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The Cars of Bond, James Bond

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBond’s Cars Are the Stars
Arguably no movie character has better toys than James Bond. Throughout his cinematic existence, the iconic British secret agent has employed — and deployed — all manner of gadgetry to outwit his opponents, but ultimately 007’s cars often became some of his most memorable costars in this blockbuster movie franchise. The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles — in collaboration with EON Productions and the Ian Fleming Foundation — has created the largest official James Bond vehicle exhibit in America. Recently we spent a few hours at the museum reliving Bond films through this amazing collection of original vehicles straight from the movies. We highly recommend a visit to the museum; if that is impossible, here is the second-best way to experience highlights from this exciting exhibit.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1964 Aston Martin DB5
The most famous James Bond car of all time is undoubtedly the legendary Aston Martin DB5, first driven by Sean Connery in the 1964 movie “Goldfinger.” In the film, 007 pilots a silver DB5 reconfigured by Q, the mechanical genius of MI-6 R&D, containing a plethora of cool gadgets including rotating license plates, machine guns, a bulletproof shield and now-famous ejector seat.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1964 Aston Martin DB5
This iconic DB5 reappeared in 1995 with Bond (Pierce Brosnan) racing Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) down a mountain road in “GoldenEye.” Since then, the Silver Birch-painted DB5 returns in multiple Bond films including “Tomorrow Never Dies” as well as “Skyfall” (wherein the Aston sadly succumbs to a firefight) and “Spectre” (when the DB5 is restored). The DB5 also returns in the latest Bond film, “No Time to Die.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2006 Aston Martin DBS
Of course it’s always sad to see an Aston Martin looking like this, but this beat-up Aston Martin DBS is the result of a spectacular crash in the film “Casino Royale.” Prior to its end-of-life scene, the DBS gallantly demonstrated its unique gadgetry. Rather than machine guns and missiles, this Bond car includes a glovebox defibrillator and anti-poison combi pens that 007 uses to save his own life after being poisoned during a $100 million poker game with this film’s antagonistic bad guy, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2006 Aston Martin DBS
After Bond (Daniel Craig) wins the poker game, Le Chiffre kidnaps Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and 007 begins what appears to be an epic high-speed chase in the powerful DBS. Unfortunately the chase is short-lived — Bond rounds a turn at high speed and finds Lynd in the middle of the road. Swerving to avoid running her down, the Aston Martin rolls seven times and ends up looking like this. Car enthusiasts were surprised that the Aston would lose control so spectacularly — and with good reason. To create the crash, pyrotechnicians fitted the car with an air cannon that fired a ram beneath the vehicle to get the DBS aloft and rolling. When stuntman Adam Kirley performed this dangerous feat, it set a new Guinness World Record for the most cannon rolls ever completed by a movie car.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2008 Aston Martin DBS
Bond (Daniel Craig again) returns in a new Aston Martin DBS for “Quantum of Solace” — the successor to “Casino Royale.” The automotive action begins immediately as the secret agent gets chased by gun-toting bad guys driving Alfa Romeos at high speed (of course) through a narrow traffic-filled tunnel in Italy. At one point the DBS gets impaled by the bumper of a large truck. Bond spins the car away, ripping the door off in the process. The chase continues into a rock quarry with the DBS jumping and drifting as the car continues to be riddled with gunfire. Eventually Bond takes out the driver of the pursuing car and continues on to city of Siena — sans door.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2008 Aston Martin DBS
The distressed DBS somehow survives the crashes and gunshots, but that’s all part of the movie magic. In reality it took seven Aston Martin DBSs to film the scene, with each car pushed to its limit. The car on display at the Petersen Museum has “continuity damage” added to all seven Astons so they all appear to be the same vehicle.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2015 Aston Martin DB10
