Desmond’s colourful career with Aston Martin began in 1976 when he joined well-known marque specialist, Peter Austen Smith, as a trainee mechanic. After learning his trade on the spanners, and working on everything from road cars to Project 215 racing cars, he achieved full City & Guilds qualifications with distinctions and set up his own, eponymous business.
In 1985 he opened up his first workshop in Olney, and he expanded with a second restoration, service and repair workshop shortly afterwards.
The business took another leap forward in 1997, following the closure of Aston Martin’s production facility at nearby Newport Pagnell, when a number of long-serving personnel began working for Desmond, bringing with them decades of experience and first-hand knowledge of the marque. With Desmond’s exacting standards it was a natural fit and the business – and its reputation – has gone from strength to strength.
The latest development saw Desmond open a 6,000 square foot showroom on Olney’s historic High Street South – a venue that was first used as a showroom in 1918, when it sold prams and pushbikes. A stunning collection of classic and modern Aston Martins is on display there.
A short history of Aston Martin and Desmond J. Smail over the last century
|1913||Bamford and Martin Ltd founded in London by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin. Sharing a passion for beautiful and fast cars, they join forces to sell Singer and other cars and prepare them for competition.|
|1914||First prototype for a fast road and competition car uses modified Coventry-Simplex 1,389cc side-valve, four cylinder engine and 1908 Isotta-Fraschini chassis. Called an Aston-Martin in deference to Martin’s successes at Aston Clinton Hillclimb, the hybrid takes Silver Medal at Brighton Speed Trials.|
|1915||Second prototype and first proper Aston-Martin is registered; a two-seater racing car with purpose-made chassis, it is powered by the hybrid’s Coventry-Simplex engine.|
|1919||With development having been halted by the Great War, the first works Aston-Martin, by now known as ‘Coal Scuttle’ due to its body shape, keeps the Aston-Martin name in the public eye with frequent entries in the 1½ litre class in competition.|
|1921||A second racing car with completely redesigned 1,486cc Aston-Martin competition engine, driven by Martin, gives the marque its maiden race victory at Brooklands; soon after Bamford resigns from company.|
|1922||Short chassis version of Brooklands winner, known as ‘Bunny’, is extraordinarily successful, including taking twenty-five Light Car and 10 World Records at the Weybridge track, the first light car to do so. Two new two-seater cars, with all new four valve per cylinder, twin overhead camshaft, four cylinder 1½ litre engine, acquit themselves well in French Grand Prix.|
|1923||Road car production at rate of one per week begins with Sports, Super Sports and Tourer models on short and long chassis. Beautifully engineered, of exquisite quality and endowed with exceptional road-holding for a small British car, even the slowest of the exceptionally expensive cars is capable of 70mph.|
|1924||Financial control of Aston-Martin passes to Charnwood family, with Martin and wife Kate remaining on board as directors.|
|1925||Company forced to close shortly after Aston-Martin’s debut at London Motor Show. Lionel Martin and wife resign.|
|1926||Renwick and Bertelli, an engineering firm owned by William Renwick and Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli, acquire the company and Aston-Martin Motors Limited is formed based at a new factory in Feltham.|
