A Spectre of Greatness By Mark Rubino
Since his introduction to the silver screen in the early 1960s, James Bond has consistently left audiences jealous of his high-end suits, futuristic gadgets, gorgeous love interests and unbelievable cars. Unlike his drink order, Bond’s taste in cars changes with each new movie, allowing him to drive the latest and greatest vehicles on the planet with each new film in the franchise.
Part of the joy of a new Bond movie is seeing what supercar he’ll be driving, and then finding out how it will end up destroyed or careening through the streets in a balls-to-the-wall chase sequence. High-speed chases are an important part of the Bond formula that makes him the world’s most beloved character. But, to have awesome chase scenes, Bond needs cars that look good to the audience and perform even better at high speeds and around tight corners.
From Dr. No all the way through to the upcoming Spectre, we’re going to look at the vehicles that help make James Bond such an icon.
The 14 Cars of James Bond—A Spectre of Greatness:
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1. Dr. No – Sunbeam Alpine Series IIThe Sunbeam Alpine isn’t the flashiest Bond car, but it is the original, and for that alone it needs to be on this list. A British car for a British spy, the Sunbeam was Bond’s car of choice in both the film Dr. No and the novel by Ian Fleming. One of many convertibles for Bond, this car’s highlight in the series was the unforgettable mountain chase that saw the secret agent being pursued by a hearse and escaping by fitting the relatively small Sunbeam Series II under a fallen crane! One of only 19,956 ever made, the Series II was allegedly borrowed from a resident on the island the movie was filmed on. Although it may not be the most memorable Bond car, the Alpine Series II provided the spy with a distinctly British and stylish car for his first major motion picture. At an average used price of $18,000, you can live out your Bond fantasy for relatively cheap compared to some of the other cars on this list.
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2. From Russia with Love – Bentley Mark IVThe oldest of the Bond cars, the Bentley Mark IV dates all the way back to 1930. Inspired by Bond’s Bentley 4.5 Liter car in the series of novels, the Mark IV is still an odd choice for the movies. A classic car even by the time the movie was made, the Mark IV in From Russia with Love sees little action with the exception of Bond and love interest Sylvia Trench in the back seat. For such an old car, it still managed to incorporate some of Bond’s new age gadgets and featured a car phone he used to check in with MI-6. Known colloquially as a Derby Bentley (largely because it was made in Derby, England), this particular version saw only 1,177 made. Shockingly for such an old car, it can still reach speeds up to 90 MPH! Advertised as the “Silent Sports Car,” the Mark IV has left a rather quiet legacy amongst Bond cars in general due to its little screen time and lack of chases or crashes.
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3. Goldfinger and Thunderball – Aston Martin DB5If you were to close your eyes and picture a classic James Bond car, chances are this is the car you would think of. The Aston Martin DB5 is a fan favorite due to its inclusion of gadgets and weaponry by Oscar winning special effects guru, John Stears. From machine guns to tire cutters to smoke screens, the addition of gadgets helped elevate the DB5 above its predecessors and made it the most iconic Bond car in the franchise’s 50 year history. Perhaps most memorable about the gadgets and the car itself was the ejector seat that Sean Connery famously used to escape capture by pressing the button on his gear stick. While it wouldn’t be the last Bond car to feature gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5 gave Bond everything he needed to get the job done and allowed him to look stylish while doing it. Be aware that if you want to follow in Bond’s footsteps it will cost you a hefty price. The DB5 from the films recently sold at a 2010 auction for 2,600,000 British Pounds!
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4. Diamonds Are Forever – Ford Mustang Mach 1It certainly isn’t the most exotic car on the list, but the Ford Mustang Mach 1 provided fans with one of the most exhilarating car chases in Bond franchise history. Bond’s wild driving through the Las Vegas Strip after being spotted by a sheriff’s radar led to insane maneuvering that allowed him to escape multiple police cars that inevitably crashed into each other. However, the most iconic sequence from this chase comes at the very end when Bond drives half of the car up a loading ramp and escapes through a narrow alley on two wheels! If you’re wondering why Bond decided to switch it up and drive an American car, the answer is simply for product placement reasons. Allegedly, Ford gave the filmmakers as many cars as they would need to destroy during the infamous chase scene as long as Bond drove the Mustang. While the Mustang isn’t the most memorable Bond car, it’s noteworthy because it’s uncharacteristically an American car and it had a significant role in one of Bond’s best car chases.