Aston Martin (and James Bond) aficionados know the reason no one remembers the Aston Martin DB10 — the automaker went from DB9 to DB11. That’s because the DB10 was the first Aston ever created specifically for a movie — and more specifically for “Spectre,” the 24th film in the Bond franchise. A result of close collaboration between the film’s director and Aston Martin’s design team led by Marek Reichman, the DB10 was to be the “ultimate car for the world’s most famous spy.” Designers and engineers worked around the clock to create the DB10 in a mere six months — a truly remarkable feat.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2015 Aston Martin DB10
In the film “Spectre,” the DB10 is supposedly for agent 009, but Bond (Daniel Craig) steals the car and heads to Rome. Equipped with all the offensive and defensive gadgets expected in a Bond car, the DB10 shines as it gets pursued by the scary Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) driving an equally cool Jaguar C-X75 prototype. Unfortunately for Bond, Britain’s most famous spy discovers that many cool features were not quite ready since the car hadn’t been prepped for him. Bond finally escapes from Mr. Hinx by shooting flames out the back and ejecting himself from the DB10 before it launches into the Tiber River. Only 10 (ahem) DB10s were built, and all were used in the film. Fun fact: One of the undamaged show cars sold at auction in 2016 for about $3.5 million.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
This V12-powered Aston stars in the 2002 film “Die Another Day,” driven by that era’s Bond — none other than the dashing Pierce Brosnan. Armed to the teeth with missiles and guns, the coolest feature of this Vanquish is its “adaptive camouflage.” Tiny cameras on all sides of the car project an image onto a light-emitting polymer skin on the opposite side, making the car practically invisible and giving the Vanquish its nickname, “the Vanish.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
This Aston Martin Vanquish gets featured throughout the film, but the car’s most memorable performance takes place while being pursued by Bond’s opponent Zao (Rick Yune) driving a similarly equipped Jaguar XKR (see next entry). The chase scene takes place on a frozen lake and showcases the V12 Vanquish’s armaments, which include heat-seeking missiles, machine guns, spiked tires, lasers, mortars and grenades. The V12 Vanquish also has radial thermal imaging to better target enemies or locate his American colleague Jynx (Halle Berry), who is trapped in a melting ice palace.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2002 Jaguar XKR Convertible
Even the bad guys get cool cars in Bond flicks. In “Die Another Day,” 007’s arch-enemy Zao gets to drive this Jaguar XKR Convertible, a formidable match for Bond’s Vanquish. The open-top XKR seems a bit out of place in the frozen location, but it is certainly up to the task when chasing down Bond’s Aston. The Jag has a few features not on a typical list of factory options, including a rear-mounted Gatling gun, door-mounted missiles, heat-seeking missiles in the grille and mortars that launch from the trunk.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2002 Jaguar XKR Convertible
After the chase moves from the frozen lake to the interior of the melting ice palace, Zao seems to have Bond cornered. Preparing to finish off Bond and the Aston Martin, the Jaguar has one more trick — a pointed battering ram that extends from of the grille. As Zao charges the Aston with battering ram set to full menace, the Aston uses its adaptive camouflage to cloak its whereabouts and the Jaguar plunges through the ice railing. As expected from a James Bond film, Zao dies and Bond saves his love interest Jynx. And, unfortunately, as is also the case with many a Bond villain’s ride, the Jaguar gets destroyed in the process.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1997 BMW 750iL
Bond films from the mid-to-late 1990s have the slick secret agent sliding into BMWs instead of the traditional Aston Martins. And in the film “Tomorrow Never Dies, instead of his typical sports car Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) pilots a V12-powered luxurious BMW 750iL. As Q says upon delivery, it has “all the usual refinements — machine guns, rockets, GPS tracking system.” The coolest feature by far is Bond’s ability to drive the car via remote control — integrated with 007’s phone.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1997 BMW 750iL
