From the moment he leapt out of Ian Fleming’s typewriter onto the printed page, James Bond was a formed character. Legendarily modeled after Fleming himself, Bond was very particular about the worldly goods and gadgets that he regularly used. Among these was his favorite Bentley 4 ½ Litre. When he transitioned to the silver screen, James Bond also changed car brands, from Bentley to Aston Martin, with side trips with BMW and even Ford, Citroen, and AMC. We’re running down a list of the most memorable James Bond car scenes:
Alpine car chase with the Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger, 1964
If there can only be one Bond car, this is surely the one. The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 sports car was equipped with a 4.0-liter inline-six engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Boasting 293ps, the British Secret Service’s Q division outfitted the car with twin front machine guns, rotating license plates, retractable rear bullet shield, tire slasher, rear oil slick, and the infamous passenger ejector seat. When Sean Connery powered the DB5 up the Swiss Alps on his way to villain Auric Goldfinger’s lair, it was a match made in cinematic heaven, and one that continues today. Aston Martin even produced 25 “Goldfinger Continuation” cars with specs faithful to the original movie car, down to the (simulated) special equipment.
Submarine drive with the Lotus Esprit – The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977
A close second as the iconic James Bond car is the white Lotus Esprit that could turn into a submarine. Lotus PR boss Don McLauchlan “auditioned” the Esprit for the part by parking it at Pinewood Studios so that the Bond production team would see the car. Intrigued, the movie’s Head of Special Effects called Lotus and another cinematic automotive legend was born. Lotus Director of Vehicle Engineering Roger Becker had to do the driving for the famous chase sequence, as the actual stuntman couldn’t make the scene look spectacular enough for the Esprit’s prodigious grip. A second Lotus Esprit dubbed “Wet Nellie” was converted into a functioning submarine. After filming, that car was languished in a storage unit, was bought unknowningly in a blind auction by a New York couple for $100. The car was bought in auction in 2013 $997,000 for by one Elon Musk.
Going invisible with the Aston Martin Vanquish, Die Another Day, 2002
The Aston Martin Vanquish that turns invisible was either the most fun vehicle in a James Bond film, or the pinnacle of ridiculousness that required the Bond series to do a reboot—perhaps both. Pierce Brosnan used the Vanquish (or “Vanish”, if you prefer) to evade a North Korean henchman and a North Korean renegade general turned tech billionaire (don’t ask) and rescue Halle Berry from an ice-cold demise.
Ice chase with the Aston Martin V8, The Living Daylights, 1987
Ice chases and Aston Martins seem to go well together. Timothy Dalton (my personal favorite Bond) took over the role of James Bond and returned Bond to what was then a more grounded, gritty portrayal. That didn’t preclude a long chase with the handsome Aston Martin V8. With Bond girl Maryam d’Abo riding shotgun, Dalton deployed the Aston’s missiles, tire slashers (now a laser), spiked tires and ski outrigger to make escape for the Austrian border. Watch out for the V8 in the latest Bond flick, “No Time to Die.”
Parking with the BMW 750iL, Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997
Only James Bond could make parking a major setpiece, as Pierce Brosnan did when he drove the BMW 750iL through a gauntlet of bad guys and their vehicles. This was when Bond had a dalliance with the German brand, thanks to a juicy product placement arrangement. The large German sedan plowed through obstacles thanks to its re-inflatable tires, missiles and deployable spikes—all with Bond driving from the back seat remotely with his Nokia phone.
Tearing through Thailand on the BMW R1200C Cruiser, Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997
James Bond and Chinese secret agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) rip through the streets of Thailand to evade a megalomaniac media tycoon who’s intent on taking over the world by spreading disinformation and causing chaos (something implausible way back then). Their enemies are on Range Rovers and a helicopter. The climax sees French stunt-rider Jean-Pierre Goy actually make the 14-meter jump between two buildings on the BMW R1200—a big, heavy and powerful bike.
Giving Thailand a whirl in the AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974
One of the most unbelievable car stunts ever filmed featured a corkscrew jump using, of all cars, an AMC Hornet. The stunt was simulated on a computer, with the exact weight, speed, and angle of the jump precisely determined. The stunt driver drove the red AMC Hornet X Hatchback off the curved ramp at precisely 48 miles per hour ( 77.2 kph) to make it barrel through the air and land on the ramp on the opposite side. It was done in one take, with assembled press in attendance to attest that the stunt was done for real. Bond himself, Roger Moore, was impressed: “You fellas make me look good.”
James Bond will return soon to theaters in “No Time To Die.”