When it comes to James Bond and his cars, 007’s iconic 1963 Aston Martin DB5 and amphibious 1976 Lotus Espirit get all the attention. Fun fact: the white Espirit splashed onto the big screen on Aug. 3, 1977, exactly 40 years ago today, in The Spy Who Loved Me.
But what about those less-popular-but-still-memorable cars that played supporting roles? One of them—the 1974 AMC Hornet Hatchback “Astro Spiral” known for its corkscrewing bridge jump in The Man With the Golden Gun—is in the spotlight this summer. The stunt car will cross the block during Auction America’s fall Auburn sale, scheduled for Aug. 31–Sept. 3 in Auburn, Ind. The Hornet, offered without reserve, carries a $250,000–$350,000 estimate.
In the movie, Bond (played by Sir Roger Moore) drives the Hornet over the remains of a collapsed bridge, lands on the opposite side of a river, and keeps driving. While CGI might be used to simulate the jump today, this was the early ’70s, so extensive planning and daredevil skills were required to pull it off—perfectly, as it turned out.
According to Auctions America, “the car, bravely piloted by stunt driver Loren ‘Bumps’ Willard, landed exactly where the (computer) simulation predicted after hitting the ramp at the suggested speed of 40 mph. Reportedly the trick only required one take, an amazing testament to both the skill of the programmers and Willard. Due to the pioneering systems created by (Calspan Corporation and engineer Raymond R. McHenry), the Hornet survived the jump without incident. In a further indication of the skill of the (computer) programmers, the basic technology they created for the stunt still influences computer simulations including today’s most popular racing video games.”
The Hornet, in “as-jumped condition,” is being offered by the son of Jay Milligan, who conceived the jump and performed it publically several times before offering the idea to Bond producers. Among the modifications made to the car were pushing the engine farther behind the front axle (to improve weight distribution), moving the steering wheel to the center, adding a roll cage, and reinforcing the suspension.