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.