The Aston Martin Bulldog’s Triumph: How a 40-Year Quest Led to the Ultimate Top Speed Achievement

The remarkable Aston Martin Bulldog concept car has smashed the 200 mph barrier, after a comprehensive restoration taking over 7,000 hours.

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
Finally, after over 40 years of waiting, the incredible Aston Martin Bulldog has achieved its top speed goal of 200 mph. The British company only built one example of the concept car and hoped to take it to a top speed of 200 mph in the 1970s, but it managed just 191 mph in 1979. The ultimate goal was 237 mph. But the project was canceled after its high-speed run. Now though, after a 7,000-hour restoration, the remarkable car has smashed through that 200 mph barrier.

The car was driven to this incredible achievement by works Aston Martin driver Darren Turner, who has won the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours in his class three times. Now he can add an incredible high-speed run in the Bulldog to his list of achievements.

Why Aston Martin Decided To Produce The Bulldog Concept Car

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years

Aston Martin had originally hoped to produce a production run of 15–20 examples of the Bulldog. The one car they did make appeared in 1979. Named after the Scottish Aviation Bulldog that Aston Martin’s managing director of the time, Alan Curtis, flew. The aim of the Bulldog was to show off the capabilities of the company’s new engineering facility in Newport Pagnell. But the company was also chasing the fastest production car record.

Its official debut was in March 1980, and Aston Martin made sure it was an eye-catching design with its iconic wedge-like shape. Similar to that of the Lamborghini Countach and the Lotus Esprit, but with sharper, pointier lines and curves. The interior of the Bulldog was just as crazy. With walnut trim as the upholstery of choice while it sported many LED buttons, similar to what was used in the Lagonda. The headlamps are center-mounted and hidden, while the Gullwing doors made the concept even more remarkable to look at.

Aston Martin Bulldog Front Quarter View Doors Openvia Aston Martin
Sadly though, Aston Martin was unable to produce more than one example. In 1981, Victor Gauntlett became chairman of the company. Reviewing the Bulldog project, he felt that it was set to become much too expensive. So it was shelved with only one ever being built. The car passed through several owners, first sold to a middle eastern collector before it then spent some time in the United States. Found in storage in the Far East, the car was then sold in Britain in 2020 and bought by an American collector. The restoration took place in the UK under the guidance of Richard Gauntlett, the son of Victor.

A Twin-Turbo V8 Lies At The Heart Of The Aston Martin Bulldog

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
Under the hood is a 5.3-liter Aston Martin twin-turbocharged V8 engine. An engine that produces 600 hp, but it was capable of 700 hp when on the test bed. Aston Martin at the time of its launch claimed the Bulldog would have a top speed of 237 mph but 191 was the maximum they were able to do. This engine blew up after its middle eastern owner took it for his very first drive in it, so it needed a complete rebuild as part of its restoration.

The rebuild of the car was completed in November 2021. And on its initial shakedown, it achieved a top speed of 162 mph. But that wasn’t enough for new owner Phillip Sarofim, and Classic Motor Cars from Bridgnorth in the UK, were given the task of restoring the Bulldog. They still harbored ambitions of taking the car up to 200 mph and possibly beyond. Although there was no intention to stress the car out too much and attempt the 237 mph speed that Aston Martin always claimed the car could achieve. But the 200 mph barrier was a nice goal for the team.

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
Darren Turner was able to take the car to a top speed of 176 mph in 2021, but it was still short of 200 mph. Hundreds more hours of testing and refinement were thus needed to ensure the Bulldog would reach their goal of 200 mph. Part of the refinements to the car included the fitting of a modern fuel injection system, a stronger transmission, and a new nose-lift system. The aim was to boost the power of the V8 to 650 hp while retaining the integrity of the car is maintained, keeping it as original as possible.

Why A 200 Mph Run With The Bulldog Was Attempted

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
The simple reason for taking the car to 200 mph was to finish what Aston Martin had started. The project never had the chance to get off the ground, given its quick cancellation. Thus, its felt that there was a lot of unfulfilled potential within the car. Aston Martin themselves may have been able to get the car to its top speed target had development continued. And the cancelation of the car was reluctant by Gauntlett who hoped to see what the Bulldog could do.

Luckily for the team restoring the car, the Bulldog was largely intact when CMC got its hands on it, and they were able to rebuild the original engine. No longer though was it 5.3 liters, but it was now bored and stroked to 5.7 liters. Garrett turbochargers and 0.9 bar of boost helped ensure the Bulldog could realize the potential Gauntlett thought the car could achieve. CMC claimed the engine is now good for 650 hp, with the potential for another 200 hp. But it frazzled their own dyno upon its first runs!

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
The Bulldog never seemed to break a sweat when Turner took it on his 200 mph run. In fact, it did it so easily that the car was able to achieve a top speed of 205 mph, with conditions perfect for its high-speed test. The fact that the car hit the speed in such a manner is a testament to the work that CMC put into the Bulldog. And proves that the car had a lot more potential than what Aston Martin was able to extract from it. Who knows what it would have achieved if Gauntlett hadn’t shelved the program?

There is now the question of what is next for the Bulldog. Even if the Bulldog can break 237 mph, there isn’t a high chance it will be allowed to do so. Having spent so long on its restoration, the last thing that Sarofim or Classic Motor Cars want to do is blow up the engine. Or risk an accident for this priceless concept car. A 205 mph top speed though is a fantastic achievement, and it joins a club of 200 mph+ cars that isn’t very big. It’s also rare that any classic car like this is allowed to stretch its legs in such a manner.

How The Unique Aston Martin Bulldog Finally Achieved Top Speed Goal After 40 Years
If the Bulldog is set now for a quiet, post-restoration life in private hands and sometimes on public display, then it’s earned it. It has shown the world what it is really capable of, yet the prospect of squeezing another 200 hp out of the engine makes us wonder just what else the car could do.

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