James Bond 25: 007's best and worst cars of all time
As more details on the new Bond film are announced, here's another list
HIT: BMW Z8 – The World Is Not Enough
One of those moments where you wince slightly at the galumphing product placement, but when the Z8 appeared in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, at least the car was fit for Bond. In case you’ve forgotten, the Z8 was a svelte two-seat RWD roadster that BMW produced in the late Nineties until 2003 by a team led by Chris Bangle, with the exterior design by a certain Henrik Fisker (he of the Karma, DB9 and V8 Vantage).
It was a gorgeous retro-styled thing, and certainly had the go to match the show, powered as it was by the E39 M5’s V8 and good for 400bhp, 370lb ft of torque and a sprint time to 62mph of well under five seconds – enough to out-drag baddie Renard’s henchpersons.
In Secret Service Q spec, it apparently had titanium armour, a head-up display and “six beverage holders”, though Q’s assistant – played in this case by John Cleese – didn’t mention much else. He certainly seemed to forget the surface-to-air missile that Bond later uses to take down a helicopter, though the titanium armour didn’t do much to stop a second chopper using a dangly rotary chainsaw to cut the Z8 in half. Of all the cars that had to die, it had to be, well, not actually a Z8, but a replica Cobra clad with Z8 panels.
Words: Tom Ford & Ollie KewAdvertisement - Page continues below
HIT: Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger
Probably the most famous Bond car of all, the DB5 first made a film appearance with Sean Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger – a grand mix of gentlemanly flash that suited the British Secret Service to a tee. Anyone who had the Corgi toy will remember the gadgets, too: machine guns behind the front indicators, three-way revolving numberplates, a bulletproof shield at the back (suspiciously like a big lump of lead) smokescreen maker, tyre-slashing spikes and ejector seat. Proper stuff.
It’s also apparently the fastest DB5 in existence, because when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond drives it in 1995’s GoldenEye, it manages to match a contemporary Ferrari F355 Spider on a twisty mountain road driven by the ever-amusingly named Xenia Onatopp. The DB5 was only launched three months prior to filming Goldfinger, but was rushed into service to replace the DB MkIII that Bond drove in the books – who knew it would become one of the most iconic vehicles in movie history?
HIT: Tuk-Tuk – Octopussy
Technically a Bajaj RE, but more commonly known as a tuktuk or auto rickshaw, the three-wheeled taxi commandeered by an eyebrow-morphing Roger Moore in Bond’s 13th film outing, Octopussy (1983), turned out to be a bit more than it seemed. The scene encompassed Bond winning a high-stakes backgammon game against an Afghan prince and then hooking up with local MI6 agent Vijay for a sharp exit. Our heroic duo are then pursued by said baddie Kamal Khan’s shotgun-wielding henchgoon Gobinda through a busy market in a similar-looking vehicle, inevitably leading to some classic Bondesque call-and-reply lines: Bond: “We’ve got company.” Vijay: “Don’t worry – this is a company car...” Vijay then hits the gas and manages a quite spectacular wheelie from a vehicle that should be putting out in the region of half a brake horsepower.
Seems like the Brits aren’t the only ones with a Q Branch, or access to sports bike engines. The resulting chase sequence through the streets of Udaipur in India is one of the those early Eighties tongue-in-cheek sequences that still manages to be both exciting and funny – though it doesn’t half feel dated now. Interestingly, Bajaj still makes the RE range, although the modern versions now include a 145cc two-stroke motor putting out a whopping 8.8bhp and featuring such luxuries as flush-fitting indicators that apparently “prevent water from seeping in”. They still look pretty much the same, though, so if you want to re-enact your Octopussy fantasies, you still can...Advertisement - Page continues below
HIT: Honda ATC 90 – Diamonds Are Forever
It’s 1971 and Sean Connery’s sixth and final outing as the legendary spy, doing something that involved diamond smuggling, giant lasers and, of course, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his penchant for fluffy lap cats. But the fact that Blofeld was creating extra Blofeld-alikes using extreme plastic surgery wasn’t the thing we were most interested in. It was the moon buggy chase scene when Bond was escaping from the Willard Whyte Space Labs compound (interestingly, a gypsum mine located just outside of LA), and the little Honda ATC Bond acquires from his pursuers in the film. Admit it – we were all more bothered about the Honda. Why? Well, the ATC or All-Terrain Cycle, was the first ATV, a booming market in recreation-obsessed America. First appearing in 1969, it featured three high-flotation balloon tyres, an 89cc four-stroke single-cylinder, 7bhp and more character than you could shake a Banana Splits theme tune at (though younger readers may struggle with that reference).
Basically, it was a life-sized toy that could be loaded into the boot of a large car – thank the Swivel-Lok handlebars for that – cost just $595 and came with the capacity to break an ankle at 400ft, thanks to chronic instability. The suspension consisted of the tyres themselves, often running extremely low pressures (according to legend, less than the average human foot) to cope with sand or mud, and quite how Bond managed to escape his own shadow on one of these defeats the laws of physics and contributes to the magic of cinema.
Interestingly, Bond even manages to look suave while piloting this weird little tricycle, even in a desert wearing a rather natty grey suit. Though we’d advise a helmet next time, James.
