He’s our favourite imperialist agent: with a licence to thrill across the silver screen. And there are two things that generate excitement with every new Bond movie announcement. One: who will play the “Bond Girl” in this latest instalment. Two: what will feature as the Bond vehicle?
The latter is arguably more important. A dame is a dame, but a fine car is a true joy to ride. Of course, there have been many fine cars over the decades that span 007’s reign as spy supreme. We look at our three favourites.
Aston Martin DB5
Not many people know this, but Aston Martin didn’t even pay for product placement in their first appearance on the movie projector slide. In fact, the producers of Goldfinger had to bend over backwards to accommodate the automobile company. It was only after the massive success of the movie and the surging popularity of Aston Martin as a result that company executives started getting $ signs in their eyes at the thought of their products being placed in any movie deemed likely to be a box office smash.
Thus began the age of product placement. In any case, the Aston Martin DB5 is and always will be a classic. It began its movie career with a bang. Literally, if you consider how the Q Division of MI6 outfitted Bond’s car with all sorts of useful gadgets like machine guns. Since then, it’s featured in a number of Bond films, most memorably in Casino Royale, the more ‘realistic’ Bond movie where the car doesn’t have gadgets at all. But it does do seven spins in the air as Bond swerves out the way to avoid hitting a bound and gagged Vesper, laying on the road and set as a trap. The works, leading to one of the most intense ‘Bond captured by bad guys’ scene in the entire series.
Lotus Esprit S1
The Spy Who Loved Me featured an intense opener, with Bond in a ski-slope battle against a Russian squad, which involved Bond killing the lover of a Russian agent who later falls in love with him (it’s almost like a soap opera, just with submarines, nukes, and a juggernaut of a henchman with metal, sharpened teeth appropriately named ‘Jaws’).
What stood out most for movie-goers was the scene where Bond and Agent Anya Amasova are being chased in the Lotus Esprit S1 by a helicopter raining down machine gun fire on them. Bond drives the Lotus off a pier into the water below… and the Lotus turns into a submarine! He then fires a ground-to-air rocket from it, destroying the helicopter.
It was every imaginative little boy’s dream car, the ultimate spy mobile. The two then proceed to use the vehicle to investigate the underwater shenanigans of megalomaniac villain Karl Stromberg.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, a media mogul creates his own news by using his agents to attempt a war between Britain and China. Obviously, his wife falls for James Bond (sigh, everybody falls for James Bond – we reckon even the villains get a bit of a man-crush for the guy) and reveals elements of the dastardly plan.
Meanwhile, Q Branch outfits a BMW 750iL with an assortment of gadgets, including re-inflating tyres, rockets, a wire cutter, and many more besides.
But what was most memorable about the car involved something only just becoming part of our daily lives at the time. The cellphone. Hard to believe there was even a time where cellphones weren’t that common, but in the late 1990s, at least in South Africa, public phone booths were still a thing (which begs the question: where in today’s day and age does Clark Kent change into Superman?).
In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond’s cellphone is used to actually drive the BMW 750iL, leading to an exciting car chase with James literally backseat driving on his mobile.
When the movie was released, some questioned the use of a German car with the very traditional British agent, but the UK automobile industry wasn’t exactly in the best shape at the time. And the BMW, while a premium vehicle, did blend-in more spy-like than your typical Aston Martin.
Well, those are our top three. What are yours?