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The best Bond cars ever, part 2: the Aston Martin DBS

Six cars, one per 007 era and an overall winner. Today, it’s George Lazenby

Published: 28 Sep 2021

“James Bond is a blunt instrument wielded by a government department,” his creator Ian Fleming noted. “He is quiet, hard, ruthless, sardonic and fatalistic. He likes gambling, golf and fast motor cars.”

Fleming’s character co-ordinates would be well-observed and liberally interpreted across the 24 films the world’s highest- profile fictional spy has appeared in over the past 58 years.

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Now, Bond 25 is imminent. No Time To Die arrives in cinemas this week, allowing Daniel Craig to flex his actorly muscles as he signs off from playing 007, putting him through the emotional wringer, while the film’s stunt crew and production designers reimagine the very essence of a car chase yet again. Apparently No Time To Die features the most brutal one ever seen in a Bond movie. Which made us think. Six actors have played 007 on the big screen, and they’ve all had carefully cast automotive co-stars.

In fact, for many of us, watching a Bond film on the TV at a formative age is one of the reasons we became consumed by cars in the first place. The ginormous global 007 fan base endlessly debates who the best Bond is, but which Bond had the coolest car? Choosing one per actor, Top Gear gathered the key vehicles together in the same part of the space-time continuum to explore their history, and conduct a quasi-scientific but mostly subjective test. Today, it's Lazenby's DBS...

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Photography: Mark Riccioni and John Wycherley

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Film director Christopher Nolan is a huge fan of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969’s orphan Bond movie. “What I liked about it, is there’s a tremendous balance of action, scale, and romanticism and tragedy and emotion,” he told Empire. “Of all the Bond films, it’s by far the most emotional.”

One wonders what emotion its star, George Lazenby, experiences these days. An Australian model who blagged his way into an audition only to land the most coveted role in cinema, he later failed to toe the party line, grew his hair out and added a beard, and in the era of Easy Rider reckoned Bond was irrelevant. He reckoned wrong, and talked himself out of a promising career.

Driving a DBS is a reminder of a time when ‘road-holding’ was more of a preoccupation than handling

The truth is, both Lazenby and OHMSS are surprisingly good. We see him and his Aston Martin DBS in an emotionally charged pre-credits sequence, chasing Tracy di Vincenzo across a Portuguese beach. Aston Martin’s owner David Brown figured a replacement for the now ageing DB6 was critical to keep pace with a fast-moving market. Long-standing Aston creative partner Touring of Milan was hired to design a replacement and two concept cars were duly shown at the Paris, London and Turin motor shows in 1966. A slimmer iteration of the famous Aston grille is evident; the C-pillar and bodywork slats owe a debt to Ferrari’s 275 GTB.

Then, at the end of 1966, Touring went bust and Aston hired a former Rootes Group and Rover designer, William Towns, who designed the DBS in less than a year. Aston had planned to introduce a new V8 engine, but its development was behind schedule and the DBS debuted at Blenheim Palace in September 1967 using the same 282bhp, 4.0-litre straight-six as the DB6. But it sat further back in the chassis, and independent suspension all-round improved its manners.

Fifty-plus years on, driving a DBS is a reminder of a time when ‘road-holding’ was more of a preoccupation than handling. That’s certainly what pops into your mind as you approach a corner, blip the giant throttle pedal, drop a gear, turn the big three-spoke wheel, and aim for the general vicinity of the apex. It’s the best you can hope for, really. The DBS’s styling had more of an American influence than the Italian infusion its predecessor enjoyed, and it’s there in its attitude, too. Its pillowy ride partly compensates for its propensity to roll, and the rocker switches on the dash suggest a modernity the rest of it doesn’t quite deliver. Yet it’s difficult to imagine a single moment when you wouldn’t enjoy driving the DBS, other than those occasions when it might “fail to proceed”.

Gadgets: 4/10
Stunts: 4/10
Star status: 6/10
Speed: 6/10
Pulling power: 7/10
Skids: 6/10
Total: 33

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