The Dark Ages – during which there was little to no advancement in Western civilization, science and culture – are widely agreed upon by the history community to have lasted from roughly the 5th century to the 10th century. The Automotive Dark Ages (alternately called the Malaise Era) lasted from roughly 1974 to 1985. During this period, engine outputs dropped, curb weights rose, and designers were forced to festoon their creations with fatter bumpers and sealed-beam headlights to meet U.S. regulations. It was a time during which it was very, very difficult for enthusiasts to get excited about new cars.
This is not to say, however, that there was a complete lack of hot cars during this time period. The Porsche 930, Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, Lamborghini Countach and Dodge Lil’ Red Express Truck were just some of the vehicles that offered tire-chirping respites from the bloated, underpowered drudgery. Unfortunately, most or all of the aforementioned rides would likely just manage to keep pace with a new Toyota Camry SE V6, much less something extreme like a Ferrari 458 Italia. But there was one car built during this era that would have no trouble running with just about any sub-Veyron modern supercar. We speak, of course, of the original Aston Martin Bulldog (as opposed to the new one being proposed by HBH).
Shortly after Aston Martin put his love-it-or-abhor-it Lagonda sedan into production, designer William Towns set about sketching up a mid-engined supercar for the storied British brand, which at the time was owned by American Peter Sprague and Canadian George Minden. The resulting design (which was revealed to the world on March 27, 1980) boasts an undeniable kinship with the Lagonda, as the wheel openings are pretty much the only curved lines on the whole exterior. The car is super low (standing 43 inches tall) and super wide, though electrically-actuated gullwing doors nearly double its height when opened. The quintet of centrally-mounted headlights are hidden behind a large panel that pivots downward, and the wheels feature massive discs to help channel cooling air toward the brakes. It couldn’t look any more like the kind of car a sci-fi/futurist movie protagonist would drive.
Suffice it to say, while the styling might have looked right at home in a late-1970s person’s vision of 2011, it wears its age on its proverbial sleeve in the actual version of 2011. But the performance capabilities of the Bulldog, whose name is derived from an airplane managing director Alan Curtis once flew (Before that, it was codenamed DP K9, itself inspired by a robotic dog from the British TV show Doctor Who.), are anything but dated. The Bulldog is powered by a twin-turbocharged version of Aston Martin’s 5.3L DOHC V8 producing a claimed 700hp. Matched with a 5-speed manual transaxle, this monstrous mill was able to push the Bulldog to 191 mph during its one and only high-speed test. However, given its druthers (and ironing out any bugs), Aston Martin engineers reckoned this flying doorstop could reach 237 mph, or 17 mph faster than the official fastest Aston road car ever, the One-77. Stop and think about that: Seven-hundred horsepower and 237 mph from a car that was built when a new Corvette made about 180 horsepower and would be lucky to reach half that velocity descending the Grapevine with a gale-force tailwind. Great. Googly. Moogly.
You’re no doubt asking where you can find one of these Limey land missiles. Well, we have some bad news: There was only, in fact, one made (though as many as 25 were planned), the lefthand-drive example seen here. It has undergone many changes over the years, including a change of exterior and interior colors and the addition of sideview mirrors and a rearview camera with console-mounted monitor. But it still has the same whiplash-inducing looks and, presumably, the same blackout-inducing performance potential. It’s still the same car that provided a white-hot beacon of hope to gearheads during their most trying times, the same car that acted as a pair muscular middle digits emphatically upturned in the collective face of diminished expectations, energy-limiting geopolitical events and fun-smothering regulations. In short, it was just the sort of car needed to help the faithful stay that way and, if the events of the last few years are anything to go by, a car of this sort might soon be needed again to rally the legions of car guy and car gal troops scattered across the globe.
In the meantime, we’re content to just park the Aston Martin Bulldog in our Fantasy Collection warehouse.