A brief history of James Bond's cars, from Aston Martins to BMWs

  • Movies
  • Friday, 22 May 2020

Siegfried Tesche, a Bond expert and author of several Bond books, is seen here in a Citroen 2CV car as used in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only". — dpa

Crazy car chases, wild brawls, gunfights – and in the middle of it all a man who couldn’t care less: Bond. James Bond.

When our favourite secret agent with a license to kill goes on a mission, he rarely fails to step into a tricked-out car. In 50 years of Bond history, 007’s car of choice is traditionally one from British manufacturer Aston Martin.

Bond expert Siegfried Tesche, author of several books about 007, says the Aston Martin DB5 is the most famous of the Bond cars – “even if it doesn’t keep up with the power and features of modern cars.”

“The fact that the DB5 became the Bond mobile is a coincidence, ” Tesche explains. Until the publication of the novel Goldfinger by Ian Fleming in 1959, the secret agent mostly drove a Bentley.

But in Goldfinger, Bond is offered an Aston Martin DB Mark III and a Jaguar 3.4 to visit Goldfinger. The agent eventually picks the Aston Martin, because it offers useful special features, including stronger bumpers and a revolver under the driver’s seat.

While planning the movie, which was released in 1964, the producers decided that James Bond should be driving a more sporty vehicle. “Co-producer Harry Saltzman therefore paid a visit to Aston Martin in the fall of 1963, to talk about a partnership, ” Tesche says.

But the car manufacturer didn’t immediately recognise the potential marketing value of the deal and only offered Saltzman to purchase the successor of the Mark III model, the DB5, for £4,500. It took Saltzman several more tries to convince the people at Aston Martin to provide them with cars for free.

With the use of the DB5 in Goldfinger, the makers then began to put the focus on the technical aspects of the Bond cars. “The producers realised that audiences enjoyed seeing a highly modded car.”

Ever since then, the Bond car has served as a specialised weapon in his arsenal. In addition, the Aston Martin is James Bond’s most personal possession, which he defends with his life.

In Goldeneye (1995), James Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 chases the driver Xenia Onatopp, driving a Ferrari F355 GT near Monte Carlo. — Aston Martin/dpaIn Goldeneye (1995), James Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 chases the driver Xenia Onatopp, driving a Ferrari F355 GT near Monte Carlo. — Aston Martin/dpa

In the past, however, there have been movies in which James Bond was driving other vehicles, like the Toyota 2000 GT in You Only Live Twice, as well as in later BMW-sponsored films like Golden Eye, The World Is Not Enough and Tomorrow Never Dies. But it is certainly the British car marker which will remain most closely associated with the character of James Bond. “Actors like Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig were introduced to the film industry driving an Aston Martin. Every viewer knows: In the movies, Bond only drives an Aston, ” Tesche says.

And in the most recent sequels, the historical DB5 from the 60s turns into Bond’s private car.

Andreas Pott, member of the James Bond Club Germany, agrees that the DB5 is the most famous Bond vehicle. “Because it was the first car exhibiting the special features which are still famous today and it set standards, ” he explains. “Other than that, the Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977, is also famous, because it was the first car which could be turned into a submarine.”

Less exciting perhaps, but still valued by Bond fans because of its unusual nature: the 2CV by Citroen, better known as The Duck, which had a supporting role in For Your Eyes Only, released in 1981. “Bond doesn’t drive the car himself, but it’s an exceptional car for a car chase in a Bond movie, ” Pott says.

Wolfgang Bahlmann, president of the Aston Martin Owners Club Germany, watches every Bond movie, but wouldn’t call himself a devoted fan. “I like the cars, the new ones as well as the historical DB5. That model has become a classic, ” he says.

Ever since Goldfinger, the model has been used again and again. It made its latest appearance in Skyfall where it exploded. “It was definitely hurtful to an Aston Martin fan to see that, ” Bahlmann says.

In No Time To Die, which was scheduled to be released last month but was then postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, there are even four different vehicles: the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera with the same licence plate as in The Living Daylights, the 1,000-horsepower sports car Valhalla, a current V8 Vantage model and, of course, the DB5.

The one in the film is one of 10 specifically manufactured replicas, but a lay person probably won’t even notice.

All that matters is that we get to see James Bond riding around and saving the world in his Aston Martin once again. – dpa/Fabian Hoberg

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