I came across the catalogue to a James Bond exhibition which had some great behind-the-scenes images and sketches. This one’s by Michael White for the production of Goldfinger.
Which is as good an excuse as any for yet another mini-series: the James Bond cars that never were.
It was not originally a mastermind marketing exercise.
Ian Fleming had Bond choosing an Aston Martin from the work carpool in his book Goldfinger. At that time the British carmaker was on the up, just about to win at Le Mans as well as having a successful run of road cars. Fleming wrote the book during the Jamaican summer of 1958, and he chose their road car of the day.
Only, he got its name wrong. In the book, he call the model a D.B.III. He even named one of the chapters ‘Thoughts in a D.B.III’.
There was no such thing. The DB3 was a sports racer from the early 1950s that was available to privateers, but it wasn’t really a road car. Same with its followup, the DB3S. Aston Martin did make three detuned versions of the DB3S for the road (top), but this is not the car Fleming was writing about.
The Aston Martin road car was the DB2/4 Mark III (bottom), sometimes known as the DB MkIII but never the DBIII because that name was already taken.
This is a point that has vexed hardcore James Bond and Aston Martin fans alike for decades.
So the choice of car for the movie was predetermined.
Aston Martin gave the Bond producers, EON Productions, a DB5 which was actually the prototype for the model. This car, Development Product DP/216/1 was initially a visually identical DB4 Series V Vantage before receiving the 4 litre version of its 3.7 litre engine.
It was originally painted Dubonnet Red and registered by the factory with BMT 216A numberplate. They used it for road tests and publicity, during which time it was lent to the producers of the TV show ‘The Saint’.
The factory handed the car over to Ken Adam and John Stears, head of art and special effects respectively for the Bond movies, who added the gadgets and resprayed the body Silver Birch.
The ejector seat was real, but being so bulky was only in the car for that moment of the chase. The rest of the time the car’s interior was ‘normal’. The location – Pinewood Studios doubling as Goldfinger’s factory. The time – early 1964.
The scenes in Switzerland were shot later in the year with another car; this one with no sunroof.
The Rolls-Royce? A Phantom III Barker Sedanca de Ville.
Made of gold. I wonder if the scissorlift operator suspected anything.
There wasn’t much else in terms of British metal in the movie, apart from the golf club carpark scene. Bentley S1, Jaguar Mk9 and Mk3 Zephyr.
Of course the movie was saturated with products from the Ford Motor Company.
Including the just-released Mustang. The car was delivered to Switzerland for shooting on April 6, 1964 – eleven days before it was officially introduced at the New York World’s Fair.
The Ford cars were supplied to the Goldfinger shoot for free.
I think they did the same for From Russia With Love, although that was a 1963 shoot and they were given 1960 wagons. Still, Ford supplied a fleet of sorts with a two-door and four-door wagon appearing in the movie.
I use the word ‘stylist’ in my pieces to describe the people who shape the car. That’s because I use the word ‘designer’ for people who conceive the car as an entire package, people like Alec Issigonis and Dante Giacosa.
Issigonis was both designer and stylist for the Morris Minor, one of the UK motoring industry’s staples during its turbulent pre-death throes. Roger Carr gives him a great treatment here.
The original headlamps within the grille mouth (1948-53 MM) made way for headlamps on fender (1953 onward Series II+) which Issigonis hated. The Traveller wagon appeared just before the commercial van, which had a completely different rear end.
The UK General Post Office ran a fleet of Morris Quarter-Ton O-Type Vans from 1953; although this one is actually an MM with custom headlights.
It’s a perennial. Unsophisticated yes, but a true survivor thanks to its sheer simplicity and cute Mickey Mouse face.
I’ve featured this one before, and it still happens by me on occasion.
The GPO van appears in the movie, but not in action. It’s just background for the DB5’s reveal in Q’s workshop.
Judging by the amount of line items in that stamp, it would appear this prop was fully built and functional. Given all that effort, it was likely shot as per the sketch with radio equipment, machine gun and shoulder masseur.
But like Kevin Costner in The Big Chill, most of whatever was shot ended up on the cutting room floor. It did make the opening titles designed by Maurice Binder.
And the vert got a slightly better gig in the next film, Thunderball.
Not much of a showing for our Morry, but to be honest this sort of car is better used in one of those dour Harry Palmer films than it is amongst the thrilling and dangerous glamour depicted in the Bond movies that is much closer to reality of espionage.
