✨ “Take it easy driving – the life you save may be mine.”
― James Dean


Monday, 15 July 2013


Among Britain's top car and plane makers, two enjoyed similar routes to producing the best in their respective fields.

As a follow-up on the article by Ron Wheeldon on the Aston Martin DBS V8 published in "Drive" in January 1991, the Aston, at that time owned by Trevor Carter, was subsequently sold to Alan Nash, who owned it for a number of years before being acquired by myself in 1995. I'm not a fan of automatic cars, especially not in a sports car, and after having taken the DBS (which is manual) for a test drive, I was hooked! As Ron said in his article in 'Drive', there certainly are not enough superlatives to describe this particular model, which was the only manual in the country at the time.

When Webber Wentzel Bowens Attorneys sponsored the appearance of Ron's Hawker Hunter T Mk 68 at the Swartkops Air Show on 22nd April 2000, Ron invited me for a head-to-head contest with the Mk 68 down the runway. The following article appeared in Issue no 3/2000 of "CARS IN ACTION'.
The Aston Martin DBS and Hawker Hunter 

"BULLDOG BEST" - Hawker Hunter F Mk 58 vs Aston Martin DBS V8 - "Wings & Wheels" - John Smith looks at the Hawker Hunter and Aston Martin DBS V8

Shortly after the Great War, two new names emerged which would become the pride of the British nation for the remainder of the century. The Liquidated Sopwith Aeroplane Company was reborn as Hawker, and the Singer Car agents Bamford and Martin started producing their own cars named Aston Martin.

The firm struggled financially and produced less than seven hundred 1,5 and 2 litre cars up until the outbreak of WW2. Hawker prospered when new developments in aircraft design forced the military to purchase new equipment, culminating in the immortal Hurricane.

In 1947, tractor and gear manufacturer, Sir David Brown bought out the Aston Martin Company injecting much needed capital. The following year, he acquired the Lagonda firm, and with it the rights to manufacture the new Bentley designed 2,6-liter six-cylinder engine. Thus the DB series of cars were born, which would win Le Mans and the world sports car championship in 1959. The next decade would see the Aston Martin DB5 as the transport of choice of the James Bond movie character and with the introduction of the new V8 powered DBS.

1947 also called for a new jet fighter to defend Britain against high flying jet bombers, but technology was advancing so fast that the specification was obsolete before an aircraft was designed o meet it. Thus a private venture by Hawker was hastily accepted, using existing know-how to bridge the gap between the obsolete jets of WW2 and the supersonic designs that had yet to be developed.

 During the Biplane era, the Hurricane had been developed in much the same way, and even put into production without a single order from the dithering authorities, a move which, in all probability, saved Britain from invasion when ready supplies of Hurricanes were available, compared with a trickle of Spitfires.
First flight of the Hunter prototype was on July 20, 1951, flown by test pilot legend, Neville Duke. Just in time for the Cold War and the potentially menacing fleets of Soviet bombers, the Hunter was rushed into service, despite fundame ntal problems like engine surge (with consequent compressor stall and engine flame-out) when firing the guns at high altitudes.
A special after-burning version of the Rolls Royce Avon engine enabled Neville Duke to fly the prototype to an absolute world record speed over a 3-km course of 1170 km/h in 1953.

As the Hurricane had been developed into a successful fighter-bomber, when the Spitfire could take over the role as air superiority interceptor, the Hunter, with its ferocious cannon armament, followed suit with the introduction of the supersonic Lightning. Later versions had uprated engines and hard points under the wings for extra fuel tanks or bombs. Export orders were received from over a dozen countries and aircraft were supplied to, amongst others, Switzerland and Rhodesia. Although the former were never to fire their guns in anger, the latter were to give excellent service during the bush war. So effective was the Hunter as a gun platform that, in response to some journalistic hyperbole, Rich Brand was able to score a bulls-eye on a dustbin with a five round burst from the 30mm cannon!

