Within the factory walls, its codename was K-9, after Dr. Who's famous robotic dog. But since Alan Curtis, the Managing Director of Aston Martin Lagonda liked to spend his free time by flying a Scottish Aviation Bulldog, by the time the car was first shown to the public on March 27, 1980 at the Bell Hotel at Aston Clinton, it got the Bulldog name tag as well.
The town of Newport Pagnell wanted to show the world that they could build a modern mid-engined supercar for the eighties just as well as certain Italian automakers in Maranello or Sant'Agata Bolognese. The Bulldog's wedge-shaped body was designed by William Towns, who you might know for giving us the futuristic (and failed) Lagonda sedan. While he came up with the idea of the five hidden headlamps and the massive gullwing doors that were operated by a motorized version of the Volante's hood mechanism, the engineering work landed on chief engineer Mike Loasby's table. But since he left AML to work for DeLorean in 1979, the development had to be finished by Keith Martin, who kept refining the prototype for another three years.
The heart of the Bulldog was the usual 5.3 litre V8 Aston put into everything those days, but with the help of Bosch's latest fuel injection technology and two Garrett turbochargers, the performance figure climbed well above 650 horsepower. With a 43 inch high body that was shaped like a blade, the Bulldog achieved 191 mph at the MIRA test track. For a bit of extra publicity, Aston Martin claimed a theoretical top speed of 237 mph.
Pirelli P7s (225/50 in the front, 345/35 in the rear) helped to keep the power under control, while the brakes got better cooling thanks to Compomotive split-rim alloys which had integrated air blades just like the ones on Group C race cars.
The interior was a mixture of old-fashioned British luxury and modern technology. Dead cow's skin intermingled with high-tech LED technology and plenty of touch sensors. It also got a proper ZF manual instead of the Chrysler 3-speed automatic transmission that was an option for the V8. Since the Bulldog was a fully funcional prototype, Aston Martin was considering a limited-production run of 15-25 cars. Unfortunately, Victor Gauntlett become the chairman of the company in 1981, and decided that Aston Martin had bigger problems than bringing an impossibly complicated supercar to market.
For that reason, the Bulldog remained a unique prototype. It was sold to the highest bidder, a prince from the Middle East for £130,000 with a silver over light gray exterior and brown interior. He fitted it with rear view mirrors as well as a rearview camera linked to a screen in the dash. The man liked redundancy. The gold plating trim also feels like an upgrade from the East.
After getting sandy, the Bulldog went to a collector in America, only to resurface again in the UK in 1997, by which point it got a new two-tone green paint job, the interior was refitted with lighter colors, and the Bosch injection system had been replaced with four Weber carburetors.
It remains the only road legal mid-engined Aston Martin to this day.
Photo credit: Aston Martin Lagonda and Edvvc