The very last Morris Minor was a GPO van, rolling off the line in 1971.
The original ejector seat car was eventually stripped of gadgets and sold off by Aston Martin with another registration number. In 1997 it was stolen from the aircraft hanger garage of its then owner in a superclean burglary and was never recovered. Recent reports suggest it is somewhere in the Middle East.
The Switzerland DB5 had no gadgets for filming but some were subsequently added. It is now in private hands.
There were two other DB5s associated with the movie; they were purchased by EON Productions and mocked up with gadgets for publicity in the US although neither of these two cars appeared in the film.
The relationship between Aston Martin and James Bond became the very model of modern movie marketing. But it’s getting a bit much. The car itself is so fetishised, its recent appearance in the Daniel Craig movies is just jarring.
Last year, Aston Martin and EON announced 28 scratch-built James Bond DB5s would be produced, with 25 to be sold at around $3m dollars each. For that money, you’d want a functioning ejector seat.
Above is a one-third scale model built for Skyfall, a 3D printed example generated from scans of the real thing. Three were made; one got sold for about US$100k. That would have to be world’s best ever model toy of this car.
But I’ll stick with the one I’ve got, thanks.
Roger Carr’s bio of Alec Issigonis
Roger’s CC of a 1955 Morris Minor
Ian Fleming: The Man Who loved Thunderbirds
This is super cool Don. Reminds me very much of the high tech Citroen H Van used in the ‘View to a Kill’ video by Duran Duran. ‘Bon… Simon LeBon’
In the last Bond movie, which should be the last one of Daniel Craig era, Bond decides to retire, after all he is old and tired and the girl didn’t die this time. But he also decides to keep the DB5 for himself… wait a minute, that car belongs to the Queen, it was paid by the British tax payers.
Sorry James, this is unacceptable.
Theoretically, it’s the car he won at the card table in Casino Royale. Nevertheless he was still playing on Her Majesty’s dime.
Curious. So just what were the other two guys in the van to do? Massage the gunner’s shoulders? really? And the other guy, holding what looks like a mike? I’m a bit puzzled.
I get the microphone guy, presumably he is communicating with command awaiting orders to tell the gun guy to open fire, but it seems like he’d be in a very vulnerable position if enemys fired back with those flaps entirely opened up
Back massager I have no clue. The driver trying to feel useful?
Haha Paul, now that you’ve said that I can’t un-see it. That is really perplexing, what on earth is he doing?
That’s Trevor, the Recoil-Absorbing Intern. The first few years working at Q Branch are tough!
I figured the masseur was some sort of spotter with such good vision he didn’t need binoculars or telescope.
Some English ex-boarding school thing no doubt. Move along now chaps.
The massage guy is probably the new intern!
No no, it’s definitely an ex-boarding school “oh, it-never-did-me-any-harm”-type thingy, because, chaps, look closely: the Inexplicable Masseuse HAS NO PANTS ON!
Very interesting. Thanks Don.
In regard to the AM DB5….in 1982 my family made a trip to Tennessee. One of the stops was at a car museum in Pigeon Forge. An Aston Martin was on display and it was claimed to have been used in the movie. It had rotating front turn signals with the barrel of a gun poking out; there was something on the rear also, but it’s been a long time! I distinctly remember some toggle switches on the inside to control the various gadgets.
If it was indeed associated with the movie, was it the Switzerland DB5 or one of the two mocked up for publicity? A mystery we may never solve.
Not sure. The ejector seat car was last bought in 1986 so the one you saw may have been that one. At some point it was retrofitted with gadgets as well IIRC.
Actually the GPO (General Post Office) van you have pictured does not have custom headlights – the GPO vans were fitted with special rubber front wings (fenders) necessitating separate headlights. You can see the colour difference in the photo. Presumably they got knocked about a lot.
I am new to CC by the way and loving this site!
Ha! Fantastic tidbit. Cheers and welcome.
The early GPO vans had quite a few other mods, including an opening driver’s side windshield pane with top-mounted wipers, and big Yale slam lock on the driver’s door. In Paul Skilleter’s book on the Minor, he tells the story of someone from the GPO wanting a Yale lock on the door ‘located about here’ – at which point one of the engineers (Reg Job) asks deadpan whether they’d mind an inch-wide slot in the door glass at that point, so the window can wind down…..
Why the opening pane?