|1927||Completely new design of Aston-Martin introduced with in-house 1,495cc, single overhead camshaft engine, and four wheel brakes, available in Sporting and Touring guise.|
|1928||Aston Martin enters the Le Mans 24 Hours race for the first time and wins Rudge-Whitworth Cup for fastest 1½ litre cars over first 20 laps.|
|1932||Cheaper Second Series 1½ Litre range introduced; Lance Prideaux-Brune, and then Sir Arthur Sutherland, provides Aston-Martin with financial backing.|
|1934||Third Series 1½ Litre range introduced, followed by legendary Ulster model|
|1936||Two Litre Speed Model introduced; Sir Arthur Sutherland’s son Gordon takes over control of the company.|
|1937||Lighter 15/98 2/4 Seater model with shorter Speed Model chassis introduced, variants replace Two Litre long chassis Saloons, Tourers and Drop-Head Coupes. Bert Bertelli resigns.|
|1939||A revolutionary prototype four door saloon is developed with space frame tubular chassis, semi-automatic gearbox and independent front suspension; subsequently named Atom. Throughout World War Two further car development restricted and factory switches all production to aircraft components.|
|1944||Atom fitted with all-new two litre, pushrod, four cylinder engine.|
|1946||Without reference to it by name Aston-Martin Motors Limited is advertised for sale in The Times newspaper.|
|1947||David Brown buys Aston-Martin, dropping the hyphen in the name, and then Lagonda Limited and amalgamates the two companies into Aston Martin Lagonda Limited.|
|1948||The Atom-based Spa Special wins the Spa 24 Hours race; open bodied Spa Special-based Two Litre Sports model introduced.|
|1949||Three DB2 coupe prototypes enter Le Mans 24 Hours, two with two litre engine and one with 2.6 litre Lagonda six cylinder engine; one two litre car finishes third in class.|
|1950||Production of the DB2-powered by Lagonda engine begins; Two Litre Sports retrospectively renamed the DB1.|
|1951||DB2s take first, second and third places in the three litre class at Le Mans.|
|1952||DB3 racing model wins Goodwood Nine Hours race.|
|1953||DB2/4 with rear occasional seats and hatchback enters production; later fitted with enlarged 2.9 litre engine. DB3S racing car wins debut race.|
|1954||David Brown buys the ailing Tickford Motor Bodies in Newport Pagnell which brings production of Aston Martin bodies in-house.|
|1955||DB2/4 Mark II introduced; three cars win Team Prize in Monte Carlo Rally; a DB3S finishes second overall/first in class at Le Mans.|
|1956||DB3S again finishes second at Le Mans.|
|1957||DBR1 race car replaces DB3S and scores major successes including first overall in the Nurburgring 1,000 Kilometres race; DBR2 race car with all-new chassis and all-new 3.7 litre twin overhead camshaft six cylinder engine introduced for non-World Championship races. DB2/4 Mark III/DB Mark III introduced with front disc brakes.|
|1958||All-new DB4 with DBR2 type 3.7 litre engine enters production which moves from Feltham to Newport Pagnell. A DBR1 again wins the Nurburgring 1,000 Kilometres; DBR2 takes several race victories with enlarged 3.9 litre and 4.2 litre engines; DB3S finishes second at Le Mans for third time.|
|1959||Aston Martin wins the World Sportscar Championship with the DBR1 following victories in the Nürburgring 1,000 Kilometres, Le Mans 24 Hours and RAC Tourist Trophy; DBR2 takes more wins; short chassis DB4GT prototype wins debut race.|
|1960||Desmond John Smail is born.|
Limited edition DB4GT Zagato introduced.
Joe Dorrill starts working for Aston Martin, Newport Pagnell as a coach-trimmer.
