007 MYSTERIES: SECRETS OF JAMES BOND CARS
007 MYSTERIES: SECRETS OF JAMES BOND CARS
James Bond works for MI6, so secrecy is the name of the game. But wouldn't it be great to get a glimpse behind the scenes? Wouldn't you love to learn about the secrets and mysteries surrounding 007's most famous cars, for instance?
Which car was found in a storage locker 10 years after it was last seen in public? How does a simple drink found in most kitchens help production teams film exciting stunts? And how did one of the most recognizable vehicles in movie history go missing? Let's find out…
The Borrowed Bond Car
We're used to seeing 007's vehicles decked out with all sorts of wonderous gadgets. But the first cars driven by James Bond, as seen in Dr No (1962), had no alterations whatsoever.
The movie featured a number of cars: the first driven by Bond was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible; while the first seen was a Ford Anglia 105E, in which its owner, Secret Service agent, John Strangways, was shot by the Three Blind Mice. In the original novel, Strangway's car was a Sunbeam Alpine – which was instead driven by Bond in the film!
Bond followed Dr No's trail to Jamaica, and, there, the production crew used a local's own Sunbeam Alpine, one of the only sports cars on the island. Bond used it to get to the Blue Mountains, but was naturally chased by hitmen, and escaped by driving underneath a truck.
It's presumed that the Jamaican man it was borrowed from continued to use the Sunbeam after it'd had its 15 minutes of fame, but no one really knows. As one of the first ever Bond cars, it's surely something fans across the world would've loved to get a hold of.
Getting a Grip
Chase scenes in Bond films have to be spectacular, and that frequently means travelling across unusual surfaces. But even something as seemingly simple as crossing cobbled roads can be a huge challenge when the car is speeding along it at a ripping rate. Especially if it's been raining.
So how do stunt drivers manage to keep the tyres actually on the ground? You may find the answer in your kitchen.
The production team on No Time to Die (2021) found a novel solution: spray Coca-Cola on the road, leave it to dry for 20 minutes, and then the surface will grip much better than before. Not only is it far safer for the stunt drivers, but it also leaves cool drift marks on the road that look great on camera.
The Missing Aston Martin
It's often seen as the definitive Bond car and as such has appeared in numerous films since its debut in Goldfinger (1964). Sean Connery drove two Aston Martin DB5s for the movie, but one has since gone missing, in extraordinary circumstances.
It was sold at auction initially for £12,000 then again for £250,000 and stored at a Boca Raton Airport hangar in Florida. Then, one morning in June 1997, the hangar was opened and the car was gone. It was stolen – surely? Indeed, tyre marks led away from its storage location, then stopped abruptly. It's natural to assume it was loaded onto another vehicle.
Except this isn't any ordinary Aston Martin. It was extensively modified and so was very heavy. The likeliest theory was that it was taken away by plane. But no one saw it happen!
The Aston Martin remains MIA. If it really were stolen, the thief has somehow managed to keep quiet about their amazing theft for over two decades now…
It sure looks like Daniel Craig steering in those high-speed chases, right? But it's not always the person in the driving seat doing the actual driving.
Yes, Craig gets involved in as much of the driving as possible, but sometimes, stunts are just too dangerous or technical, meaning stunt drivers use a "pod" system to take charge. This is a special rig typically on the roof of a car that allows a professional to actually steer it. This pod can be seated elsewhere too, like on one side of the chassis or in the back – wherever's best for the director to get the required shots.
Imagine trying to drive your car like normal but from the back seat, from the roof, or even dangling out of the passenger's side door!
The Lotus Esprit Wasn't Wet Nellie
Some cars become synonymous with Bond: yes, the aforementioned Aston Martin DB5; similarly the invisible V12 Vanquish in Die Another Day (2002); and the Lotus Esprit, capable of turning into a submarine and plunging into the sea.
So how did the Esprit drive underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)? Answer: It didn't.
There were six Lotus Esprits made for the production, most of which were standard models, but one was really a submersible with the fibreglass Lotus shell covering the outside to make it look authentic. And scuba divers became scuba drivers, hidden on board to guide the wet-sub. It was nicknamed "Wet Nellie" after the "Little Nellie" gyroplane in You Only Live Twice (1967).
The Most and Least Expensive Cars
Speaking of Wet Nellie, you might be wondering how much it would cost to buy a 007 car.
Only four 1964 Aston Martin DB5s were made for Goldfinger and Thunderball (1965), and only two of those were fully-equipped with gadgets like the ejector seat, swivelling license plate, and machine guns. It's no surprise one of these ultra-rare icons fetched a whopping $6.4 million, becoming the most expensive Bond car when it sold at auction in August 2019.
Where does Wet Nellie come in then? Because one of its owners bought it for $100, and didn't even know what it was.
The submersible was used to promote the film then was stored in New York for 10 years until the prepaid lease on the locker ran out. After that, no one claimed its contents, so the storage unit was bought by a new owner who hadn't even seen the contents!
They restored then exhibited Wet Nellie until 2013, when Elon Musk bought it at auction, in the hopes of converting it into a car-come-submarine.
You can discover the secrets of the Aston Martin DB5 yourself by building your own 1:8 scale replica. The officially-licensed model, based on the original Goldfinger car, includes working lights, horn, and ejector seat; concealed machine guns; contra-rotating tire slashers; and more.