What better way to explore London than by zooming around town in a British vintage motor?
When it comes to motors, there is surely nothing more quintessentially British than Aston Martin. We were lucky enough to hop into the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible and be driven around the capital at breakneck speed.
Starting in the pretty Georgian suburb of Haggerston, East London, we set off vaguely towards the Gherkin – through the towering giants of the Square Mile with the glistening angles of The Shard in the distance – and enjoyed the first of many admiring glances from pedestrians and other motorists alike.
For the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 Convertible is one of only 123 ever produced. The model was immortalised in Goldfinger as James Bond’s gadget-filled vehicle and it is often dubbed “the most famous car in the world”. Its popularity hasn’t waned: it recently came full circle and was used in 2012 Bond film Skyfall. The exact car we were in was shown by Aston Martin on their stand at the London Motor Show in 1964 at Earls Court making it a particularly important example.
We were enjoying a completely exclusive experience: the car is owned by Fiskens, the foremost specialist in fine historic automobiles, where the best and most glamourous cars in the world come to be sold. The central London showrooms and headquarters are famous fixtures of the collector’s car landscape. You cannot hire a Fiskens car.
“Our belief at Fiskens is that buying and selling old cars should be fun,” says Dylan Miles of Fiskens, who drove us for the day. “Owning them should satisfy; driving them should thrill.”
And thrilled we were – an old car doesn’t mean a slow car, especially not an Aston Martin: the brand began as a racing car, a heritage that continues today. We whizzed down the Southbank slowing down only to absorb the scenery. Big Ben loomed large over the river and at one point it was partially eclipsed by the London Eye.
The DB5 couldn’t feel smoother, not least because of the immaculate leather interiors. You can feel the extreme heat of the engine under the dash in the front, something modern cars don’t tend to give off, which, in a strange way, only added to the excitement.
“Aston Martin is hugely popular and its association with James Bond makes the brand a household name worldwide,” says Miles. “People of all ages aspire to own an Aston Martin: it is seen as a beacon of Britishness and a highly desirable luxury product.”
Waving hello and goodbye to the iconic towers of Battersea Power Station, we crossed Chelsea Bridge and headed towards the Royal Hospital, built by Sir Christopher Wren who completed it in 1692. The hospital is a retirement home to the Chelsea Pensioners, all former soldiers, one of whom waved enthusiastically as we paused at the traffic lights before cruising up Lower Sloane Street to the Kings Road.
This felt like a strange sort of homecoming for our steed: when it was made, in the swinging sixties, this road was the most fashionable part of town.Wiggling north through Kensington, we eventually zipped down Talgarth Road, admiring the beautiful north-facing double-storey windows in the eight houses of ‘Artists’ Row’ at Barons Court on what is otherwise a rather busy motorway.
A sweltering summer might be giving way to a crisp autumn, but this is probably the best time to get out in a classic motor: old engines get hotter than their newer counterparts, so avoiding sluggish traffic was essential.
We continued further west, past the historic Fuller’s Brewery in Chiswick. Our destination was Richmond Park, the beauty of which is no secret, but there was something extra special about arriving in this leafy part of south west London in an open topped vintage car that is completely steeped in history. The current Aston Martin catchphrase is ‘Power, Beauty, Soul’ – we can only agree!
While you can’t hire a car from Fiskens, Dylan Miles recommend looking at Classic Car Club where you can pick and choose from all types of vintage motors that are available for hire.
London Underground facts
|Click here to subscribe!