CC Cinema: 007 The Cars That Never Were – Ford XD Fairmont Ghia

Folklore is that the only James Bond movie where he doesn’t actually drive a car is Moonraker. Not quite true. But try as I may, I cannot find a moment during the film where Roger Moore is in any way involved with this Herb Grasse creation.

Moonraker isn’t much of a car film. There’s this VW-based MP Lafer that Bond thankfully never drove.

It was driven by a gorgeous woman following him luxuriating in a Rolls-Royce. It’s a 1973 US-market Silver Shadow Long Wheelbase, differentiated from the 1976-onward renamed Silver Wraith II with its more pronounced flares over the wheel arches.

He also got driven in a 1936 Hispano-Suiza Type 68 J12 Cabriolet around Drax’s French estate. But he really had his eye on the AMC products, thinking back wistfully to those golden days in Bangkok.

You could probably count the gondola ‘hovercraft’ he piloted into St Mark’s Square in Venice as a car. Four wheels and an engine with a boat top and balloon skirt. Nevertheless I’m not showing you a screen grab of it because it’s one of the most embarrassing moments in Bond. Ever.

The only car James Bond seems to have officially driven in the movie was this Ken Adams creation, which was likely built over a stretched Moke recycled from the Volcano set of 1967. I think that’s Roger Moore driving it in the lower frame.

No chase but.

That was saved for this.

Bond had form with boats. Roger Moore’s first outing Live And Let Die featured a fantastic chase through the bayous with boats were supplied by US maker Glastron, with the star being the airborne GT-150.

In 1978, Glastron Carlson provided a CV23HT to the Bond production. It was a variant of their senior model with a hardtop added, of which only 300 were made.

This was the coupe of boats.

Moonraker got the shooting brake variant.

Designed to accommodate more occupants than just the driver under roof, it also featured an awning for those wanting to take a dip without catching the sun.

Ha, tricked you! It was another absurdly expensive creation from Q destined for a moment’s practical use before being completely destroyed. Over a waterfall in this case, with hang-glider as lifeboat.

It’s actually a nice looking shape as a longroof.

Glastron’s next coupe arrived in 1980. With T-tops.

The Ford Fairmont Ghia Moonraker Special was a promotional car, given away on the Don Lane Show.

Lane was a US import, and the only talk show host on local TV I remember as a kid. In late 1979, when the prints for Moonraker reached Australia for its summer, the Fairmont special was probably presented. I don’t know how the competition was run, but someone seems to have won this car.

The 1979 XD Fairmont Ghia was the highest spec SWB sedan, and this one came loaded with 351 and some juicy extras; tv in the rear built into a custom console, a ‘computer’ up front mounted on the dash, drilled hole motif in the rockers and grille, colourway introducing the lameness of the 1980s and best of all, the official 007 gun logo. On the door. So everyone knows who you are.

The base XD was a superb shape. Easily the best around the world in this language for Ford at the time.

The guy who prepared the package was the same guy who worked up the Playboy option when Ford Australia was considering a runout package for the last 400 XC coupe bodies.

His name was Herb Grasse. He graduated from Arts Center College of Design in California in 1968, and one of his first jobs was helping George Barris prepare the Batmobile. His career took him to Ford and Chrysler US, before making his way to Ford Australia.

Grasse is most famous for the Bricklin SV-1. Certainly an iconic shape, but more so for its extraordinarily desultory provenance than its looks. He did manage to channel the 240Z credibly, but his simpler overall shape missed the tension of the sugar scoops up front.

This 1973 Lola T70 reskinned racer an example of his showcar leanings.

He also worked at Chrysler. This is some of his work in the lead up to full fuselage. See that swirl in the cobblestones near the rear wheel of the top car? Herb hid a cuss word in the artwork, which chromjuwelen swirled out. He got in a lot of trouble for that after some student noticed it.

In 1978 Grasse arrived in Australia at FoMoCo. One project he did on the side was Waltzing Matilda. It was a Ford LNT 7000 Louisville prime mover powered by an ex-RAAF Rolls-Royce Avon Mk1 jet engine taken from a Canberra Bomber. It was claimed to be the world’s first jet truck, and the first truck ever to exceed 200mph (322km/h).

Grasse also seems to have had a clean eye. Top is one of his impressions for the EA Falcon. His work at Ford down here also included time on the Laser and Telstar. Beneath a proposal for Mad Max. I’m not sure but I think it might have been for the third one with Tina Turner and a lot more money.

I wouldn’t expect Herb ever considered the Moonraker Special a highlight of his career. As far as I can tell, it came out of Ford Australia. But the only promotional material I can find featuring it is for its sunroof.

The car is still around. It’s mentioned on oldschoolaussiefords, and I think the current owner chimes in. That’s mid-80s money above, not sure I’d even pay that today.

I do want an XD. But one like this instead.

Further Reading

007: The Cars That Never Were
Morris Minor GPO Van