The Pole who gave power to Bond

2017-04-11 The Pole who gave power to Bond

photograph by: author Stephen Foskett, engine of former Aston Martin DB4, license CC BY-SA 3.0 .

He came close to death a few times. Wanting to save his loved one, he stole a military car and broke into the enemy’s ground. He ran from captivity, saved his imprisoned friends, escaped bombarding unscathed, and when he dug out from the rubble of a collapsed house, he saw the girl he immediately fell in love with. James Bond? No, this is all Tadeusz Marek and his young days. But he does have something in common with Bond. He designed the engine, that drove a few Aston Martin models, including the favorite car of Agent 007, cult model DB5.

Tadeusz began his adventure with motorization in 1924, when he renovated a clapped-out Ford T in his home Cracow. It was a true achievement, as he was only 16 years old back then. He wasn’t quite happy with that - the Ford did drive, but slowly, and Tadek wanted to race. So he set the car aside and began driving motorcycles. He lost his enthusiasm after an accident during a street race. His BMW hit another motorcycle, and he flew over a dozen meters and fell on the race organizer’s tent, breaking apart a nearby water stand. Broken and injured, Marek went to the hospital for eight months, and when he got out, he didn’t want to ride a bicycle anymore. He got to the conclusion that car races were a safer sport. But before he began racing, he graduated at the Technical University of Berlin and was employed at National Engineering Works in Warsaw, where he dealt with, among others, designing the Sokół motorcycle engine. He worked with motorcycles at work, and he dedicated his free time to car races. He participated in almost all competitions in Poland, he also took part in the Monte Carlo Rally three times. He made his debut there in 1937, and then appeared in two subsequent editions. His third time was successful - he finished fifth in the general classification. He also won the Rally of Poland ’39 that same year.

After the outbreak of war, Marek managed to get to Romania. There he had the idea of an operation that James Bond himself would not be ashamed of. He stole a car from the German embassy in Bucharest and went to Lviv occupied by the Red Army to find his fiancée. He arrived there without raising any suspicion, as the Russians, which Tadeusz was aware of, were waiting just for the arrival of a German ambassador. The trip was not successful - Marek did not find his beloved one. But returning to Romania, he took some friends he had met in Lviv along with him. He then took on an even more difficult mission - he ordered a column of government limousines to France, at the behest of the Polish authorities. After completing this task, Tadeusz, alone, arrived at Spain, from where he sailed to Casablanca. Finally in 1941, he left for Great Britain. He settled in London and again fell into the whirl of war. During one of the city bombings, he miraculously escaped death - a house hit by a bullet collapsed right on him. Interestingly, Marek remembered this moment to the end of his life. He did not suffer any serious injuries, and when he scrambled out from under the rubble, he met a young English woman who immediately caught his eye. He arranged a date with her, then another, and soon after he married her and lived together with her forty years.

In 1949, Tadek Marek got a job at Austin. He designed two engines for them - six-cylinder C-Series with a capacity of 2.6 liters and sports V8. After leaving Austin in 1951, Tadeusz worked on the creation of the Centurion tank, and two years later he joined the Aston Martin company. Initially, he began to modify the archaic engine of the Walter Bentley project. The company’s engineers had no idea what to do with it. But there’s nothing that a Pole can’t do! When the Aston bosses saw that Marek had squeezed out 195 horsepower from this antique, they realized that they had a genius on their team. They entrusted him with a task fit for his talent - designing the engine for the Aston Martin DB4 which was in the middle of the creation process at that time. The goal was clear - the car was supposed to have the power to repeat the success of the iconic DB2 which was a sensation at Le Mans and Mille Miglia. Tadek Marek did not disappoint his bosses. The 3.7-liter six-cylinder engine he created generated 240 hp and made the Aston Martin DB4 reach 224 km/h and accelerate to a hundred in less than 9 seconds. The model debuted in 1958 and immediately became the king of rallies (amongst others, it won in the famous Le Mans race). Marek’s engine was so good, lively and reliable that it was used in subsequent models - DB5, DB6, DBS and racing DBR2.

After some time, Marek made a slight facelift of his work - he increased its capacity to 4 liters and used new carburetors, thanks to which the power jumped up to 325 hp. This unit was fit, among others, into the DBS Vantage model, which reached a speed of 255 km/h, and acceleration to a hundred took only 6.5 seconds. The Polish engineer’s work was loved by thousands of Aston’s fans, including James Bond. The DB5, which Agent 007 used to chase his enemies in "Goldfinger", was equipped with a four-liter engine by Tadek Marek.

Marek gained the respect of car rally lovers thanks to the second engine designed for Aston Martin - a powerful V8 with a capacity of 5.3 liters, which debuted in the DBS V8 model in 1968. This unit generated 315 KM, but this wasn’t enough for Tadeusz, so he introduced a few modifications and turned its power up to 612 KM. Aston Martin V8 Vantage Le Mans, fitted with this engine, reached up to 322 hm/h, and speeded up to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. The mighty V8 the brand was produced for 32 years, till the year 2000, and automotive fans admire it to this day. Some time ago, one of the happy owners of Aston Martin Vantage from 1972 published a recording of his machine’s roar entitled “Symphony of Tadek Marek on 6 cylinders” to You Tube.

In 1968, when his V8 began its spectacular career, Tadeusz Marek retired and moved to Italy together with his beloved wife. He felt a special sentiment for cars bearing the Aston Martin logo was for the rest of his life. He loved to drive cars of this brand, especially models with engines he had designed. He drove a DB4 with a four-liter engine, then a unique DB5 with a V8.

This year, the world will speak of Tadeusz Marek once again. The Aston Martin plant is about to finish the assembly of 25 DB4 GT models. The company is releasing a limited edition of this car, as the original DB4 GT is one of the most sought after by collectors and is actually the most expensive car in the world - its prices reach up to 3 million pounds! The new DB4 GT will be slightly cheaper - it costs less than $ 2 million. Tadeusz Marek’s engine will work its magic under the hood, just like in the original versions. Aston Martin DB4 was never Bond’s car as he preferred to ride a DB5 (this model “starred” in as many as five films about the adventures of Agent 007). But who knows, maybe in the next movie it will turn out that the famous spy is one of the 25 lucky ones who have managed to buy the new DB4 GT.

photo: Aston-Martin Quarterly, summer 1967; Engineer Tadeusz Marek