“Where’s my Bentley?” asked Bond, eager to get started with his mission. “Oh, it’s had its day, I’m afraid,” sighed Q, and led Bond over to a sporty silver coupe.
By 1964, James Bond was on his 3rd film, and the British secret agent had already become a huge commodity. For this newest cinematic adventure, Goldfinger, 007 would need a car, one that specifically fit him. But the 1953 Bentley Mark VI he’d bought at the end of the Moonraker novel to replace his 1930 4½ Litre seemed too antiquated, too much of an old man’s car to fit this young, on-screen personification by Sean Connery. Bond needed a car to define his new era. The producers of Goldfinger found one, and it became what might be the most famous movie car of all time.
They’d learned that Aston Martin would be releasing their newest car, the DB5, that same year. But why did they choose the DB5? First of all, it looked beautiful. It was the essence of British design, reserved but still somehow breathtaking in curves and proportion. Perhaps the only British alternative of the day would have been the Jaguar E-Type, but the Jag was almost too pretty. It was radical in design and too noticeable for the likes of a secret agent.
And the DB5 could perform, too. It carried a 282 hp, 4 liter straight six, and only weighed 3,300 lbs, so it could hit 60 in 7.1 seconds. That’s faster than a 2011 BMW 328i automatic and extremely impressive for the day.
The production staff came close, however, to just settling for an alternative. When they approached Aston Martin about contributing three DB5s to the film, the company flatly refused, offering the cars, instead, for sale. But this was outside the budget. After much negotiation, the car firm finally agreed to donate two cars. It turned out to be a good decision. After the film’s release, sales of the DB5 doubled, and it is known as the most successful product placement in the history of film.
Most buyers, however, weren’t treated with the same features Q Branch offered 007. The DB5 was the first in a long line of gadget-laden Bond cars, and spared no expense. Behind the indicators (that’s “turn signals” to us Yanks) sat a pair of 30 caliber Browning machine guns. There were retractable tire slashers in the rear wheels, and the rear brake light could spit tire tacks. Those rear lights also carried a smoke screen and an oil jet. Both bumpers carried push-rams, and between these were revolving license plates for a quick identity switch. Finally, both windshields were bulletproof, and there was even a sliding plate behind the rear one for extra armor.
That’s just outside. The interior, too, was freshly equipped with everything a spy needs, from a radar tracking system under the dash (with the antenna in the side mirror) to a radio phone hidden in the door panel. Beneath the driver’s seat was a secret gun drawer, and under the arm rest, the control panel for everything. Everything, that is, except the most dramatic feature of the interior. “An ejector seat? You’re joking!” said Bond incredulously. Q stared at him for a moment before declaring, “I never joke about my work, 007.” This was activated by a switch in the shift knob.
The ’64 DB5 is widely considered to be the most famous, and most beautiful, car in the world, and most Bond fans, myself included, call it their favorite 007 vehicle. Today the DB5, like Bond, remains a national icon.
Next week we’ll discuss another Aston Martin, the DBS from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.