As the ever-present “baddies” (UK for goons) try to break into James Bond’s special BMW, the audience discovers that the car is completely bulletproof and features a high-voltage security system. Bond uses the remote control to drive the car while he remains out of sight in the rear seat while employing the car’s myriad “refinements” to make his escape — including re-inflatable tires, mini missiles, smoke and tear gas jets, grenades and a surprisingly useful cable cutter that extends from the BMW badge at the front.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1997 BMW R1200C
Not every vehicle that James Bond drives comes from Q Branch with loads of gadgetry — sometimes he simply grabs what’s handy to make his escape, and sometimes it’s not a car. In the film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Bond’s BMW had already been destroyed in an earlier chase sequence, so Bond — handcuffed to Wai Lin (Bond’s Chinese counterpart, played by Michelle Yeoh) — commandeers this BMW R1200C as his getaway machine. The motorcycle has no gadgets, but Bond and Lin speed through the streets of Saigon while pursued by machine-gun toting bad guys (oops, baddies) in Range Rovers and a helicopter — at one point even jumping the bike from one building to another over the helicopter.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1999 BMW Z8
Continuing the BMW theme, James Bond returns to sports cars for the 1999 film, “The World is Not Enough.” One of the coolest cars on the road that year, the 1999 BMW Z8 boasts a 5.0-liter V8 and a top speed limited to 155 mph. The car isn’t featured much in the film, but Bond (Pierce Brosnan) drives it to a meet at a caviar factory on the Caspian Sea. While there he’s attacked by helicopters sporting machine guns and missiles with hanging rotating saws (used for clearing trees when not being repurposed as weaponry). With his key fob, James drives the BMW remotely to his location, gets in and uses the targeting system in the center of the steering wheel to lock onto one of the helicopters. Once the bird is targeted, a missile pops out from the side of the Z8 and takes out the helicopter.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1999 BMW Z8
Unfortunately for Bond, while neutralizing the one helicopter he fails to notice another one attacking from behind. Bond leaps from the Z8 right before it gets cut completely in half. As he watches the car collapse on itself, he sardonically points out, “Q’s not gonna like this.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1983 Bajaj RE Auto-Rickshaw “Tuk Tuk Taxi”
Since James Bond needs a means to a quick getaway on a typically regular basis, there isn’t always an Aston Martin handy. In the 1983 film “Octopussy,” Bond (played by Roger Moore) gets picked up by his MI6 colleague Vijay in what looks like a typical Tuk Tuk three-wheeled taxi. When the two realize they are being pursued, Vijay tells Bond, “No problem, this is a company car,” gunning the motor and doing a wheelie as they speed away. At one point the modified Tuk Tuk even hits a ramp and launches over a camel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1977 Wetbike Watercycle Prototype
In the film “The Spy Who Loved Me,” James Bond (Roger Moore) has the occasion to showcase a new type of ride that fits the bill of expected gadgetry that regularly emanates from the engineering arm of Q Branch. In order to travel to villain Karl Stromberg’s oceanic lair, Bond takes delivery of the first water-going motorcycle, the Wetbike Watercycle. Pictured here is the original prototype provided to EON productions for use in the film.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1977 Wetbike Watercycle Prototype
Built by engineer Nelson Tyler, the Wetbike prototype was a new concept that wasn’t available to the public until the late 1970s. Powered by a 723cc Suzuki 2-stroke 2-cylinder engine, the Wetbike could travel at speeds exceeding 30 mph — a fitting ride for James Bond, even if the speed seemed a bit sluggish.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1977 Lotus Esprit S1 “Wet Nellie”
The Wetbike wasn’t the only water-going vehicle in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In perhaps one of the only land-and-sea-based vehicular chase scenes, Bond and his Russian counterpart Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) are initially chased down the winding mountain roads of Sardinia in a Lotus Esprit. A pursuing sedan (in which actor Richard Kiel’s infamous character Jaws rides) gets summarily stricken by cement sprayed from the back of the Lotus, covering the pursuers’ windshield before the car ends up careening over a cliff into a Sardinian farmhouse — and Jaws walks away unscathed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1977 Lotus Esprit S1 “Wet Nellie”
