The Bond movies are the ultimate in action movies and as any aficionado of action movies knows, nothing steals the show like the supercars driven by the heroes and villains. In Hollywood you have the garish cars driven in such movies as the Fast and the Furious series where engine high tuning and modification is the name of the game or Gone in 60 Seconds where stealing some of the world’s most expensive vehicles is the raison d’être.
Bond cars almost always wowed with their understated strength and beauty and with improbable modifications to make them invincible, they became the ultimate movie car.
From Russia With Love
Bentley Mark IV
Aston Martin DB5
Aston Martin DB5
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Aston Martin DBS
Diamonds are Forever
Aston Martin DBS
Live and Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Lotus Esprit S1
For Your Eyes Only
Lotus Esprit Turbo
Alfa Romeo GTV6
Never Say Never Again
1937 model Bentley 4½l
A View to a Kill
Renault 11 Turbo
The Living Daylights
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante
Licenced to Kill
Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
Aston Martin DB5
Tomorrow Never Dies
Aston Martin DB5
The World is Not Enough
Die Another Die
Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
Aston Martin DBS V12
Quantum of Solace
Aston Martin DBS V12
Aston Martin DB5
Aston Martin DB10
Pride of place at the top of the tree is the Aston Martin in its various forms, quintessentially English, it went with 007 like Martini goes with vodka but there was some flirting with foreign cars when corporate sponsorship of the films became important to their preservation. Prior to the nineties, it would have been unthinkable for 007 to have driven a German car but it happened before a return to tradition. And it wasn’t always understated; remember the Lotus Esprit and Esprit Turbo from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. You couldn’t ever have imagined Sean Connery driving such a car and only Roger Moore could have got away with it.
Bond Car Trivia: Did You Know?
- James Bond didn’t drive a single car in Moonraker
- In From Russia With Love Bond supposedly drove a Mark IV Bentley but there is no such car
- The AMC Matador car plane seen in The Man with the Golden Gun could only fly 500m and so was replaced in most of the shot by a scale model
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, the AMC Hornet corkscrew jump was filmed in just one take
- The Aston Martin DB5 driven in six bond films but never by Roger Moore, appears in The Cannonball Run driven by the character played by Roger Moore
- It appears again driven by George Lazenby of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fame in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E by his character who has the personalised number plate ‘JB’
- In Die Another Day, the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish has ‘cloaking technology’ meaning it was invisible
- In the very first Bond novel, when Bond was thirteen years old, he gets his first car – a Bamford and Martin 1.5l Side Valve Short Chassis Tourer
- The correct car for James Bond according to the novels was a 1933 Bentley Convertible. The BMW 750iL driven in Tomorrow Never Dies is the only Bond car to date that could be operated remotely
- The MGB in The Man With the Golden Gun is the only car driven by someone with the same initials as the car – Mary Goodnight
- The Jaguar XKR used by the baddie Zao in Die Another Day is said by some James Bond fans that it should have been the Bond car such was its style, colour and equipment. Its paint has flecks of 24ct gold in it and costs £9,000 a litre.
- The Ford Mustang used in Diamonds are Forever mysteriously changes from driving on only its two left wheels as it enters a narrow alley to the opposite two wheels before it exits it.
- The first car ever driven by Bond in the movies is a Chevrolet Bel Air.
- The Lotus Esprit S1 seen in The Spy Who Loved Me could convert to a submarine and shocks sunbathers as it drives out of the sea.
- The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in Goldfinger was supposedly made of solid gold to be smuggled into the country. If it had been then the weight would have been so great, the car could not have moved without a much more powerful engine and the tyres would not have been able to cope with the pressure either!
Just as Sean Connery is regarded as the ultimate Bond, the Aston Martin must be the ultimate Bond car. No matter what you do to any other model, nothing beats the DB5. It’s funny but the only car to have come close was the baddy’s car – the Jaguar XKR. Not many people know that the DB name is the initials of David Brown who was Aston Martin’s boss from 1947 until 1972 – an eternity in the world of motor cars. The DB5 first appeared in Goldfinger where Goldfinger’s solid gold Rolls Royce almost stole the show!
The car was the next evolution of the DB4 and despite some similarities in form, it is quite different. The engine size increased from 3.7 litres to four and the engine was made from aluminium.
