Memory Lane: John Dunbabin at Milton Court
John Dunbabin is a resident at Milton Court Care Home in Milton Keynes and had an incredible career with a globally famous luxury car maker, Aston Martin. A highly skilled craftsman, his talent gave him an amazing journey through the motor industry, having his name on Aston Martin engine plaques all over the world and meeting such people as the Queen, the King of Jordan and many famous racing drivers. All of our homes seek to understand every resident’s Life Story and to connect them with their past and experiences, and so Milton Court arranged a special day trip for him to revisit and reminisce at the Aston Martin plant in Newport Pagnell, where he started work in 1954.
Born in 1929, John was raised in Newport Pagnell. A highly gifted young man, he went to technical college and won the Albert Memorial Prize for woodwork, before starting an apprenticeship at Salmon and Son’s Coachbuilders.
“They were very happy days and the work was so interesting,” said John. “During the war, the company was engaged in building many service vehicles and other wartime products and made the patterns for the press tools used in their production.”
John worked in the pattern shop, but also helped in buying and purchasing and in technical drawing and design. He quickly became very respected in the company, earning £10 a week, “a very good wage back then!”
A History with Aston Martin
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Aston Martin and Lagonda owner David Brown bought the site where John was working, and moved production of the famous cars there.
These were the heydays of Aston Martin, with some of the most iconic vehicles being produced including the DB4, DB5, DB6, V8 Vantage, the William Towns Lagonda and the original Vanquish. “It was a major step forward for the factory,” John commented, “and such a great feeling to be involved so closely with the design work and seeing these dream cars develop”.
John felt privileged to meet many famous people whilst working at Aston Martin, including celebrated racing drivers such as Sterling Moss, Niki Lauda, Mike Hawthorn and Jim Clarke. He is also incredibly proud to have been involved with the production of the first Aston Martin, although his favourite model was the DB5 due to its streamlined shape and sleekness.
“I did bespoke works for Rowan Atkinson,” John mentions, “and built a battery powered car on behalf of the Queen for Prince Charles when he was a boy. We also did lots of work for the King of Jordan who visited the site.”
John was thrilled with the day trip that Milton Court organised. He was given a special tour around the body shop to see how the modern-day Aston Martins are currently made compared to the techniques when he worked there. He and his son had a nostalgic day reminiscing and speaking with the staff, feeling very welcomed by the whole team. But what’s John’s biggest takeaway from his time working there?
“I was offered an Aston that needed some repair work for £1,000, which was a lot of money in those days. I turned it down and the times I have thought about that, I could kick myself now for not buying it! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
Article by Helen Bates, Marketing Executive, for Welcome Home Issue 9.
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