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5. The Man with the Golden Gun – AMC HornetThe AMC Hornet wasn’t Bond’s car of choice. In fact, he had to steal it. When Mary Goodnight was kidnapped and had the keys with her, Bond had no choice but to steal the nearby Hornet to give chase. He infamously drives it right out of the dealership showroom and then pursues Ms. Goodnight through heavy Bangkok traffic before participating in the film’s signature stunt. Bond takes the AMC Hornet and launches it over a river by using part of a broken bridge to barrel roll to safety on the other side. Incredibly, the jump over the river stunt was performed in one take, although there was several practice attempts before the cameras were rolling. The jump was so spectacular that the Guinness World Records 2010 book describes it as the "first astro spiral used in a movie!" If you own a Hornet, don’t try this stunt at home. Aside from the obvious reasons, you’ll have difficulty recreating this jump because the car used in the movie was specially designed and outfitted for the film with larger wheels and a redesigned chassis.
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6. The Spy who Loved Me – Lotus EspritThe Lotus Esprit holds a special place in the hearts of Bond fans, as it was involved in one of the franchise's greatest chase scenes both on land and in the sea. If you don’t remember, following a mountain chase that saw Bond fend off a motorcycle and helicopter attack, he drove the Esprit straight into the ocean where it promptly turned into a submarine! Definitely one of the coolest car tricks in the Bond universe, while also one of the least practical. Unfortunately for Lotus Esprit owners, the car is in no way, shape or form a submarine, nor does it have any type of nautical driving capabilities. Instead, the submarine car was a specially designed submarine meant to take on the shape of the Esprit. Tesla founder, Elon Musk, recently purchased the car for a little less than one million dollars. Musk plans to take the submarine and make it into a working version of the Esprit from the film. In other words, he wants the submarine to be able to drive like a car on land.
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7. A View to a Kill – Renault 11 TaxiMuch like the AMC Hornet, the Renault taxi was far from Bond’s first choice. While it’s not the most stylish, powerful or gadget-filled vehicle Bond drives, the little taxi gives Bond everything it can for his rather humorous chase throughout Paris. To start, Bond drives the Renault on top of a bus before weaving through Parisian traffic. Following that, he crashes through a gate that rips off the top half of the car and makes the hard topped taxi a convertible. Finally, the car is rammed by traffic and is split in two, with Bond continuing to drive the front two seats and wheels as if it were a functioning vehicle! The Renault taxi isn’t memorable for the car it is, but rather for the outrageous and comical car chase it’s a part of.
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8. A View to a Kill – Rolls Royce Silver Cloud IIAlso from A View to a Kill, the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II is most definitely a Bond car of choice. This impeccable Rolls Royce showcases everything that makes a Bond car so dream-like for fans. The style, class and sophistication of this particular model are legitimately noteworthy. You’ll most likely remember this car’s tires more than anything else, because Bond uses the air in them to avoid drowning after May Day attempts to drown him in the car by driving it into a lake. Bond producer Cubby Broccoli owned the actual car used in the film and it is one of only 2,400 made. This explains why the Silver Cloud isn’t blown up or destroyed during the movie, and is instead driven into the lake. However, even that destruction was too much for Cubby Broccoli to let happen to his car, so a Bentley was substituted to make sure the Rolls Royce would not be harmed. The Silver Cloud can also be seen in other early Bond films such as Dr. No and Thunderball.
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9. Goldeneye – BMW Z3A new Bond deserves a new line of cars. Goldeneye was the first film to feature Pierce Brosnan as the leading man, and also the first Bond film to feature a BMW. The sleek Z3 is shown off to Bond by Q and is mentioned as having an ejector seat, radar and Q’s personal favorite “stinger missiles housed behind the headlights.” While this combination of weaponry would make it seem like Bond was destined for a big chase or fight, in a rather surprising move, the car is rarely seen again in the movie. However, featuring the Z3 certainly got the attention of movie goers, as it caused over 15,000 orders of the car that took BMW over one year to fulfill! BMW even released a special Bond edition of the car, which sold for $35,000 and featured a 007 dash plaque, 007 Bond floor mats, special wheels and a wooden gear shifter, center console and steering wheel. The special edition also came in the same color as Bond’s car in the film: Bond Blue-Gray.
