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The Aston Martin, a piece of automotive art

Behind the wheel of the Aston Martin
Behind the wheel of the Aston Martin 04:19

How about a drive in an Aston Martin? These classic sports cars, beloved by James Bond, are symbols of British craftsmanship. With Charlie D'Agata let's hit the road:

That sound, like its reputation, precedes the Aston Martin. And beneath the deep growl of its latest model is the echo of more than a century of British carmaking.

Charlie D'Agata behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB11.  CBS News

And it's a brand intrinsically linked with that other British icon – Bond, James Bond.

Rob Smith fell in love at the tender age of 14, when he joined the Aston Martin Owners Club, despite not being an owner. "I had no idea how I would ever afford an Aston Martin, but I knew I was going to get there eventually!" he told D'Agata.

He did get there eventually. He now owns four.

"It's got soul!" Smith said. "It's more than just a collection of nuts and bolts and oil and petrol. It's the love that's gone into it."

Aston Martin fan Rob Smith owns four. CBS News

The United States is Aston Martin's biggest overseas market. Yet, each vehicle is handmade to the customer's specifications at its U.K. factory.

"We don't see this as just being cars," said senior product specialist Steve Waddingham. "It's a piece of art, really. It's a piece of automotive art."

Yet it's a miracle that the Aston Martin has managed to survive at all. While they're good at making cars – particularly racing cars – making a profit was another matter; the company has gone bankrupt no fewer than seven times in its history.

Founded in 1913, "Aston" came from a famous racing hill at the time. "Martin" came from Lionel Martin, one of the founders of the company.

A charismatic chap named David Brown purchased the company in 1947, and lo, the DB was born.

In the 1950s Aston Martin began producing DB models - racing cars and touring coupes. Aston Martin

The DB11 is the most advanced DB the company has ever built, with a price around a quarter of a million dollars, and capable of devastating speeds -- 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.

The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 with Sean Connery in "Goldfinger." United Artists

It's not hard to see why 007 found the car a perfect fit. A DB5 in 1964's "Goldfinger" thrust Aston Martin onto the world stage. 

Product placement to die for … and a cinematic love affair with 007 that's lasted more than 50 years.

In fact, that DB5 made an encore appearance in 2012's "Skyfall."

Skyfall - Aston Martin DB5 Reveal by jackandtom94 on YouTube

The Queen gave Prince Charles a DB6 for his 21st birthday, which made a surprise appearance at the last Royal Wedding.

What may take the shine off this most British of brands is that throbbing heart under the hood is actually an engine built by Mercedes – and the company is now owned by a Kuwaiti, Italian and German investment consortium.

Handcrafted at the Aston Martin factory in Gaydon in Warwickshire, England. CBS News

But that doesn't bother Rob Smith, who cars proudly bear the sign "Hand built in England."

D'Agat asked him, "How mportant are those words, 'in England,' to you?"

"Well, I'm English! So it's the most important thing!" he laughed.

For enthusiasts, the Aston Martin represents how Britain sees itself – maybe a little stuffy; sure, a dash of arrogance; but a bit of an underdog still capable of commanding attention on the world stage.

CBS News

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Story produced by Erin Lyall.

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