HIT: Lotus Esprit S1 – The Spy Who Loved Me
Another car made iconic by a Bond appearance, the white wedge first appeared in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring the late Sir Roger Moore. Invariably chased about by perennial villain Jaws – he of the stainless steel dentistry affectation – Bond’s Lotus was unique in that instead of letting water in, as many production Lotuses were prone to at the time, it was actually a fully working submarine with anti-aircraft missiles. It was called ‘Wet Nellie’ – a reference to ‘Little Nellie’ and was piloted by scuba divers as it wasn’t actually – shock – a submarine, but an S1 shell. The actual vehicle is now owned by Elon Musk – yep, that bloke who makes Teslas.
HIT: Aston Martin V8 Vantage – The Living Daylights
Another Aston for Mr Bond in 1987, this time a V8 Vantage in The Living Daylights, starring a new-to-the-role Timothy Dalton. The distinctive B-reg started off as a convertible Volante, but then appeared later ‘winterised’ by Q Branch, by the apparent fitting of an especially seamless hardtop, seeing as the numberplates were the same. Q also managed to include some extras during the mammoth weld-a-thon. Gadgets including a control panel under the centre armrest for the application of such wonders as wheel lasers, missiles – including a head-up targeting system displayed on the windscreen – outriggers, pop-out spiked tyres (now why hasn’t anyone actually invented that yet?), a rocket booster and, somewhat more prosaically, a police radio receiver. The car was also bulletproof, which is probably why it needed the rocket – if all that gear were real, it’d weigh somewhere in the region of 80 million tonnes.
The V8 Vantage – the original, that is – was hailed in 1977 as ‘Britain’s first supercar’, thanks mainly to its impressive (for the time) 170mph top end. Indeed, it managed 60mph in just 5.3secs, pipping the Ferrari Daytona by a tenth, and did so swaddled in enough leather and veneer to sink a battleship. The motor was a 5.3-litre V8 fitted with high-performance cams, and though early cars used carbs, the ones used for The Living Daylights ran fuel injection. Serious Bond trivia comes from the fact that the ghetto blaster rocket launcher that Q fires in his lab in the film was actually operated off camera by the Prince of Wales during a visit, and in 1987 he ordered a Vantage Volante – presumably living out Bond fantasies. The Prince’s Vantage wasn’t stock, mind, and although it didn’t have a rocket, it did without the productions car’s wide arches, front air dam and side skirts – leading to a small run of 26 cars in ‘Prince of Wales’ spec that are now the most sought-after early Eighties Vantages.
HIT: Little Nellie – You Only Live Twice
Amid the dodgy make-up and dubious commentary on race relations, volcanos and ninjas, ‘Little Nellie’ starred as Connery’s secret weapon in 1967’s You Only Live Twice and was actually a real-life Wallis WA-116 Agile autogyro flown by its inventor, Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Basically a shrunken one-man helicopter, Nellie was powered by a 4.3-litre two-stroke engine, and measured just over 11ft, but still managed to pack a decent punch: a pair of machine guns, a pair of rocket launchers with seven rockets each, a sprinkling of air-to-air missiles, two flamethrowers, two smoke bomb things and a small swarm of parachute mines. All of which made her a bit of a flying armoury. Trivia buffs will note that she was actually named after Nellie Wallace – a British music hall star from the early 1900s, and the script for the movie was penned by none other than children’s author Roald Dahl, based on Ian Fleming’s original book.Advertisement - Page continues below
HIT: Renault 11 TXE – A View To A Kill
Originally marketed by Renault from 1981 to 1988, the Renault 11 (the hatchbacked version of the saloon Renault 9) probably doesn’t seem like the ideal car for Bond, seeing as it’s got the kerb appeal of a brown velour sofa. But when it’s 1985 and you have to chase a very scary woman called May Day (Grace Jones) who has just paraglided from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a commandeered Renault 11 taxi is apparently just the job. This is the car that became famous for its ability to keep going even after sustaining grievous injury: first the roof gets lopped off as Roger Moore’s Bond drives under a lorry, then the rear half of the car gets amputated when it gets hit by another vehicle. It’s not certain whether this is a genuine testament to the little Renault’s reliability under pressure or a sad indictment of French welding, but it made for entertaining telly. Proper stunts, though – all produced under the auspices of legendary stunt co-ordinator Rémy Julienne, even if it is a bit of a shame to find out that the half-car had little wheels hidden under the back bit...
HIT: Mercury Cougar XR7 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Technically not his car, but that of George Lazenby’s Bond’s future wife, Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), the Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was actually pretty hardcore. It was basically a rebodied Ford Mustang – Mercury’s take on the popular pony car – kitted out with a performance package, which included a ram air hood scoop, rally wheels and high-backed bucket seats, as well as a full gauge kit. In fact, Bond never actually revved up the 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air (conservatively estimated to make 335bhp – though 400bhp was probably nearer the mark), letting Tracy do all the helmsmithery.
