Aston Martin Bulldog nears 200mph despite tricky conditions

WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOGRAPHY: JAYSON FONG/Amy Shore/CMC

The recently restored Aston Martin Bulldog is well on its way to surpassing 200mph, after it reached 176mph in tricky conditions at the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton on October 21, 2022. 

Piloting the car on its test run was three-time Le Mans winner Darren Turner, who said: “When I heard the car was being restored, I really wanted to drive it. Today was a dream come true, and it performed really well.” 

Turner was accompanied in the passenger seat by Keith Martin, a former Aston Martin employee who served as project leader when the Bulldog was being developed in the late 1970s. 

Former Bulldog project leader Keith Martin was ecstatic after completing the test run with Darren Turner.

“It was just magic! I just wish my colleagues could have been here and witnessed this,” enthused Martin after the test run. 

The Bulldog was making its second visit to Yeovilton following its 162mph run in 2021 shortly after its restoration by Classic Motor Cars (CMC) of Bridgnorth was completed. 

The car was publicly unveiled at the 2021 Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, where it won RAC Restoration of the Year and was subsequently photographed onboard the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier

The Aston Martin Bulldog aboard the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier in 2021

Spectating at Friday’s test run was the car’s owner Phillip Sarofim, and Richard Gauntlett, the son of the former chairman of Aston Martin Victor Gauntlett, who orchestrated the restoration with CMC. 

“I cannot thank the team at CMC enough for the work that they have done, and the Royal Navy, which has allowed us to visit the airfield and run in between its operations when it is extremely busy,” Sarofim said. 

“I also want to thank the Navy Wings charity, which conserves and operates historic Royal Navy aircraft, including a Bulldog aircraft that took me on a flight over my own Bulldog. It then flew its iconic Seafire, which produced an image that will become iconic for both pieces of machinery.”

Victor Gauntlett was originally forced to shelve the Bulldog project at a time when Aston Martin was beset with financial difficulties. But now fate seems to be on the Bulldog’s side, and Richard is thrilled to have played a role in CMC’s painstaking 18-month restoration. 

“I cannot believe that we are approaching the magical 200mph, which I am certain we are going to exceed,” he commented. 

“My father would have been proud, as he always was, of the achievements of British engineers and designers, and he would certainly reiterate the importance of nurturing these skills and ensuring their survival in places such as Aston Martin and CMC.”

The Aston Martin undergoing restoration work at CMC

CMC will commence its testing programme over the winter in anticipation of the Bulldog’s historic 200mph attempt next spring. Sarofim and Gauntlett are keen to see the run take place at the Wolfsburg Circuit in Germany, just as Aston Martin originally intended, but other locations in Italy and Scotland are being considered. 

Tim Griffin from CMC said: “Our team has put in over 7000 hours of restoration time, which has resulted in the speed which was accomplished by Darren on Friday, for which they are extremely proud.”

He added: “Our task now is to continue to ‘bring the car up to speed’, which we will do so that the car is ready for the next step on its journey next spring.”

Seeing the Bulldog get so near to its ultimate goal is another emotive day for Magneto. We have followed the progress of CMC’s incredible restoration since the beginning, and it featured as our cover story for issue 12.