As an armed helicopter continues the chase, Bond drives the Lotus Esprit off a pier into the water, wryly asking Major Amasova “can you swim?” As the car settles into the water, the wheels retract, stabilizing fins deploy and the car’s controls convert to that of a submarine. A missile launcher activated by a button on the gearshift takes care of the helicopter, and after a short cruise underwater where Bond uses the car’s harpoon launchers (and the Major an inky slick) to take care of underwater pursuers, the Lotus drives out of the water onto the pristine sands of Sardinia, startling beachgoers as Bond lowers the window and drops a fish out of the cabin. A highlight of the Petersen exhibit, this is one of seven submersibles built for filming.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAston Martin V8 Vantage
In 1987 the Bond juggernaut introduced a new actor portraying James Bond — Timothy Dalton — for the film “The Living Daylights.” At the same time, Aston Martin returned in full force to the franchise with the powerful V8 Vantage, equipped to handle a wide range of dilemmas. When Bond uses a head-up display to target a roadblock with dual-targeting stinger missiles, he explains to his passenger, the fictional Czechoslovakian cellist Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), “I’ve had a few optional extras installed.” They also escape the police by using wheel-hub-based lasers to cut the body of the police car from its frame.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAston Martin V8 Vantage
Showing off in the ultimate car for winter driving, Bond’s Aston Martin V8 features deployable outriggers and studs that extend from the tires for premier traction on ice. The two stars (make that three) escape by engaging a rocket engine (of course) that launches the car clear of the pursuing army. After landing in a snow bank, the two escape on foot, setting the Aston to self-destruct. The vehicle shown here is one of several fiberglass shells built to film the various gadgets — in this case the outriggers.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback
As evidence that not all Bond cars are cool and sexy, Britain’s sexiest secret agent (Roger Moore) steals this 1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback from a showroom in Bangkok, Thailand, to chase down arch villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Although the chase is not the most exciting Bond escapade — Scaramanga is driving an equally dull AMC Matador — the sequence features one stunt that puts this scene, and arguably the entire movie, on the map. Needing to cross a river via a damaged bridge, Bond guns the AMC and performs a perfect barrel roll as the Hornet blasts over the water.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback
The corkscrew or “Astro Spiral Jump” — as it came to be known — was executed in one take by stuntman Lauren “Bumps” Willert while eight cameras simultaneously rolled. Reportedly this stunt was the first to be calculated using computer modeling to determine the ideal speed (of approximately 40 mph) as well as the ramp condition and angle to perform the jump perfectly.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Since the film “Diamonds Are Forever” took place in America — Las Vegas, specifically — it made sense that Bond (Sean Connery) would be driving an American car. This 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 has no gadgets, but it does let Bond lead police on a wild high-speed chase scene along the Las Vegas strip and through casino parking lots. Ultimately Bond escapes down a narrow alley by balancing the Mustang on two wheels. This particular Mustang did have one trick up its sleeve — it is one of three that had a powerful 429-cubic inch V8 under the hood, used to film the movie’s high-speed driving stunts.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience1973 Glastron GT-150
A new actor began playing James Bond for the 1973 film “Live And Let Die” — the first of many Bond films for Roger Moore. And although the film does not feature a special gadget-laden car, there is an epic boat chase through the Louisiana bayou. Bond leads the chase in this Glastron GT-150 speedboat with multiple bad guys in pursuit, performing quick turns and even jumping over a police car (of course). Stuntman Jerry Comeaux performed the now-famous leap over the car — a world-record-setting 110-foot jump. Comeaux accomplished the stunt using this modified GT-150 fitted with an engine that produces twice the power recommended for this boat.

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Published on: December 17, 2021

Filled Under: Automotive Content Experience, Automotive Reviews

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