CC Cinema: 007 The Cars That Never Were – Morris Minor GPO Van

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

IMCDb Goldfinger