To aid vision with no heater, I’m guessing – the old Morris USHM2 engine had no water pump.
Despite the claim of being scanned the 1/3 scale DB5 somehow looks proportionally off to me, especially the front end. I have a handful of 1:18 diecasts that don’t look quite right but I didn’t pay $100k for them!
I agree that it’s become too fetishized, and way too self referential for what is considered the “serious bond” era. Seeing the silver DB5 outside of the two or three Sean Connery bonds when the design was actually new reminds me of Cannonball run with Roger Moore at the wheel of it. It should be noted though that it was in first brought back in the franchise in Goldeneye early in the movie. I don’t feel silver DB5s are the best examples of classic Aston Martins either, but unfortunately for many people its ties to the 007 franchise would make one think it was the only car in the only color Aston Martin made before the modern era.
I prefer the DB4 body with the forward headlights to the DB5’s cowled version. That said, the cowled headlight version is really the icon. It was first seen on the SWB DB4 GT, then the DB4 Vantage thru to DB6.
But I prefer the OHMSS DBS over both.
My favs as well(OHMSS included). There’s something about the cowled headlights on it that just never clicked with me.
Movie cars end up in one of two categories – fetishized or ignored.
The Aston is prime example, and the article and comments above explain it’s status well.
A dark green Mustang? Copied, remade, retro’d and done to death. The Charger may be seen every so often, but most never get the connection.
A Black Screaming Chicken Trans Am? No words….
Eleanors? How many are there available for sale right now?
About the only movie car that was reimagined and worked was the new Ghostbuster ambulance/hearse. The new one pays homage, but was different in a good way.
Charger from Bullitt? No. Charger from Dukes of Hazzard? Yes.
Good stuff, Don. I got a friction-powered toy version when I was a kid (and when the movie was still current stuff). I remember the plastic spinner in the center of one wheel that would extend out about a half inch beyond the car. Only because it was a toy it stuck out and dangled all the time.
I suspect that is one toy I should have left in a box and kept.
If it was tinplate, I had that one as well. It was a smaller version of the one I feature in the piece both made by Gilbert Toys. The wheel spinner does the same thing on the big Gilbert.
Mine didn’t have the extending spinners. Must’ve been the cheap unlicensed version, as the box didn’t refer to Bond or 007 but generic ‘secret agent’ and ‘711’ – I remember it was made in Hong Kong, as so many kids toys were back then.
“Get me Connery! … Or his non-union Mexican equivalent.”
May I introduce Neil, brother of Sean…
I know Neil well, from the tabloid Edinburgh Evening News. Drink driving convictions in somewhat amusing situations I think. And all in a 1970s S Class Mercedes (IIRC). This would be late 90s/early 2000s.
Of course Shur Sean famously travelled around Edinburgh on one of these –
Listen Señor Connéro…
I nearly forgot about the Carvairs.
Thank you Don, for all your work compiling this.
Frank Baker, a flamboyant restaurateur in West Vancouver, BC had one of the Bond Aston’s on display at his restaurant for years back when I was growing up. I know that it had all the gadgets but I have no idea if it was one of the movie cars or not. I seem to remember some controversy about it at the time.
Here is a pic of that car
Growing up in the ’70s it wasn’t so much the cars that had my interest in these vintage Bond movies! And it wasn’t the women either! You figure it out!
The weapons, aye?
Great read – thank you.
Thanks to a recommendation from someone here on CC, I saw the Bond in Motion exhibition of cars from the films in London in 2014 (sample attached especially for XR7Matt). I see that the exhibition became permanent (at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden). Well worth your time while in London.
IIRC, wasn’t James Bond’s original car in the Goldfinger novel some sort of Bentley?
Fleming gave Bond a number of Bentleys as his personal car throughout the series. This is the one book where he is given a gadget car from M and it didn’t appear again.
I don’t remember much about the gadgets in the Goldfinger novel car, other than having a homing device (foreshadowing GPS navigation) and a rotating license plate.
Someone can correct, but all the other stuff (ejector seat, machine guns, oil spray, bullet shield, hub cap spinners) seems like they were all added for the movie.
It makes sense as Ian Fleming’s James Bond was substantially more realistic and not nearly as much of a Batman-like superhero outwitting cartoonish super villians as the movie Bond.
Yep. I’m away from the book at the moment but IIRC it had as you mentioned plus hidden storage and maybe oil and/or nail release.
