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Aston Martin Atom. The prototype for "a new order of motorsport"

In addition to being one of the first concept cars in history, the Aston Martin Atom is a model that radically changed the way and the way in which the brand's models would have to evolve after World War II. The confirmation that many times "less is more", being one of the most revolutionary designs of all time.

By now, it seems that for the bulk of motorsport fans all is said about Aston Martin. However, there is an experimental model built in 1940 about which is said as little as its influence on the future of the company was crucial. We refer to the Aston Martin Atom. Possibly one of the first "Concept cars". Built not with the purpose of reaching series but to serve as a laboratory for ideas embodied in later models. Quite a futuristic idea for its time. Since only two years before the one that is had as the first conceptual prototype in history appeared. The Buick Y-Job.

In addition, as forced as the bodywork may seem to us on its side, the truth is that it serves as a hinge between two distinct eras in motorsport. In this way, the Aston Martin Atom is the nexus between pre-World War II models such as the 1932 Le Mans - with its large size and open cabin - and the DB1 1948. A vehicle with a much more modern appearance, equipped with a four-cylinder engine inherited from the Atom to be the first model with David Brown at the helm of the brand.

Thus, the Aston Martin Atom is recognized by many experts, samples of classics and international exhibitions as the seminal model for the golden age of the brand's GT. In fact, some point to the innovations of the same as the element that ended up convincing David Brown to buy the company. Thus saving from the disappearance this company that, beyond manufacturing excellent sports cars, did not seem to find the key to mass production economically profitable models.

ASTON MARTIN ATOM. A CONCEPT CAR BETWEEN TWO TIMES

It has always been said that pride precedes the fall. And, although it is questionable to applaud the clichés inherited from the past without further ado, the truth is that with many "Gentlemen drivers" from the thirties this seems to be true. Seated in the twilight of their golden age with frames like the Bentley Blowers, they laughed at brands that tended to reduce engine displacement and improve bodies. Nevertheless, while in aerodynamic cars like the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Le Mans Speciale from 1938 demonstrated the convenience of the coupe with integrated wheels, in mechanics the Aston Martin Ulster did it with respect to compressed engines.

And, far from increasing the generous 4 liters of the Blower, Aston Martin lowered the displacement of the Ulster to one and a half liters. Just the opposite of what certain pilots of the moment preached, finally silencing them thanks to excellent performance combined with an interesting weight reduction. With this technology of "less is more", sports car manufacturers sensed the beginning of a new era that had its final turning point in the Second World War.

Thus, the team of engineers led by physicist Gordon Sutherland ventured to build the Aston Martin Atom. In this sense, It was sought to provide greater comfort to the large rolling rooms of the time. Closing its body to make it much more enveloping with respect to the environment. In addition, the size was reduced and the materials were lightened, leading to a better weight / power ratio.

Issue that had previously been given very little importance, subsequently turning out to be key for any GT. To round off this, and without counting on the new smaller and more efficient mechanics, the Aston Martin Atom should also have careful aerodynamics and outstanding grip. In short, Sutherland and his family faced the reinvention of the automobile as it was known until then.

NEW CHASSIS AND ENGINE FOR A "COMPLETE RUPTURE"

Designed in 1939 and registered the following year, the Aston Martin Atom was one of less than a thousand private vehicles registered in England in the early days of World War II. A fact that is understood not only by the attacks of the Nazi aviation. But also by a war effort in which even railings and kitchen utensils were melted together to build ships and ammunition. However, the automotive press did not stop working. A fact of the British phlegm. Analyzing the latest novelty presented by Aston Martin with opinions such as "the future now", "Complete break" or "in this car we can see the new order of motorsport ”.

Too bombastic a priori headlines. But spot on when the Aston Martin Atom is analyzed in detail. For starters, this concept car did away with the old, heavy chassis from the XNUMXs. Which also were not as rigid as might be expected. Instead of them, a chassis welded with steel tubes was built. Lightweight and torsion resistant. A good base on which to mount the aluminum body panels. With which they continued to insist on the idea of ​​reducing weight.

In addition, the suspensions - hydraulic, independent on the front axle and with the rear axle suspended on flexible springs - greatly improved the car's grip and also its comfort. Just what was needed to give a saloon that also sporting qualities greater ride comfort. A mixture not seen until then. Or at least in this design with reduced size and weight. In large part thanks to having a wheelbase well below the average of the moment. Something that improved the effectiveness of the 1950cc inline four-cylinder engine, capable of launching the Aston Martin Atom up to 157 km / h.

And if all this were not enough, the gearbox installed is a Cotal semiautomatic forerunner for certain specialists of the current cam system. One last and powerful reason to share what was said by the motoring press in 1940, convincing us of the groundbreaking nature of this concept car. The proof that many times "less is more". Being able to have opened a new path where the reduction of the size of the body and the engine has helped to improve the behavior. Reasons to have the Aston Martin Atom as one of the most important models in the entire history of the brand.

Photographs: Bonhams

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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