Other improvements were that it had one of the first five speed gearboxes and whilst we’re familiar with twin-carb cars, the DB5 had three carburettors. The engine was that which had powered the superfast vantage model of the predecessor, the DB4 but it now became the standard engine of the DB5
The bodywork was another innovation with magnesium alloy panels for strength and lightness made under the Italian superleggera system. The car also featured an oil cooler and rather bizarrely, two fuel tanks. With a ‘breath-taking for that time’ top speed of 143mph and 0 to 60 acceleration of 8 seconds, it drew plenty of fans but more was in store with the special edition DB5 Vantage Coupe of which only 65 were built. The more powerful engine delivered a top speed over 150 mph and dropped the acceleration to 7 seconds for the 60mph mark. It used the same basic engine but with upgraded carburettors and improved camshaft action giving it the extra boost.
The models used in the James Bond films were standard DB5s, one the model prototype, but in a special finish called ‘Silver Birch’. One standard car was fitted out with the gadgets and weaponry for stunts whilst the prototype model was used in non-combative scenes. The cars don’t match the Bond cars of the Ian Fleming novels because by the time the books were to be filmed, the DB5 was the company’s latest model, not the DB Mark III which had ceased production in 1959. After the movie, the cars were displayed at the New York World Fair labelled the most famous cars in the world, an advertising idea that helped sell hundreds of the cars.
The armoured DB5 was stripped of its equipment before being sold only for the new owner to re-equip it. Bizarrely it was stolen from Florida in 1997 and has not been seen since – no doubt in someone’s private collection!
The second DB5 from the movie was sold in 2010 for an eye-watering £2.6m.
The car in various guises made five more appearances after Goldfinger, in Thunderball the following year; Goldeneye; Tomorrow Never Dies; Casino Royale and Skyfall where unfortunately it was completely destroyed by the baddy!
Making its first appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Aston Martin DBS took the marque and its famous owner firmly into the realm of the modern sports car. Similar in body shape to the Lotus Europa and the Reliant Scimitar, it marked a departure from the classic lines of the DB5 and actually replaced the DB6, an Aston Martin that never featured in Bond movies. The Bond movies went straight from DB5 to the DBS via the Toyota and it was a combination of film requirements, the decision to make Bond movies every two years and the co-production of the DBS alongside the DB6 at which point the film producers chose the newer racier car that saw to it that the DB6 never achieved the level of acclaim it was due.
The DBS claimed fame or notoriety perhaps as the vehicle in which the newly married Bond was travelling when his wife, Tracy, was assassinated. In the film the car that was used was not adapted or modified in any way apart from having a rifle mount in the glove compartment. Unfortunately, Aston Martin’s desire to fit the mould of sports cars in the late sixties led to comments that it could be mistaken for a Ford Capri! The DBS appeared once more in cameo in Diamonds are Forever but the arrival of more aesthetically pleasing cars in the seventies meant that the marque was overlooked for the next sixteen years.
The car was designed as a full sized sports car but used the same four litre engine as in the DB6. Later models used the engine but with Weber carburettors which increased the horse power by nearly forty bhp. This increase in power, swept the car to over 150mph and with a 0-60mph time of under ten seconds.
The best that could be said of the DBS is that it eventually spawned the DBS V12 in 2007, one of the most beautiful Astons ever which eventually appeared in the 2007 remake of Casino Royale.
Until then Aston Martin’s only other appearance was in the 1987 film, The Living Daylights. The car used, the V8 Vantage Volante, was by that time ten years old but was still popular from its status as Britain’s first ‘supercar’ as it had a top speed of 170mph.
The Vantage Volante used the engine from Aston’s recently acquired Lagonda marque but with several modifications that hugely increased its power. The car had the best straight line performance of its day with 0-60mph reached in a second less than that of the Ferrari Daytona. To reach this performance the engine incorporated high-performance camshafts whilst the valves had increased compression ratio through their larger inlet valves. New manifolds boasted bigger carburettors increasing the engine’s power still further. Further modifications during its lifespan sent its horse power up to 405 bhp with a corresponding increase in speed.
Final versions went silly with engine power and the models from 1986 to 1989 saw the introduction of a high performance 580X performance package that added horsepower up to 437bhp helped along by yet bigger carburettors, Nimrod racing heads and a V8 engine seen in the V8 Zagato limited edition. Ultimately a 6.3 litre engine was offered by the manufacturers with bespoke engines up to 7 litres giving nearly 200mph performance, almost unheard of in its day.
The car that featured in the film initially was a V8 Volante Convertible which belonged to the then chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda. By the end of the film it had been given a hard hat by Q and to make it appear as the same car, two V8 saloons were used but fitted with Vantage badge work to help them match the original convertible. In the film it was customised by Q Branch to feature spikes in the tyres, jet propulsion revealed by a drop down rear number plate, outriggers, lasers, bulletproof glass and a self-destruct system to do what no enemy could.
Two more Aston Martin’s made it to the movies as the genre returned to its roots. The V12 Vanquish appeared in Die Another Day whilst the DBS V12 appeared in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. In Die Another Day, the car, operated for the last time by Pierce Brosnan as Bond, earned the title of the third best film car. It was one of the first cars to feature an aluminium/carbon fibre composite chassis whose six litre V12 engine developed 450bhp powering it to over 170mph. To slow it down, the car features fourteen inch drilled and ventilated brake discs and the transmission was again a revolutionary electronically controlled six-speed manual transmission.
The opening scenes of Quantum of Solace where Bond is seen racing his Aston Martin DBS V12 along the Lake Garda coast road pursued by just about everyone is now classed as the best Bond car chase scene by many and it’s easy to see why.
The car is utterly magnificent in its construction, engine and equipment whose six litre V12 engine takes it to 191mph in manual form and 183mph in automatic. Much of the car is made from carbon fibre including carbon ceramic disc brakes which enlarge to nearly 16 inches on the DBS, drilled and ventilated and with six piston callipers to add the braking pressure. This lowers the body weight of the car putting most of the car’s weight between the wheels and together with the automatically controlled wheel independent suspension ensures that the car sticks to the road like glue.
Inside, the car is luxurious with a mix of carbon composite, wood and leather. It’s even got lightweight carpets to help improve performance. Where there are no cutbacks is in the car entertainment system which boasts a 1000W Bang and Olufsen thirteen speaker sound system. A Volante convertible version was launched at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and proved equally as popular. Special editions in Carbon black were released in 2010 and are now considered highly collectable.
The name doesn’t sound very Bond-like but Bond aficionados will know that the Sunbeam Alpine was the first car ever driven by James Bond in the movies with 007 renting it in Dr No. Apparently it wasn’t the first choice of the producers but having forgotten to ship a ‘decent’ car over to the film location on Jamaica, they asked around for the best sports car available and rented the Alpine Mark II convertible off a resident. In the film it had the top stripped off as 007 drove it under a truck – one wonders what the owner thought of that!!
In some respects, the Alpine was a poor choice, maybe through necessity, as it was known for being a car cobbled together from parts of other Sunbeam models. It was constructed by the aircraft and luxury car engineers, Armstrong Siddeley and used the floor pan from the less than sporty sounding Hillman Husky. Most of the drive unit was pinched from a Sunbeam Rapier and in its brake system, the only nod to sport was the use of front disk brakes. The version driven in the Bond film had the optional wire wheels which were later to become one of the hallmarks of Bond’s Aston Martins. It had an upgraded engine which still couldn’t manage over a ton and the acceleration was a paltry 13.6 seconds to sixty. It’s no wonder it didn’t become Bond’s car of choice.
Despite the Bentley being James Bond’s choice of car in the Ian Fleming novels they make a poor cameo appearance in the Bond films. In ‘From Russia With Love’ a brief glimpse of one owned by Bond is seen and is referred to as a Mark IV – a model that has never existed. Elsewhere a beautiful 1937 4.5 litre Bentley appears in the alternative Bond movie ‘Never Say Never Again’, again a nod to the Bond of the novels. The car is driven sedately by Sean Connery and is majestic, definitely suiting the man and the character. Finally a Silver Shadow made by Bentley’s racier cousin; Rolls Royce, makes its appearance in Licensed to Kill. The Silver Shadow was a faster car – just but it had a powerful 6.8 litre engine which meant acceleration was smooth and effortless rather than racy and with a body that was so solidly built it could withstand almost anything. The car was luxurious inside with calf leather and walnut mixed with silver. For all the history and fame, one just can’t seem to tie Rolls Royce to Bond – it has to be Aston Martin.
That said, in the twenties, Bentley had unparalleled success in the Le Mans 24 hour race winning it in 1924 and for four consecutive years from 1927 whilst Aston Martin have won it only once.
Bond’s Mark IV is likely to have been a Mark VI Bentley which had one of the first all-steel post war bodies however steel quality was poor in that period leading to brittleness and proneness to rust, a quality not expected of a Bentley. The car had a 4.6 litre engine which, with a normal car should have propelled it way past the 100 mph mark but the weight of the car – it was meant to be built for luxury not speed, meant that it barely made it to the 100 mph mark and 0 – 60 mph took a leisurely 15 seconds. However the engine had huge power meaning that fifth gear could be used down as low as 9 mph and could hall the car up an 11% gradient. There were several innovations on the vehicle including independently controlled suspension which could be manually lubricated whilst driving using a pedal. There was the optional extra of a radio and it had a sliding sunroof!
Who would have thought it but one of the most exciting Bond cars appeared in You Only Live Twice where the Bond character, played by Sean Connery, spent most of the film in Japan, using the Toyota 2000GT.
Until the development of the 2000GT, all Japanese cars were tarred with the brush of boring but dependable vehicles and it took Toyota’s 2000GT to change the perception. The car received rave reviews being favourably compared to the Porsche 911.
The car first appeared at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show and was manufactured under licence by Yamaha. Only 337 were made and today they command very high prices at auction going for as much as $375,000. It had an aluminium body giving it light weight which helped up its performance. Unfortunately, the decision to have minimal body protection meant that it was easily damaged. At the time it was produced it had the lowest head space of any car sitting only 1.16m above the road. It was for this reason that two modified soft tops were produced for the Bond movie. Sean Connery is very tall and he could not fit in the hard top or the targa top. The soft tops worked well but they never became production models. Even the convertible models weren’t true convertibles and the stowed roof was faked as a lump on the rear of the vehicle. Inside they were cramped for drivers and passengers alike meaning it was difficult to enjoy the luxury features that marked the car out as a true Grand Tourer.
The original car was powered by the two litre engine already used in the Toyota Crown Sedan but Yamaha modified it to have twin overhead camshafts with triple carburettors. Nine specials were made with a 2.3 litre engine but the two litre model still managed to reach 135 mph. It was controlled through a five speed manual gearbox and had power assisted disc brakes all round.
Sponsorship and product placement took the shine off the 007 brand for a while in the seventies and eighties and none more so that in The Man With the Golden Gun where 007 commandeers an AMC Hornet from a showroom just as Sheriff J W Pepper is looking to test drive one, pointing out its beauty and versatility to his wife. The car used was a two door coupe/hatchback which, despite AMC’s staid image, was an eye catching car – a first for the company. The car was used in the film to produce what has come to be described as the third best car stunt in a Bond movie as 007 does a corkscrew spin in the car across a broken bridge. The stunt took only one take on film thanks to several range-finding practices. The car is now in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in Hampshire.
The outwardly almost ordinary look of the car belied the monster beating heart of the car and with a choice of 3.3, 3.8 and 5 litre V8 engines; it’s no surprise the Hornet could move. An SC360 version was built with a 5.9 litre engine producing up to nearly 300 bhp and with low ration gears, the car could zip from 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds as well as hitting 95mph from a standing quarter mile. High insurance premiums killed off the SC360 and the car that featured in the Bond movie returned to the five litre engine but still packed a hefty punch, especially after being retuned for the film stunt.
The only car that could possibly match the Aston Martin for ‘coolness’ in the Bond movies was the Lotus and the famous low slung sports car featured twice in different guises in Bond movies. In 1977, the Lotus Esprit S1 featured in The Spy Who Loved Me whilst four years later in For Your Eyes Only, the Esprit Turbo muscled into the movie.
Every man and boy’s auto dream at the time, the Lotus was instantly recognisable and is still a design icon today. However, the car was seen as a fraud in having a paltry two litre engine that was barely changed from the saloon car it was lifted from. The speed of the Esprit was down to the light weight of the vehicle which weighed less than a thousand kilograms. This was achieved by the use of a reinforced glass fibre body shell. The manufacturer’s figures of 6.8 seconds 0-60 mph and a top speed of 138 mph, quite respectable at the time, were disputed by motor magazines who gave figures of eight seconds and 133 mph respectively. The story in the US was even worse for there the engine had to be down-rated to comply with emissions laws further reducing its performance to pedestrian. The S1 did give one of the most spectacular chases in Bond movie history, culminating in a change into a submarine and the car’s notable road handling, demonstrated in the film was a big factor in its commercial success.
The real success story came with the Esprit S3 Turbo which was the ‘must-have’ sports car of the early eighties. The car rocketed to 60mph in 5.6 seconds and had a top speed of 150mph. It featured in the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only but whereas the S1 in The Spy Who Loved Me was a scene stealer, the S3 in For Your Eyes Only got blown up in an early scene and the replacement, a beautiful copper coloured beast was used for looks only but eventually became the most expensive Lotus after being sold at auction for $210,000.
Alfa Romeo GTV6
This was another Bond car that had hidden depths. The car looks like a common or garden hatchback on first sight but take a closer look and you’ll find it’s a fastback, not a hatchback and with a V6 2.5 litre engine. Further attention will uncover a ‘bump’ on the bonnet which hides the intake for the much larger engine. The Bosch fuel injectors were the defining feature of the car which enabled it to get fantastic reviews from the motor press. In its other job, the car won many races including the European Touring Car Championship four years in a row and the same number of times gained success in the Tour du Corse race around Corsica. So when Roger Moore stole the GTV6 of a lady making a phone call, he knew what he was doing! With acceleration to 60 mph in around seven seconds and a top speed of over 140mph, the car was certainly a racer. The Busso V6 engine was also rated the equal of the Maserati’s V8 engine – praise indeed.
Renault 11 Turbo
OK, Q branch would not have supplied 007 with a Renault 11, even a turbo charged model but needs must with Bond and when the taxi driver wouldn’t drive Bond where he wanted to go, he simply commandeered the vehicle and in the course of the chase almost totally destroyed the car. It ended up only half a car but it was one of the best Bond movie car chases!
BMWs have featured many times in Bond films, often as the cars being driven by Bond’s pursuers. In two Bond movies however, the BMW was the star alongside 007. In The World is Not Enough it was the beautiful sports car the Z8 that stole the show whilst in Tomorrow Never Dies a futuristic BMW 750Li helped Bond out of a number of sticky situations.
In one of the most memorable Bond scenes, our hero is trapped in a multi-storey car park whilst a number of goons are sniffing round his car trying to find out where he is. The special handset remote control enables Bond to gas the pack of goons before driving it remotely towards him. He winds the rear window down so he can dive in and from the protection of the back seat makes his getaway against machine guns and chasing cars. The 750i was at the time, the flagship of the BMW fleet and featured the same engine as the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph – a 5.4 litre V12 engine capable of 346 bhp rocketing the car to 155 mph with a 0 – 60 mph time of under six seconds. The car was part of a range that was the first to feature Xenon headlights and had the first integrated sat-nav system in Europe. BMW managed to acquire the right to supply the Bond car as part of product placement in return for helping to finance the film but along with the Z8, its association with the Bond marque was short lived.
The Z8 was a true Bond car, beautifully engineered and with superb performance. If Bond had been German then he probably would have driven one of these from the start if it had been available. Unfortunately it was somewhat upstaged by the Jaguar XKR driven by the bad guy, a car that deliberately set out to trip up the supposed auto star of the film.
The Z8 grew from a concept car; the Z07. This concept car had been produced as a taster for what BMW hoped would be a full production car but the Z8 turned out to be a limited edition sports car but nonetheless successful. Just over 5,700 were built with over half of them going to the States.
The car was lightweight, featuring an aluminium chassis and bodywork and had a near five litre V8 engine that produced 400bhp. It could reach sixty in 4.2 seconds and went on to a regulated top speed of 155mph. It was designed and supplied as a soft top but every model was supplied with a hard top for winter driving. Interestingly, many of the parts used were made or constructed by hand, adding to the exclusivity of the vehicle. The engine used was the BMW M62 unit which was made of aluminium with cylinder liners made from aluminium silicate or nickel silicate to offset damage caused by sulphur in fuels, The engine has sequential fuel injectors and double overhead camshafts and ultimately featured variable valve timing which enables adjustments to be made to the timing, duration and height of valve lift as speed or demand on power changes. It allows for better performance and fuel consumption by balancing torque with power.