Bulldog
Bulldog

Bulldog

(1980)

I don't think that I will ever forget the impact that this car had on me when it was first unveiled in 1980; I was an impressionable 15 year old at the time. It appeared in every car magazine simultaneously and I bought a copy of every one which I still have in my collection. To think that AML was only rescued from administration a few years prior to the unveiling of the Bulldog, it was clear that the company was still more than capable of producing a startling supercar. The only Aston Martin since to ever come close to the impact of the Bulldog has been the One-77; close but not quite perhaps.

Bulldog

This drivable concept car was developed to demonstrate the ability of the factory to produce a supercar for the 80’s. William Towns styled the Bulldog soon after finishing the AM Lagonda and thus created the ultimate wedge shaped sportscar design – with initial engineering work by AML chief engineer, Mike Loasby. When Loasby moved to work for DeLorean in 1979, the work to finish the car was given to Keith Martin who developed the car for the next three years. It was strongly supported by the then Managing Director of AML, Alan Curtis, who named the car after an aeroplane that he flew called the Scottish Aviation Bulldog. Within the factory it was known by the code name K-9, perhaps after Dr. Who’s robotic dog.

Pirelli P7 tyres are used all round fitted to Compomotive split-rim alloy wheels. Around the circumference are fitted with blades to direct cooling air to the brakes. This feature was later seen on the successful racing Porsche 956 sportscar. Front wheels are shod with 225/50’s whilst rear wheels have massive 345/35 tyres.

Very serious consideration was given to a small production run of between 12 and 25 examples but the car remains totally unique. When AML changed hands in 1981, the new Chairman, Victor Gauntlett considered the company had more pressing problems and the Bulldog was sold off for a reputed £130,000 to a Middle Eastern Prince.

The Bulldog is powered by a twin Garrett AirResearch turbocharged 5.3 litre V8 originally with Bosch Fuel Injection. Power output on the test bed reached in excess of 700 bhp, although installed in the car this would have been in the region of 650 bhp. I have read elsewhere on the web that the theoretical top speed is in the region of 237mph, a think this is a little optimistic; I would guestimate between 210 and 220 myself. During testing at MIRA ‘only’ 192 mph was recorded so Bulldog is only theoretically the fastest V8 powered AM, loosing out to the AMR1 with a confirmed 217mph. It would however be well and truly trounced by the One-77 of course.

Of special note were the pair of massive power operated gullwing doors which took the height of the car from just over a metre to nearly two. The mechanism is actually based on that used power the V8 Volante hood mechanism.

This left hand drive car of both great length and width only seats two occupants. Instrumentation was provided by the then ‘state of the art’ LED technology and touch type sensors straight out of the new AM Lagonda.

Many changes have been made during the 34 years that has elapsed from the cars unveiling. The silver over light grey machine in now painted in two tone metallic green, whilst the brown leather of the interior had been replaced by stone leather piped in brown. Other additions to the car include (rather bling) gold plating trim to switches and gear stick, roof mounted stereo, ugly but useful rear view mirrors and a TV showing the rear-view of the car.

I first photographed this unique car during a very rare public appearance in the AMOC marquee at the 1997 Coys Festival, Silverstone and subsequently at the Stratton Motor Company open day, 1998. Interestingly the car has lost the fuel injection system initially fitted and now has quad Weber carburettors. These are I think of the side draught type and are paired up within the ‘V’ unlike the down draught type fitted in a line down the centre as would be found in a V8 Vantage. More recently, the Bulldog was one of the star cars at the Aston Martin Centenary Celebration at Kensington Palace in 2013. At this time, the car was still a non-runner but attempts to get it moving under it’s own power again continue through 2014.

The black and white press images below were taken by AML photographer, Roger Stowers back in 1980 and are very interesting to compare to the more recent photographs.

Despite being only an engineering exercise, interest in this drivable usable concept car remains extremely high. Up until this point in time, the Bulldog remains the only publicly seen fully engineered mid-engined Aston Martin. The mid-engine prototype AM305 from 2000 was dropped before ever being seen by the public and the DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo only exists in the virtual world and as a full-sized model.

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