During the horsepower race of the Sixties, Aston's venerable six was being humbled by the average American family's station wagon, with its large capacity pushrod V8. For the aristocratic marque from Newport Pagnel, this would simply not do. So Tadek Marek, their Polish-born engine-man, was commissioned to design their riposte. No ordinary Yankee V8 this turned out to be; an all-alloy design with cast iron wet liners (much like an Alfa) with 4 over-head cams.

 In true Aston tradition, development was done at Le Mans in two Lola T70's, with production engines being beefed up in the areas which had shown weakness. The result was an over-engineered monster motor of 5.34 litres (327 to Chevy fans) with chain driven oil pump the size of an ostrich egg and a 12 litre sump!

Aston Martin, believing that comparisons are odious, refused to divulge such an academic trifle as the power output. The Motor Magazine estimated around 375 bhp in the flattering SAE measure, but for comparison today, it would be around 310 bhp DIN. Whatever, the fact remains that the car with Bosch mechanical fuel injection system and 5-speed manual ZF gearbox, is a real stormer.

Aston Martin DBS 

Despite its considerable mass, acceleration is still impressive for a thirty year old car: 0 - 100 km/h in just under 6 seconds and the Quarter-mile in low fourteens. All this with a top speed of at least 160 mph and a cabin trimmed to the standards of a Rolls Royce. Owner of the 55 000 mile feature car tells me that once he had sorted out the complexities of the injection system, the car has been totally reliable; the heads have never even been lifted.

Dave Clarkson is a tractor specialist and finds such matters undaunting; chassis no 10303 is one of the last of the David Brown cars produced before the company was sold and the cars detuned by the fitting of Carburettors.

Hawker Hunter F MK58 

Ron Wheeldon owns two Hunters: a single-seater F Mk 58 and a two-seater T Mk 68, both ex Swiss Air Force. The fighter was delivered in 1959 as part of a batch of 100 and later developed into a fighter-bomber wielding Maverick missiles. The two-seater was a re-manufactured RAF trainer, which became an Electronic Warfare version, delivered in 1974 and upgraded with new systems in the Eighties, to keep pace with the new technology on the battlefield. In November 1994, the Swiss Air Force disposed of its ageing Hunter fleet to make way for new F18's. Having been meticulously maintained for so many years, these exciting machines, with their superb handling and immense airframe strength, were snapped up by war bird collectors like Ron.

During an air show at Swartkops on 22nd April, Webber Wentzel Bowens Attorneys sponsored the appearance of Ron's T Mk 68 in a head-to-head contest with Dave's Aston in a drag race down the runway. Dave saw 55 mph in first and 85 in second as he scorched away in the lead initially, but by the half-mile mark, it was "game over" to the Hunter. At 260 km/h, it was time to get airborne and with the Aston running out of room to brake, the dice was essentially over in the time you have taken to read this paragraph.

If you choose to get your adrenaline rush by mechanical means, then a classic jet fighter must be the ultimate choice. If refinement, mixed with raw power, is your goal, then the Aston must be the answer; a Boss Mustang for the English country gent."


Hawker Hunter F Mk 58
Engine : Rolls Royce Avon 207 Axial flow turbojet, 10150 lb thrust Max speed 1149 Kmh or up to a trans-sonic Mach 1:2 in a dive 90 deg

Chassis : Aluminium Alloy stressed-skin monocoque capable of withstanding +7:8 and - 5:0 "G" limits.

Mass : 9800 kgs in "civilian" trim 1134o with weapons (max) 3800 lbs
Fuel Consumption : 2000 litres/hr

Aston Martin DBS V8 1971 V8
90 deg. 100 mm bore x 85 mm
Stroke 5340 cc 9.0 : 1
Compression power (see text)
Torque 400 ft.lb 5 spd ZF
Manual or 3 spd Chrysler Auto Diff ratio 3.54 : 1 (Man)
Platform chassis with integral steel super-Structure to support alloy body panels
Mass : 3800lbs
Fuel Consumption : 14 mpg

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