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10. The World Is Not Enough – BMW Z8The last of the BMWs for Bond saw the BMW Z8 be featured in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. Unlike the Z3 in Goldeneye, the Z8 actually uses the gadgets it has. Bond uses the missile launchers to take down an enemy helicopter and uses his keys to control the car via a touch pad. The newest feature added is the car’s titanium armor that proves rather useless as the car ends up being cut in half by a helicopter. The Z8 in the film is one of only 5,703 ever made, as the cars were released as a limited production model. As a rather unique selling point, every Z8 was shipped with a color-matching metal hardtop. Unlike many accessory hardtops, which are provided for practical rather than stylistic considerations, the Z8's was designed from the outset to complement the lines of the roadster. To showcase the importance of the car, as well as solidify its status as a high-end vehicle, BMW promised that a 50-year stockpile of spare parts would be maintained in order to support the Z8 well into the future.
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11. Die Another Day – Ford FairlaneThe Ford Fairlane makes a brief appearance in Die Another Day when Bond needs a car to travel around Cuba. Since he is borrowing it from an informant, there are no cool gadgets and nothing particularly noteworthy happens to the car. That being said, to diehard Bond fans, the Fairlane is a nice call back to Thunderball, when a SPECTRE henchman drives a similar car to attempt to kill Bond only to end up being killed by a SPECTRE henchwoman! The Fairlane is really one of the more boring Bond cars, which is why it has such little screen time. It is notable as a quality American family car from the 1960s and makes sense as an option for Bond in Cuba since there would have been access to it before the American embargo. Other than a nice call back to Bond’s past, as well as maintaining historical accuracy, the Fairlane might easily go down as the most nonchalant Bond car in franchise history.
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12. Die Another Day – Aston Martin V12 VanquishThe Fairlane may have needed to be kept simple to balance out all of the ridiculously crazy gadgets packed into the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish in the same film. Most notable was the car’s invisibility cloaking device that made the entire vehicle transparent. While not exactly the most practical gadget, it certainly looked incredible on screen. Also added on to the Vanquish were shotguns, an ejector seat and torpedoes that all help Bond in a seven-minute car chase throughout the film’s ice castle. Changing back to the Aston Martin marked a return to form for Bond, a car brand the franchise will continue to use. The silver of the Vanquish was meant to closely align to the famous Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and Thunderball. The car’s V12 engine and 450 horsepower helped solidify Aston Martin as Bond’s car of choice, even with a switch in the actors playing Bond and a change in the overall tone of the films.
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13. Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace – Aston Martin DBS V12The Bond franchise decided to stick with Aston Martin cars during a reboot that saw Daniel Craig take over for Pierce Brosnan. In an effort to make the series more grounded in reality, many of the over the top gadgets were removed completely. The only addition to Craig’s Aston Martin is a gun and medical pack stashed inside the glove compartment. That being said, it wouldn’t be a Bond movie without destroying a fine car, so Casino Royale saw Bond total the DBS, while Quantum of Solace saw an intense mountain car chase that entailed the driver side door being ripped off! The DBS name by Aston Martin serves as a call back to their most memorable Bond car, the DB5. The new DBS made its first appearance in Casino Royale and blew theater-goers away with its high speed performance leading up to its wreck, showcasing its top end speed of 191 MPH. Aston Martin will continue to serve Bond in upcoming installments, including the new film Spectre, so expect more high speed stunts and chases when the movie releases on November 6th.
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Bonus: Spectre -- Aston Martin DB10Not to disappoint, the upcoming movie, Spectre, will feature the all-new Aston Martin DB10. With only 10 units made of this, the most expensive Aston Martin ever produced, we’re hoping that James Bond and his enemies don't destroy them all. According to the auto maker, the DB10 features more striking lines than any other model before it, complete with a wider front grill, deep air vents on the wings and elements of the DP100 concept that we all drooled over earlier this year. While we’ve not been given confirmation, many rumors indicate that the bodywork could also be exclusively composed of carbon fibre. How cool is that? Chances are you’ll never get your hands on a DB10 since only 10 are being made, but expect a full production model that is very similar to it when Aston Martin releases the DB11 for the world—even if you aren’t a secret agent.
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