If there's one car brand I absolutely do not understand, it's Aston Martin.
I don't mind being wrong, maybe if I was able to drive one someday I'd change my tune. But, with a youth spent completing license tests in Gran Turismo, I've already driven my dream cars: the Porsche 911 Turbo and Nissan GT-R. Astons just don't do it for me; they (apart from that new track thingy and the wedge Lagonda…and, begrudgingly, the DBS V8 "Sotheby Special" by Ogle Design) just don't do anything all that exciting to my loins.
To me, they're like the perfect blend of a Ford Mustang and Ferrari 599 GTB; just enough technology and power to get inches in EVO. Traditional-enough looks to both inspire the word "beauty" when people should be using "familiar" and so mechanically simple: V8 or V12, take your pick. No wonder the brutish Jeremy Clarkson likes them—a career making millions per year, with fans the world over…then his baby Top Gear is flushed down the tubes thanks to years of racial slurs and, ultimately, a bar fight. Brutish.
Anyway, I am probably wrong about Aston Martins. I once sat shotgun in a DB9, however (thanks, Nauman!) and I couldn't help myself from poking and prodding every inch of the cabin…the whole thing, from the roof down to the carpet just seemed dopey. The engine? Lazy.
I really like the Aston Martin Atom, however, because it is none of those things. That the entire company pretty much exists thanks to its charms is a good way to start: David Brown was so taken by its abilities (and the engineering talent behind it) that he bought Aston Martin. You know how the company uses "DB" in most model names? That's for him, who started the naming scheme after he'd bought the company during the Second World War.
The idea behind the Atom was simple, and built to Aston Martin boss Gordon Sutherland's instructions, which was to make the smallest, lightweight, enclosed saloon possible. If Citroën had designed the 2CV in anticipation of a growing middle class, I suspect they would have come up with something similar to the Atom.
To start, the Atom used a French Cotal semi-automatic gearbox, complete with electromagnetic clutches. It had a two-litre 4-cylinder engine, lightweight rectangular tube space frame chassis, the company's first independent suspension design, and wind-cheating aluminum bodywork. It was a landmark design, one made possible equally by the company's status as a defence contractor and the Aston Martin engineers.
The company recently published a great story on the car (linked to below) and its chat with current owner Tom Rollason, who said of the car:
"It’s also very precise in the steering. When I’ve thrown it into roundabouts, it keeps very neutral in its handling—there’s nothing nasty in terms of oversteer or understeer. The Cotal gearbox makes it a very pleasant drive. And once you are used to the seats, which are admittedly a bit different from what you might be used to, it becomes a very relaxing car to drive…With its previous engine, the Atom was documented as reaching 96 mph (155 km/h). It would be really great to do a test trial with the new engine and modern petrol on smooth roads.”
Now this is the sort of car I'd like to see from Aston Martin. If you follow the sources below and read up on the car from Aston Martin and the owner himself (yes, it has its own URL!), I promise you'll be as taken with the Atom as I am.