Tribute to Lionel Martin

In Henniker Mews, London, on the 15th January 1913, Lionel Walker Birch Martin and Robert Bamford officially incorporated their business into the Company of Bamford and Martin Limited to ‘carry on the business of dealers in, manufacturers and repairers of motor cars’. So started the story that became Aston Martin.

By the following year their prototype car was running. The name Aston Martin was also beginning to appear in the motoring press as Lionel was regularly out testing his mechanical components in the prototype. Although it was not until 16th March 1915 that 'Coal Scuttle', the first car, was registered for the road.

Winding the calendar back slightly, on Sunday the 25th October 1914, Lionel Martin took the ‘hybrid’ (as the prototype later became known) down to Brighton, accompanied by other pioneer motorists on an end-of-season run, organised by the magazine ‘The Light Car and Cyclecar’. The event was not, as has often been recorded, an M.C.C Brighton Trial, but just a simple ‘run out’. History records for us "the cars that reached Brighton in time for lunch on the 25th included an ancient chassis in which Mr. Martin was testing his new Aston-Martin engine. After lunch, somebody suggested that an attempt should be made on the Cindertrack Hill (which at that time was occasionally used for official hill climbs) and several of the more enterprising members set out, led by Mr Martin."

Lionel made the ascent several times that day, gradually increasing the number of passengers on the 1 in 3 hill, to demonstrate to all present the superb power of his 1389cc Aston–Martin engine. Fortunately for all of us today, the group had also been accompanied by a journalist and a photographer from the magazine and so for the first time ever, a picture of an Aston Martin (albeit the prototype) appeared in print! In fact the photographs taken that day remain the only known ones of the car.

The hill in Brighton still exists today with thankfully very little change. So, 100 years to the day after Lionel set off from London to Brighton, an AMOC tribute run took place on Saturday 25th October 2014.

A few surviving Bamford and Martin cars joined the tribute; a great photographic opportunity for all involved. Club photographers were on hand to capture every car on the hill with the same background as Lionel was pictured with precisely 100 years before. After a gentle drive back through Brighton, the cars once again arrived at Madeira Drive, the venue of Lionel Martin’s lunch in 1914.

Members later enjoyed a Celebration Dinner in George IV’s own Banqueting Room in the Royal Pavilion. This was preceded by a Taittinger Champagne reception and tour of the venue which was closed to the public.

This was a truly memorable and suitable setting for a celebration of the very earliest memories of the Aston Martin Light Car!