Turns out she was pretty good, too, managing to heave an old-school muscle car around on snow, albeit on studded tyres – and enter a stock car race during the chase, eventually leaving her pursuers upside down and on fire. No gadgets or Q Branch help with that, either, just good old-fashioned skills. Bond is obviously impressed, because he ends up marrying her at the end of the film, but it doesn’t end well as she is assassinated by that pesky Blofeld...Advertisement - Page continues below
HIT: Citroen 2CV – For Your Eyes Only
What it lacked in gadgets, the Citroen 2CV that starred in For Your Eyes Only in 1981 made up in pluck. As Roger Moore’s Bond attempts to escape baddies in more powerful Peugeot 504s with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) in tow, the little yellow peril manages to stop bullets and drive down the side of mountains without breaking. Thank its supremely long-travel suspension for that. It also survives being inverted by Melina, and then thrown back onto its wheels by helpful bystanders, at which point Bond does his casual misogynistic trick of taking over the ‘proper’ driving. Which entails not only escaping, but virtually destroying the entire car (which had had some mods, but not for the benefit of Bond directly).
Stunt supremo Rémy Julienne decided that the standard 2CV’s 29bhp, 602cc twin wouldn’t cut the mustard for stunt duties, and replaced it with a more powerful 1,015cc flat-four from the Citroen GS, making a huge... 54bhp. It’s also one of the few Bond vehicles that spawned a real-life road-going special edition (like the Aston DB9 ‘007’ Edition) in the form of a Citroen 2CV in the same yellow paint with ‘007’ logos on the bonnet, bootlid and doors and stuck-on bulletholes. Tasteful.
MISS: Merchandise, DB9 GT 007 Edition
Ask film fans what 007 drives, and they’ll answer “Aston Martin”. The DB5’s iconic performance in Goldfinger and subsequent cameos has, despite the best efforts of Lotus and BMW, forever defined Bond as an Aston man.
What James Bond would never, ever drive is a run-out special. Hardly in keeping with the cutting-edge reputation of Q Branch, is it? And, likewise, the only way to make the impossibly gorgeous Aston Martin DB9 uncool is to drive one that deliberately references Bond. Anyway, the DB9 has never appeared on-screen in the Bond franchise. It’s like 007 breaking the fourth wall and winking. Totally out of character. Driving this car will not make you wittier, better at fighting or turn you into an irresistible lothario. It’s merchandise.
And that’s not the only time we’ve winced as Bond’s ice-cool name has been besmirched with ill-judged utterances, mistakes and poor car choices. Here are the other worst cringe-moment offenders.
MISS: Product placement, Craig’s hired rep car
After all the consternation over a ‘blonde Bond’, and going to the trouble of creating a new, back-to-the start narrative for Daniel Craig, you’d have thought poor old craggy-face’s first moment in a car as 007 would’ve come in something more exotic than the then-new Mondeo. And thanks to Ford’s overlording product placement deal, Jags, Land Rovers and Volvos are suspiciously prevalent throughout.
MISS: Stunt fail, the flip-flopping Mustang
Two crews and two locations were used to shoot the most ambitious stunt in Diamonds Are Forever’s Vegas-based Mustang Mach 1 chase. Unfortunately, when it was stitched together, someone noticed the car drives into the alley on its right wheels, and reappears balanced on the left. Ah. A hilarious, unexplained in-car shot was inserted to show the Stang apparently rotating within the alley, rather than reshooting the trick.
MISS: Worst Lines, Rog vs Bros
Every 007 has had their share of corny lines, but Craig’s are subtle and Connery’s of the time. The worst has to be a toss-up between the late, great Sir Roger Moore’s “Just keeping the British end up, sir,” after being caught in the act in The Spy Who Loved Me, or Pierce Brosnan’s truly cringeworthy “I thought Christmas only came once a year” quip to a retching Denise Richards to end The World Is Not Enough.
MISS: The least Bond-like car, BMW’s Z3 footnote
There’s product placement (see the Avis Mondeo), then there’s pretending a car will have a starring role, then giving it a paltry two minutes on screen. GoldenEye’s Z3 purports to hide stinger missiles and a self-destruct system, yet we get glimpses of it bumbling along a dusty track, then it’s traded for a plane. Depressingly, BMW still gained a surge in Z3 deposits after the film’s 1996 release.
MISS: How to ruin a stunt with a barrel-roll slide whistle
Still considered one of the most difficult, iconic stunts in movie history, two noises totally ruined the incredible barrel-roll sequence in The Man with the Golden Gun. First, Roger Moore’s shocking “Ah sure am, boy” Southerner accent that’s worse than Brosnan’s British impression. The second? A CBeebies slide-whistle sound effect dubbed over the eye-popping moment his nicked AMC Hornet takes to the Thai sky.
MISS: Disappear and never return – the Aston ‘Vanish’
Frankly, we could’ve filled this page just using Die Another Day’s crimes. Madonna’s ear-gnashing title song, the ice palace, the face-shifting villains – it’s all utter rubbish. But beyond the giant space laser and Brosnan kite-surfing a tsunami, the most unbelievable offender is the adaptive camo Aston Vanquish, which seemingly disappears. You don’t need MythBusters to prove that’s implausible to the point of insulting. Stick to ejector seats, Q.