project made little headway against aston's financial problems of the era. when petrochemical tycoon victor gauntlett became aston chairman in 1981, he decided the company could no longer afford to work on the project, and development on the bulldog stopped. the prototype was sold to a collector soon after, ending up in the middle east. it has appeared at several events over the years, including aston martin's centenary celebrations in 2013, but was seemingly enjoying a quiet retirement.
but then the bulldog changed hands again, with its new american owner determined to discover what it is truly capable of. the car is undergoing an 18-month ground-up restoration, carried out by well-known u.k. specialist classic motor cars (the company that produced ian callum's custom mk 2 jaguar back in 2014) and under the supervision of victor gauntlett's son, richard. beyond this, the plan is to prove the bulldog can indeed break the 200-mph barrier.
turner admits it took him "about five seconds" to agree to be the driver for this retro record attempt. the 46-year old british racer has enjoyed a long career as an aston works driver, with three le mans class wins in the dbr9 and the vantage gte, but he has also raced older cars and worked extensively on the continuation db4 gt project.
"i enjoy driving older cars," turner told car and driver when we spoke to him by phone about the project. "there's 100 percent more character in cars from this period. i'm not taking anything away from the cars i've raced, but it's a different type of driving—having to use a gear lever, heel-and toe, all those things we don't do anymore."
because of covid-19 travel restrictions, turner has yet to meet the bulldog face to face but says he is already a fan of its straight-edged styling. "it's wedgy and quirky, but in the late seventies it must have looked incredibly futuristic. i like it, it's a fun car to look at. i'm sure that when i meet it in the flesh for the first time i'm going to be spending hours going over the details and just appreciating the design."
while there isn't a confirmed location for the bulldog's new speed record attempt yet, turner is confident the car won't have any difficulty breaking the 200-mph barrier.
"i'm sure there will be challenges along the way, but i feel 100 percent that this car is going to get to 200 mph. if they were able to get to 192 mph when the car was still early in its development program, that means we're just looking for nine miles an hour. i don't think we'll have a problem with that."
beyond that? turner says he is happy to keep pushing but doesn't know if he will be allowed to.
"if the car can go more than 200 mph and if everyone on the team is happy for me to go faster, then i'll push on. that's something that the car's owner and richard and the team at cmc have to decide, of course. but i'm more than happy to keep my foot in and see how fast the bulldog can go.”
we should find out later this year.