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The rise and rise of 5 British automotive brands

Aston Martin's initial public offering (IPO) announcement will come as no surprise to investors, after months of speculation. Aston Martin is synonymous with quality and justifiable excess in both its production values and famous association with the James Bond franchise.

With the recent diversification, completing a luxury trifecta offering by adding luxury aircraft and property to its wheelhouse on the rise to IPO, we chart the rise and rise of five quintessentially British automotive brands.

Aston Martin (Lagonda)

Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford founded what would later become known as Aston Martin in 1913. A tumultuous first century for the now British icon with seven bankruptcies, and therefore multiple owners, it has become synonymous with that other British institution, the James Bond franchise after the DB5, featured originally in Goldfinger. The DB range, so named for the company’s mid-century angel investor, David Brown, has become the key flagship creation for the brand. Bond’s silver screen love for Aston Martin and the DB range has continued sporadically throughout the franchise, appearing most recently in 2015’s Spectre.

With an historic link to Bentley through the Lagonda business, and a Bentley-designed engine forming part of the future DB Aston range, the often loss-making Aston Martin is the perennial British trier, now finally in profit and carrying a potential valuation of £5 billion in its upcoming IPO.


99 years young, Bentley was founded in 1919 in North London by Walter Owen Bentley. After only five years of production, Bentley quickly gained prestige with a win at the 1924 Le Mans. The experience gained through racing at Le Mans proved so beneficial to the engineering teams at Bentley that they ceased racing in 1930, having learned enough to contribute to their engine technology.

Unfortunately for Bentley, the new decade saw them cease trading, with the Wall Street market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression driving down demand and taking them into receivership, beginning a complicated web of ownership. Rolls Royce snuck in a bid for the failing company, aided by a front company disguising their interest, and took ownership of Bentley in 1931. Nationalised in the 70s, Rolls Royce retained the Bentley ownership and were subsequently subsumed into the Volkswagen family in 1998.

From Crewe to Derby and back again, like many of the Great British brands in this run down, many elements remain handcrafted at the Bentley factory, where traditional methods meet modern sensibilities in the form of sustainable sourcing for the uniquely ornate interiors.


In 1952, a later creation than any of our other automotive British brands featured, Lotus Cars wasted no time hitting the F1 track. Chapman and Dare, engineers and RAF servicemen, championed the ingenious and innovative lightweight design to take Team Lotus to the top of the grid and the podium for decades.

Consistently positioning themselves as manufacturers of a thoroughbred sports car, only 2,000 cars are produced by hand each year at their Hethel factory. With speed and efficiency of build through engineering core to the brand, Colin Chapman’s Lotus hasn't strayed from his original vision, although it’s no longer British owned.


Proudly still handmade, fewer than 200 highly-skilled craftspeople create around 1,300 cars per week. Taking such pride in their quality that to get to the top of the waiting list can take years, Morgan remain unique in that many elements of the body work continue to be constructed from wood.

Founded by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, this Midlands heritage brand has proved to be unusual for a British car brand, as it remained family owned and managed for a large portion of its near 120-year history. An alum of the Great Western Railway, HFS inadvertently began Morgan by designing and building his own car, a one seater, three-wheel cyclecar. Later, two and four seater, and four-wheeled models, fuelled by considerable racing success including a world speed record, grew the business ahead of production at times, which began the waitlist model which Morgan still employs.  

Jaguar (Land Rover)

William Lyons, a Lancashire lad, ushered Jaguar on to the automotive scene in 1922, initially as The Swallow Sidecar Company, later progressing to produce what would become Jaguar in 1935. For a time, part of the Ford family along with Aston Martin, Jaguar has been owned by TATA Motors along with Land Rover, trading as Jaguar Land Rover since 2008.

Certainly the most prolific employer of this list with some 24,000 people working to create and sustain Jaguar’s production and performance at its Midlands factory, Jaguar blends near futuristic robotic engineering with hands-on attention from highly skilled workers to exceed customer expectation.

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