24 February 2016

James Bond cars that define their decade

Ask most people which car fictional British secret agent James Bond prefers, and the answer is usually Aston Martin. Now, if the person you’re asking read the novels on which the films are based, they’d know that Ian Fleming’s spy preferred supercharged Pre-war Bentleys.

We all know that Bond films took liberty with this fact, and 007 found himself piloting a variety of vehicles, from a 1967 Toyota 2000 GT to a 1974 AMC Hornet. Despite this, each decade found him piloting at least one car that reflected the decade in some way.

1960s:
1963 Aston Martin DB5
Starred in: “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball”
About the car: Derived from the DB4, which was introduced in 1958, the DB5 arrived in ‘63 employing Superleggera (Carrozzeria Touring’s “super-light”) aluminum construction and a 325-horsepower 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Although product placement in films is much sought after today, Aston Martin flatly refused to lend a car; their financial position was too precarious to spare any. So the film’s producers had to twist the automaker’s arm just to loan them a car. Once the film appeared and demand exploded, that was no longer the case.
Why it matters: Sensual, sophisticated and free-spirited, like the ’60s.

1970s:
1976 Lotus Espirit
Starred in: “The Spy Who Loved Me”
About the car: In an era of wedge-shaped supercars, this wedge-shaped coupe, penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign, was the first of a slew of similarly shaped sports cars. Unlike its competitors, the Espirit’s fiberglass body was impregnated with paint. However, since the 2.0-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine was mounted behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle, it proved problematic for the film’s stunt drivers, who were unaccustomed to a mid-engine car. So Lotus drivers were tapped to help out.
Why it matters: Strangely sexy, but odd, just like the 1970s.

1980s:
1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante
Starred in: “The Living Daylights”
About the car: After three decades and a string of owners, Aston Martin was on the financial brink by the 1980s. But having previously learned their lesson, the automaker loaned the production a 1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante. Despite being far from modern, the car looked good, and the 370-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 packed a punch. More importantly, the Aston badge connected Timothy Dalton, the newest Bond, with previous 007s. Aston Martin welcomed the attention.
Why it matters: Just like the 80s, it was something old in a new package.

1990s:
1999 BMW Z8
Starred in: “The World is Not Enough”
About the car: Based on the Z07 concept car, an homage to BMW’s 507, which caused a sensation at the Tokyo Auto Show where it debuted. It was conceived as a production car and Tokyo confirmed that BMW was right – well-heeled customers wanted a 400 hp two-seater from Munich. It also included a removable hardtop so drivers and their passengers could cruise comfortably all year long. Additionally, BMW marketed the car as an instant classic and promised a 50-year parts cache.
Why it matters: The Z8’s screen time, and production run, was all too brief, just like the dotcom boom.

2000s:
2002 Aston Martin Vanquish
Starred in: “Die Another Day”
About the car: At the dawn of a new century, the V12-powered Vanquish marked the end of an era for Bond films, as Pierce Brosnan became the last in a series of pseudo-Sean Connery/Roger Moore Bond wannabes. So it’s suitable that the Aston Martin was thoroughly modern, with extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber, and a V12 producing 460 horsepower through a six-speed manual gearbox. Still, it was the end of an area, as this was the last model built at Aston Martin’s famous Newport Pagnell factory.
Why it matters: Just like 9/11: the end of one era, the beginning of another.

2010s:
2016 Aston Martin DB10
Starred in: “Spectre”
About the car: As the films stray farther from the novels that inspired them, some touchstones have to remain, and so it is with James Bond and Aston Martin. In an effort to tap the essence of the 1963 DB5 without repeating its look, Aston Martin distilled its design language into a new rendition of a classic archetype. Underneath lie the mechanicals of a V8 Vantage, with a 420-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 reaches 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and has a top speed of 190 mph, which is handy when outrunning villains.
Why it matters: A classic new Aston for the newest of Bonds.

15 Reader Comments

  • 1
    George Giese` USA February 24, 2016 at 13:13
    If the original films had remained true to the novels, ol' James would have been driving a Bentley, and if he had, perhaps their prices would now be sky high and we'd all say 'Aston-WHO?' when that other car is mentioned.
  • 2
    George here February 24, 2016 at 13:23
    lets not forget the 1st Dr. NO was a Sunbeam Alpine
  • 3
    Mike Hilton Head Island, SC February 24, 2016 at 14:50
    The BMW Z8 does not have a retractable hardtop - it's removable with power soft top under. Good thing, as my golf clubs fit in the back of a rare Z8 Alpina version.
  • 4
    JR (Jim) Ross wyevale, Ont., Canada February 24, 2016 at 15:46
    Let's not forget the resurrection of the DB 5 in "Skyfall".
  • 5
    Lydia NY February 24, 2016 at 16:06
    Nothing fits Bond better than an Aston Martin. My dream car!
  • 6
    Mark Virginia February 24, 2016 at 16:31
    I own the real Bond car a 1966 Citroen 2 CV Who needs all those cylinders and horsepower.
  • 7
    Marc Gottlieb Commack, NY February 24, 2016 at 17:12
    It's a shame nobody remembers the Triumph Stag in Diamonds are Forever. I love my yellow 71 Stag. V8 power and sound, 4 speed with overdrive and seating for 4
  • 8
    Dale Pennsylvania February 24, 2016 at 17:35
    All nice cars but my favorite car in Bond movies was the 1971 Mustang Mach 1 429 Cobra jet Plane Jane in Diamonds Are Forever. Nothing to fancy but a Killer on the street.
  • 9
    Jkeevil Richmond va February 24, 2016 at 18:04
    But where is the 2cv
  • 10
    JD StAugustine, FL February 24, 2016 at 18:26
    I think you missed the fact the DB5 returned in SkyFall - to the cheers of everyone in the theatre.
  • 11
    Wayne Clark Indio, CA February 24, 2016 at 20:01
    You forgot the first Bond Car in Dr. NO. It was a series II Sunbeam Alpine. I had one exactly like the one in Dr. No, same color.
  • 12
    Dennis Gloucester, MA February 25, 2016 at 01:03
    Great summary of some fascinating cars. For the record, the Z8 hardtop is removable, not retractable. It does have a retractable soft top.
  • 13
    Yoav Gilad Traverse City February 25, 2016 at 14:37
    Editor's note regarding the Z8: you guys are correct, thanks for the head's up. I missed it in fact-checking and the article has been updated.
  • 14
    Ken Oehler Naples, FL February 28, 2016 at 10:20
    So, why no mention of the car in the very first Bond movie, Dr. No, which featured the Sunbeam Alpine?
  • 15
    Scott Hamilton Tulsa March 4, 2016 at 10:34
    For my money I would have selected the DBS rather than the DB-10. I believe the DBS was designed for the movie and then went into production. I don't think the DB-10 will go into production and to my eye isn't as appealing as the DB-11. Fun article though. Only Bond women can match Bond cars.

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