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1979 Aston Martin Bulldog hits 200 mph as promised, 44 years later

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 7, 2023
1979 Aston Martin Bulldog hits 200 mph as promised, 44 years later

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After spending two years and God knows how much money on the restoration of a one-off classic, attempting to break a speed record is probably not something most collectors would do. However, a collector in the U.K. has finally fulfilled the Aston Martin Bulldog’s promise to hit 200 mph, some 44 years after it was originally supposed to.

In 1979, Aston Martin made a lofty promise to build a limited run supercar that could surpass the 200 mph threshold. The Bulldog, an ultra-low gull-winged wedge that looked nothing like an actual bulldog, was intended to have a production run of just 15-20 units. Engineers claimed the 5.3-liter twin-turbo V8 could propel the car to 237 mph, unheard of for a production car in the era.

Only one was ever built, and in testing the company managed 191 mph, still impressive for its time. Unfortunately, Aston Martin had run out of cash and was sold to petroleum mogul Victor Gauntlett, who canceled the pricey project. In 1982, a Saudi royal gave Aston Martin £130,000 for the car, which according to Top Gear, then blew the engine on his first drive in the car.

Eventually the car made its way back to the U.K. Its current owner, venture capitalist Phillip Sarofim, sent the Bulldog to renowned shop Classic Motor Cars for a 7,000-hour full nut-and-bolt restoration. In 2020, the team announced the project start and their hopes of finally achieving Aston Martin’s original 200 mph wish.

In 2021 a post-restoration attempt reached 176 mph at a Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton. On June 6, however, the long-held dream came true when the Bulldog reached the magic 200 mph mark at an ex-NATO airbase in Campbeltown, Scotland. Darren Turner, a three-time Le Mans class winner did the honors, and the project was led by Richard Gauntlett, whose father canceled the Bulldog in 1981.

The restored Bulldog isn’t 100% faithful to the original. That would have been foolish. The shop added safety equipment to ensure Turner’s well-being. They also realized that 1970s standards for torsional rigidity were lacking compared to what we know now. Restoring a one-off has disadvantages – another example to compare with does not exist — but on the other side of the coin, who can really question your authenticity? The record breaking version wears different wheels and tires than the original but has been repainted in its original white and silver colors and its interior changed back to black.

After more than four decades the Bulldog has pulled off what it had set out to do.

After spending two years and God knows how much money on the restoration of a one-off classic, attempting to break a speed record is probably something most collectors would do. However, a collector in the U.K. has finally fulfilled the 1979 Aston Martin Bulldog’s promise to hit the 200 mph mark, some 44 years after it was originally supposed to.

In 1979 Aston Martin made a lofty promise to build a limited run supercar that could surpass the 200 mph threshold. The Bulldog, an ultra-low gull-winged wedge that looked nothing like an actual bulldog, was intended to have a run of just 15-20 units. Engineers claimed the 5.3-liter twin-turbo V8 could propel the car to 237, unheard of for a production car in the era.

Only one was ever built, and in testing the company managed just 191 mph, still impressive for its time. Unfortunately, Aston Martin had run out of cash and was sold to petroleum mogul Victor Gauntlett, who canceled the pricey project. In 1982 a Saudi royal gave Aston Martin £130,000 for the car, which according to Top Gear, then blew the engine on the first drive with its new owner.

Eventually the car made its way back to the U.K. Its current owner, venture capitalist Phillip Sarofim, sent the Bulldog to renowned shop Classic Motor Cars for a 7,000-hour full nut-and-bolt restoration. In 2020 the team announced the project start and their hopes of finally achieving Aston Martin’s original 200 mph wish.

In 2021 a post-restoration attempt reached 176 mph at a Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton. On June 6, however, the long-held dream came true when the Bulldog reached the magic 200 mph mark at an ex-NATO airbase in Campbeltown, Scotland. Darren Turner, a three-time Le Mans class winner did the honors, and the project was led by Richard Gauntlett, whose father canceled the Bulldog in 1981.

The restored Bulldog isn’t 100% faithful to the original. That would have been foolish. The shop added safety equipment to ensure Turner’s well-being. They also realized that 1970s standards for torsional rigidity were lacking compared to what we know now. Restoring a one-off has disadvantages – another example to compare with does not exist — but on the other side of the coin, who can really question your authenticity? Countless parts had to be fabricated from scratch. The record breaking version wears different wheels and tires than the original, likely to facilitate the record run, but has been repainted in its original white and silver colors and its interior changed back to black.

There are multiple production cars that can reach 200 mph these days, but its still a heartwarming tale to see the Bulldog get its 200 mph bone after more than four decades. 

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