|1962||Engineer Paul Hodgkins joins Aston’s Newport Pagnell factory as a coachbuilder.|
|1963||DB5 with longer DB4 chassis and enlarged four litre engine enters production. Project 214 becomes first car to exceed 300kph/186mph at Le Mans and Project 215 sets all time record of 319.6kph/198.5mph for front engine cars in the 24 Hours; Project 214s take first and third places in Inter-Europa Cup at Monza.|
|1964||DB5 appears in the James Bond film Goldfinger.|
|1965||DB6 with longer DB5 chassis and tail spoiler goes into production.|
|1967||DBS with longer DB6 chassis and all-new body goes into production.|
|1969||DBS V8 with all-new 5.3 litre overhead camshaft V8 engine introduced; DB6 Mark II goes into production.|
|1972||David Brown forced to sell Aston Martin Lagonda and Company Developments takes over; with restyled nose, DBS and DBS V8 resume production as Vantage and V8; V8 retrospectively known as Series 2 model.|
|1974||Longer four door version of V8 introduced as first Aston Martin Lagonda. Company goes into receivership at the end of year.|
|1975||Aston Martin Lagonda is rescued by businessmen Peter Sprague and George Minden and renamed Aston Martin Lagonda (1975) Limited; Alan Curtis and Denis Flather soon become partners.|
|1976||Advanced new Aston Martin Lagonda with ‘wedge’ body style and electronic dashboard introduced as Series 2 model.|
Desmond joins Aston Martin dealer and restorer, Peter Austin Smith, as a trainee mechanic and begins working on road cars and Project 215
|1977||V8 Vantage with increased power and tail spoiler goes into production.|
|1978||Convertible V8 Volante goes into production; V8 Series 3, introduced in 1973 with fuel injection rather than carburettors, replaced by Series 4 model incorporating V8 Vantage-style tail spoiler.|
|1980||Pace Petroleum and CH Industrials take control of company, renamed Aston Martin Lagonda Limited; Victor Gauntlett becomes chief executive and joint chairman with Tim Hearley. Aston Martin Tickford established as separate engineering company.|
Desmond gains his City & Guilds qualifications, with distinctions in most subjects and sets up business on his own.
Mark Hewitt joins the Parts Operations team at AML’s Newport Pagnell site.
|1983||Peter Livanos and Nicholas Papanicolaou become majority shareholders first of USA importer Aston Martin Lagonda of North America and then of Aston Martin Lagonda Limited.|
|1985||Desmond returns to work for Peter Austen Smith as a freelancer and takes sole charge of the running of the business – from restorations to servicing and sales - when his employer becomes ill.|
|1986||V8 Vantage Zagato goes into production and updated V8 Series 5. V8 Vantage/Vantage Volante star car in James Bond film The Living Daylights.|
|1987||V8 Volante Zagato goes into production. Ford Motor Company takes a 75% shareholding in Aston Martin.|
|1988||Virage with four valve per cylinder 5.3 litre V8 engine goes into production.|
|1989||Works AMR1 race car takes sixth place in the World Sports-Prototype Championship.|
|1990||Desmond J Smail moves to 36 East Street, Olney, where the restoration, service and parts workshops remain today.|
After nearly 30 years at AML, Paul Hodgkins joins the Desmond J Smail team.
|1991||Ford purchases remaining shares, Victor Gauntlett resigns and Walter Hayes takes over as chairman.|
|1992||Virage-based Volante and Vantage with twin superchargers go into production.|
|1994||Ford Motor Company acquires 100% shareholding in Aston Martin. All-new DB7 with 3.2 litre, supercharged, six cylinder engine goes into production at new factory in Bloxham.|
|1996||DB7 Volante goes into production and V8 Coupe with Vantage styling cues replaces Virage.|
|1997||Bob Dover leaves Jaguar and joins Aston Martin as Managing Director and CEO in the January, and is made Chairman in the April. Under his stewardship, AML introduced the V8 Volante, DB7 Vantage, Project Vantage and V8 Vantage Le Mans. |
Bob Dover leaves Jaguar and joins Aston Martin as Managing Director and CEO in the January, and is made Chairman in the April. Under his stewardship, AML introduced the V8 Volante, DB7 Vantage, Project Vantage and V8 Vantage Le Mans.
Desmond J Smail Ltd prepares a DB5 for the Peking to Paris Challenge. The car finishes 11th overall and is the first Aston Martin to cross the line.
Aston Martin closes its production facility at Newport Pagnell.
