If you care about cars at all, then the legendary rides of James Bond will no doubt tickle your fancy. Each one of us will have grown up with our own generation of Bond, be it Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnon or Daniel Craig, and with it our very own opinions regarding the automobiles that would always, in the end, lead the ladies to 00 heaven.
Last month’s release of Skyfall saw the return of the most iconic James Bond car, the quintessentially English Aston Martin DB5 and this got us thinking (like we needed the excuse) about the fleet of wheels that Mr Bond abuses on his death defying missions!
It first appeared in Goldfinger as Mr Bond’s car almost half a century ago and remains the British Secret Service agent’s most renowned choice of transport. But did it make sense to put the classic car in such a modern film? “The top and bottom of it,” according to an Aston Martin spokesman, “is that the DB5 fitted with the plot [of Skyfall]. It emphasises the timeless appeal of the DB5 and the company’s long association with Bond.” Hand-made and British, just right for the Bond image.
Another of James Bond’s first infamous cars, the Bentley Mark IV, first graced us with an appearance back in 1963 when Sean Connery played the secret agent in From Russia With Love. It was never actually produced by Bentley and was made up by Ian Fleming in the novel but the movie ran with it, using a Bentley Mark IV 4.5 litre convertible instead. It also had an in car telephone, which for 1963 was a huge deal!
Aiming to please, in his gentlemanly way, Bond introduced us to the Toyota GT 2000 in 1967 in You Only Live Twice. Much hype occurred around this film and, more importantly, the car as there were only two Toyota GT 2000 convertibles ever produced specifiaclly for the film. Customised for the big screen and purposely picked by Broccoli himself, this machine played the textbook accomplice, marrying up the Japanese setting of the film and the car perfectly.
Taking a bold step with the choice of car James Bond drives is nothing new. As with the Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me) and the AMC Hornet (The Man with the Golden Gun), many 007 films focus on the pioneering futuristic technology that creates the archetype of the modified James Bond car. In the 70s, technology improved as budgets increased, which paved the way for the birth of the action film. And, of course, the action often lay within the stunts and more importantly, the cars. Featuring in The Man with the Golden Gun, the AMC Hornet performs a corkscrew stunt, flying through the air (all captured in one take), wowing the audience and showcasing Bond’s driving skills. The Lotus Esprit’s submarine modifications literally sprung from under the water, when, not for the first time, we thought Mr Bond had met his end. The car literally saved the secret agent from a gruesome death and the love viewers felt for James Bond’s car collection automatically grew when the Lotus Esprit became his saviour. Who can forget seeing that car drive out of the sea onto the beach?!
Then we have the Alfa Romeo GTV 6 which featured in Octopussy (1983) and brings with it split opinions. For some, what is shown on screen is pure fantasy. One avid enthusiast comments, “the reality is Bond would still be at that phone booth trying to find a gear, rather than tearing down the road.” Whilst Jeremy Clarkson adds a different perspective stating “you are not a true petrol head until you’ve owned one.”
Making its first appearance in The Living Daylights (1987) is the Audi 200 Quattro. Which say Timothy Dalton as Bond speeding through the streets of Europe is the . Audi rears its head again this year in Skyfall, but this time it is the villains choice of automobile in the form of the A5. The Germans do know how make a car chase look good.
Known for the Pierce Brosnan era and the 90s Bond, BMW returned to our screens in 1997 in Tomorrow Never Dies with a 750iL. The German car was equipped with missile launchers and self-inflating tyres whilst having the extra touch of being remotely controlled via a special Ericsson mobile phone. Following in the gadget-y footsteps was the BMW Z8 which revved into theatres when James Bond drove the car in The World is Not Enough (1999) but was completely ruined after being cut in half by a helicopter.
For any enthusiast, the cars are as famous as the theme tune instantly recognisable as Bond. However, the reason we see 007 at the wheel of, say, a Ford Mondeo (Casino Royale) is that the companies which make the cars driven by 007 have paid through the nose to get their products on camera as have the watchmakers, soft drink manufacturers and laptop vendors whose goods all appear in Bond’s hands. We wondered how far they would take it and therefore were pleased to see the return of the Aston Martin DB5 in Skyfall; some original class! It was reported that Ford paid an astonishing £14 million to be Mr Bond’s wheels in Casino Royal. Money doesn’t always buy taste.
This years Skyfall has seen box office records smashed and with the return of the Aston Martin DB5, Bond exudes the English gentleman whilst remaining a suave, secret agent. You either want to be James Bond who drives these fantastic iconic cars or you want to be with him as a passenger on a high speed chase.
We’re not too sure if we’d be that OK with a British secret agent saving the world in a Ford or BMW but we do like the idea of the Lotus Esprit igniting childhood transformer flames, bringing smiles every time we see it. As for the BMW Z3 – it was an underpowered, “rubbish” car with Bond doing little more than advertising it. James Bond will always epitomise the spy we all dreamed about being,with the girls and the cars, but it just seems now, more than ever, that product placement may have tarnished the hard work Sean Connery and Roger Moore carved out.
We hope this has got the Thunderball rolling and opened your Golden Eyes… ok we’ll stop now.
Images from: www.mirror.co.uk, www.telegraph.co.uk, img.autocosmos.com, www.transport-models.com, www.btinternet.com, www.newspress.co.uk, www.kilometermagazine.com, www.jamesbondlifestyle.com