I like the books, they are incredibly dry which is something missing since Roger Moore. Craig seems a bit…. earnest.
The Morris with freestanding headlights is a shocker. Never seen it before. They were already making the faired-in fenders for export, so why didn’t they just make all the cars the modern way?
Did they have a huge pile of the old fenders and grilles already in stock? But in that case they could have just continued mounting the lights inside the grille mask. The popups don’t make sense either way.
The GPO vans had special rubber front wings (fenders) so used the new grille but needed separate headlights. I assume they expected them to have a hard life. Heres a colour pic:
Fascinating. I’m amazed I’ve never seen one like that before.
What a strange set up. I would have just told the drivers to stop effin hitting things.
How bizarre. And from what I can see in that photo, they didn’t really work. I’d love to know how they were made, presumably with some sort of stiffening?
Not sure I remember the Minor van with separate lights, but I do remember rubber mudguards front and rear on the older Morris 8 GPO van, made until ’52. Don’t forget anything that would drive was in use in these post-war years, no matter how worn the steering box was. I remember opening the steering box of my ’46 Anglia, intending to add sawdust to the oil, but someone had already replaced the oil with heavy grease.
In early 50s London, if your skinny tyres engaged with the tram tracks your car would try to go which-ever way the tracks went…. Rubber body parts made good sense.
GPO vans were likely using up old stock MM parts and being built at knock down prices, strange production ended in 71 vans were still being sold new in NZ in 74 sedan production ended in 71 but pickups and vans continued on. I got my licence in a Morris minor sedan and we had a 56 sedan in the family untill my grandmother wore it out at 40,000 miles, i quite like them.
The GPO liked Minor vans.
The Minor van was a dedicated commercial vehicle, not a passenger car with blanked windows. In the 60s, most of the company’s development was mechanically complex passenger cars that didn’t lend themselves to commercials. The Minor was too old to be competitive in a style sensitive passenger car market, but van operators were content with it. BL didn’t have an appropriate new passenger car til the Marina.
Since the Marina was a stretched re-bodied Minor I would struggle to call it “new”…..
I thought that was a myth, based on the fact it had an A series and prehistoric shocks?
New bottle, old wine (or vinegar, perhaps).
I still have my Corgie Aston Martin model from my childhood. I read somewhere that the silver paint was nixed as the colour matched the bare metal underneath and made it appear unpainted. Mine came in gold and is still treasured, although a little battered.
I had that one, plus the next one in silver with the revolving plates and wheel scythes. I have never heard that story about the colour before, but it makes sense. If you look carefully around the headlights, you can see the seams from cutting the DB4 headlights back, which Corgi already had in their range.
Impressed that you still have the original packaging with that DB4 Don; if indeed that is yours. Just remembered that I still have this little beauty in my collection. Four bright yellow plastic bombs shoot out of the boot via a trigger system on the back wheels.
Nice one delboy. DB4 isn’t mine, but I did keep a boxed 2000GT. I love the jewelled lights front and rear.
Sweet Don; you must have been a well behaved young boy to resist the temptation to un-box and play with that Toyota 2000 GT. I treasured this particular model but it is in less than stellar condition. Looked at it earlier today and, apart from being covered in a thick layer of dust, I could not get the trigger switch to open the boot and fire the missiles.
Lets both hope that our heirs appreciate our toys and give them the love they deserve rather than dumping at the nearest charity shop! And thank you for your entertaining articles.
I just found this ad. Corgi 261 was the gold car, but this one is in silver. Given it’s a painted art rather than a photo, it might have been prepared before the issue with colour was discovered on the prototypes.
Wondrous goodies here, Dottore!
That Morrie van drawing is just beautiful. Looks for all the world like the late Richie Benaud commentating on the cricket, but from the BBC Afghanistan Cricket outside broadcast van.
Set up defensively in case they don’t play cricket, so to speak.
Aaah. I hate cricket, but if I changed channels and Benaud was talking about it, I sat and listened.
Small world, I know that blue van…
I wonder if the 3rd guy in the drawing might be feeding ammunition for the machine gun?
The gun is a Bren with a magazine, no ammunition belt, so gunner masseuse is still more feasible
I’d still take the Mach 5 over the Aston if for no other reason the jump jacks making under body repairs so much easier.
The comments really crack me up. That poor recoil-absorbing pantsless intern. And the man with the Mr. Microphone…”Hey, good lookin’! I’ll be back to pick you up later!”