Christian Lewis joins the AML team, working as a Fast Track Technician
|1999||DB7 Vantage and DB7 Vantage Volante with 5.9 litre, four valve per cylinder, four overhead camshaft V12 engine, go into production.|
|2001||All new V12 Vanquish goes into production.|
|2002||Aston Martin renews its relationship with Italian coachbuilders Zagato to produce the limited edition DB7 Zagato|
|2003||Total DB7 production exceeds 7,000 cars, making model the most successful in Aston Martin history, including limited edition DB7 Vantage Zagato which goes into production.|
|2004||All-new 5.9 litre V12-powered DB9 and DB9 Volante go into production at purpose-built factory in Gaydon. Aston Martin announces its return to racing with DBR9. V12 Vanquish S goes into production.|
|2005||V8 Vantage with 4.3 litre, four valve per cylinder, four overhead camshaft V8 engine goes into production. Aston Martin returns to racing with DB9-based DBR9 for GT1 class and DBRS9 for GT3 class; works DBR9 takes class victory on debut in Sebring 12 Hours.|
|2006||All time Aston Martin production passes 30,000 cars. New more powerful DB9-based DBS introduced and stars in James Bond film Casino Royale. Aston Martin named ‘UK’s Coolest Brand’. Works DBR9 takes second in class in Le Mans 24 Hours.|
Will Kettleborough joins Desmond J Smail as an apprentice mechanic.
|2007||Aston Martin is sold to a consortium, with Investment Dar and Adeem Investment majority shareholders, led by David Richards; Ford retains a shareholding. Works DBR9s finish first and third in class at Le Mans. After 50 years, car production ends at Newport Pagnell, main building retained as Works Service. V8 Vantage N24 GT4 class race car and V8 Vantage Roadster go into production. Aston Martin again named ‘UK’s Coolest Brand’.|
Matt Sandall also joins the team as an Apprentice Mechanic.
|2008||Works DBR9 again finishes first in class at Le Mans. DBS stars in James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Aston Martin named 'UK's Coolest Brand' for third consecutive year.|
Mechanic Allan Hammond starts working for Desmond.
|2009||Works 5.9 litre V12-powered and built Aston Martin LMP1 class sports-prototype, the Lola-Aston Martin B09/60, wins Catalunya 1,000 Kilometres on race debut, finishes fourth and first petrol-fuelled car at Le Mans and takes six more podium places; Aston Martin takes Team and Drivers titles in Le Mans Series Championship, 50 years after winning World Sportscar Championship. V8 Vantage GT2 launched making Aston Martin only manufacture producing cars for all four GT race classes. V12 Vantage and DBS Volante go into production. Limited edition 7.3 litre V12-powered 750bhp One-77 introduced with world’s most powerful normally aspirated engine.|
Rob Hiles leaves Aston Martin after five years to join the service and restoration workshops at Desmond J Smail.
|2010||Works Lola-Aston Martin B09/60 finishes third and fastest petrol car in Sebring 12 Hours and second in Le Castellet Eight Hours and Long Beach GP. DB9-based four door Rapide and N24-inspired V8 Vantage N420 go into production. Aston Martin wins manufacturers title in GT1 Word Championship with DBR9. Aston Martin named 'UK's Coolest Brand' for fourth time in five years.|
After 27 years working for AML, Mark Hewitt joins Desmond J Smail to head up the parts department.
Desmond opens a showroom on High Street, Olney, showcasing a splendid collection of Aston Martins for sale and Lucy Abbott joins the sales and marketing team.
After ticking off jobs at Mercedes, Audi, Hyundai and spending a number of years working in the editorial departments of Autocar, Top Gear and EVO magazines, Janet Mills takes on the role of Desmond’s PA.
|2011||New AMR-One LMP1 sports-prototype with turbocharged two litre, six cylinder, petrol engine makes race debut in Le Castellet Six Hours. Up-rated V8 Vantage S, DB9-based Virage and Toyota iQ-based Cygnet city car go into production. New V12 Vantage-based Vantage GT3 race car and limited edition V12 Vantage Zagato announced.|
Desmond teams up with a customer to race an Aston Martin N24 in the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge.