James Bond’s Car Up For Sale

Stirred, but not shaken

Jan 2006
NIKA ROLCZEWSKI

Quick — name the most famous car in the world.

Forget the Mustang in Bullitt. My money’s on the car in the picture to the right.

Can there be anything more iconic than James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 — the one from Goldfinger and Thunderball with the machine guns and the ejector seat?

There’s one being prepared for sale just down Hwy. 401 at Chatham. It’s the real deal, too: one of a pair bought by the Bond production company in the ’60s to promote the movies.

Whether or not this one actually saw time in front of a movie camera is debatable, but it’s been kitted out with all the toys of the time.

As well as the guns and tire shredder, and a removable but non-ejectable passenger seat, it has a mock-up of a navigation screen in the dash, satellite receiver in the driver’s wing mirror and even a phone, with cloth-covered cord, in the door.

This car, like its driver, was way ahead of its time. The DB5’s sleek and sexy sophistication, and its innovative gadgetry, made it the icon in movie pop culture.

But the choice wasn’t immediate. The Bond movie production house was mulling over which car to use in the third Bond movie when the producers noted the DB5.

At the time, Aston Martin was a small and relatively obscure British automaker which, despite half-a-century of storied racing history, still only produced a couple of hundred cars a year.

When asked for a car, Aston Martin owner David Brown (he of the DB name) flatly refused. There was no understanding of the value of product placement back in 1964.

The car’s retail price at the time was £4,500, be it to princes or producers. This was twice the price of a new E-Type Jaguar, so it was an expensive gamble to go with the smaller manufacturer.

But then James Bond was no regular spy.

The Bond cars were fitted with all the tools a secret agent would need. In the central console, the driver could easily manipulate the front machine guns and bulletproof rear screen.

For car chases and villains in hot pursuit, a smoke screen or oil slick could be activated at a flick of a switch. The revolving license plates were from three different countries — a suggestion from the film’s director who wished for the same, as he was a collector of parking tickets in London.

A tire slasher and nail ejection unit were perfect for thwarting the enemy’s car. The new DB5 model came to rival Sean Connery as the star of the film.

Demand for the expensive vehicle was huge, with about a thousand cars being made in its two-year production run.

Less-well-heeled fans could satisfy themselves with the miniature Corgi version. Featuring an ejector seat and front-mounted machine guns, it was an instant success, earning the U.K. Toy of the Year Award. Costing less than a couple of bucks, more than 3.9 million were sold by 1968 and versions are still available today.

But only four of the full-size cars can legitimately claim to be James Bond’s DB5, and each has its own story.

The original, known as the “effects car,” was sold back to Aston Martin after the filming of the movies and all the special effects equipment was removed. Not realizing its potential, the company sold the car to a member of the Aston Martin club as a “pre-owned” vehicle.

That purchaser later put two and two together and recognized the car as the actual movie vehicle; he asked Aston Martin to restore the effects equipment but the company refused. So he did it himself.

Eventually, it was sold in 1986 to a Florida real estate developer who paid $275,000 (U.S.) at Sotheby’s auction, more than double the going rate of a regular DB5.

Eleven years later, though, the car disappeared mysteriously from a hangar at Boca Raton.

According to a news report, “Someone sliced through the moulding on the (airport) hangar door, cut the metal latch and snipped the alarm. There was no key in the car, according to police reports, so the burglar either hot-wired the Aston Martin DB5 or simply pushed it out of the hangar and into the night.”

The rumoured insurance settlement was $4.2 million (U.S.). The car is still missing.

The second car was the “road car” used for general filming. It too was fitted with a set of gadgets. Sold to a private collector in Philadelphia who doesn’t own any other interesting cars but who loves Bond, the car is parked in his basement, last driven a dozen years ago and hidden from view to all but him and his house guests.

For the worldwide debut of Thunderball, the fourth Bond movie, two more DB5s were fashioned as promotional vehicles. To be authentic, they were accessorized to the same degree and sent off to tour the world.

Finally, marketers understood the value of the car’s appeal. Sears Roebuck took one of them on tour, housed in its own customized transporter, with the rear truck panel proclaiming, “You’re trailing an actual James Bond 007 Aston Martin automobile — see it at Sears!”

Not very suave or too sophisticated, but very effective.

The two cars were purchased by Sir Anthony Bamford, who claimed they were used in Goldfinger, but this is unlikely. No matter. Just months later, one would be traded for a Ferrari GTO and now sits in the Louwman National Automotive Museum in Holland.

In 1970, Bamford put the fourth car up for sale, asking £5,000. It was bought by the Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. There it sat for 35 years, paint beginning to fade, leather starting to peel, gas varnishing the carburettors — until now.

Together with about 40 other cars from the museum, it will be auctioned at RM Auctions’ Arizona Biltmore sale in January.

How much is it worth?

Nobody knows, but it’s the only one available, probably for many years to come. Probably more than a million dollars, perhaps much more.

The last Bond car to be sold, the Aston Martin Vanquish driven by Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day, sold in 2003 for half a million dollars, but this is a Sean Connery DB5 — a jewel in any collector’s crown.

Nika

Nika

Nika has had a love for cars and racing since childhood. A regional racing license holder she has been involved with the industry, working with racers, teams, journalists and automobile manufacturers in sponsorship solicitation, logistics, hospitality, road show and communication program implementation.