BY SHAUN CURRAN
Think of James Bond, and certain elements automatically spring to mind – the often implausibly death-defying feats, innovative and revolutionary gadgets, the array of beautiful Bond girls, the shaken but under no circumstances whatsoever stirred Martinis.
Alongside those staples of the 007 character go the luxury supercars — often with the addition of the aforementioned beautiful Bond girl in the passenger seat — that have for 50 years helped define the longest ever continuing film series, handing our spy hero a stylish vehicle to complement his fearless cunning.
So synonymous with the Bond brand are these cars, in fact, that from Toyota to Lotus, and from Mercedes to Aston Martin — whose DB5 model is the quintessential Bond automobile — to have your car featured in a Bond film has become a badge of honour to luxury car manufacturers the world over, adding a cache of otherwise unattainable cool.
The long standing tradition of high end collaboration began with the first film Dr No, back in 1962 — the Sunbeam Alpine was Bond’s first car, with no alterations by Q’s laboratory — but it was actually three films into the series, 1964’s Goldfinger to be precise, that Bond’s car became integral to the franchise.
It was then that the Aston Martin DB5 made the first of its 11 appearances — this time driven exquisitely by Sean Connery — changing the course of cinematic, and luxury motor, history.
Because Ian Fleming’s original Goldfinger novel had placed Bond in an Aston Martin DB Mark III, the film’s producers decided to use the company’s latest model, the DB5, first launched in 1963 and discontinued in 1965.
A luxury grand touring car powered by a 282-horsepower 4.0 litre engine, it forged the template for the machines to follow. With a range of state-of-the-art amenities — in-built telephone, reclining seats, electric windows, wool pile carpets, chrome wire wheels and full leather upholstery — the DB5 featured on screen in Goldfinger also boasted a range of features required by every smooth talking international jet setting spy.
With a smoke screen, bullet proof windscreen, extending bumpers, a radar tracker, tire slasher, twin machine gun sidelights and even an ejector seat that allowed Bond to escape the throes of peril, Aston Martin had redefined the Bond car for generations to come. Coloured in distinctive Silver Birch, sales of the Aston Martin DB5 increased considerably, and the profile of the company grew exponentially as a result.
As time has elapsed, technology has developed and as the series has, over time, become the third-highest grossing film franchise to date, Bond’s cars have become ever more ostentatious.
The Lotus Espirit in 1977’s Roger Moore-starring The Spy Who Loved Me, is almost as famous as the DB5. A first generation model of a car that was built from 1976-2004 with a rear-mounted 2.0-litre engine, its ability to turn into a submarine and torpedo, death charge and launch surface to air missiles helped make the film a huge hit.
In contrast, some 007 product placement hasn’t always had the desired effect. By the mid-1990’s, with producers keen to relaunch Bond for a newer generation, BMW were the chosen partners for a trilogy of films, but the Z3 in Goldeneye was derided as nothing more than an underpowered advertisement for the company. The Z8 in The World Was Not Enough, with its Henrik Fisker-designed, sleek high performance 400-horsepower V8 engine, fared much better. The film’s version of the vehicle had radar-guided stinger missiles and remote control pads on the keyfob, as well as the addition of six different cup holders in the dashboard. Fighting the international forces of evil is thirsty work, after all.
But for all of the (in)famous cars in Bond’s sprawling collection, Aston Martin have always been the jewel in the crown — a fact not lost on Sam Mendes. The director of Skyfall has upped the automobile ante considerably as he takes on direction duties for the forthcoming Spectre, and five decades into a special relationship, Bond can now brag about what amounts to his own exclusive Aston Martin.
With his beloved DB5 blown up spectacularly in predecessor Skyfall, for Spectre, the 24th film in the series, Bond has been handed an Aston Martin DB10, a specifically designed car for Bond’s eyes only. Influenced by its DB5 ancestor, only 10 have been produced — eight for the film and two for archive purposes – and the model will never be made available for retail purchase.
It’s a huge blow for both Bond and Aston enthusiasts. With the British car brand’s chief creative officer Marek Reichman leading the design, the DB10 cars used in the film are based on the V8 Vantage structure, and utilise that model’s 4.7-litre V8 engine, albeit considerably wider, at 2109mm overall. Introducing new aluminium platform for the next generation of Aston Martin models, it adopts an engine from AMG, the performance division of Mercedes, giving a glimpse into what to expect from Aston Martin in the future.
As the trailer for Spectre aptly illustrates, the sleek silver vehicle will look great as it evolves into the brand’s road cars by 2016.
Mendes, himself involved with the car’s design, has called the DB10 “a non-human cast member,” such is its beauty, not to mention integral importance to the narrative of the newest Bond adventure. But in truth, the same could be said of the majority of the vehicles that have, from Dr No to Spectre, featured in Bond films over the last five decades — and the next 50 years are likely to be even more fast, furious and spectacular for 007.