The Complex History of the World's Most Famous Car(s)

The Complex History of the World's Most Famous Car(s)

The Complex History of the World's Most Famous Car(s)

We all know it instantly, an Aston Martin DB5 with the number plate, BMT 216A.

The car with the iconic registration started life as the prototype DB5, serial number DP/216/1, painted in a deep red, with a slick grey interior and used as a demonstrator and press car by Aston Martin. As part of the marketing campaign for its new model the car made its screen debut in an episode of the popular TV series, The Saint, which happened to star Roger Moore. Although Moore didn’t get to drive the car in his own show, their paths would cross again.

When EON productions reached a last minute agreement with a reluctant Aston Martin to loan them cars for their upcoming new James Bond feature Goldfinger, the company provided the well used test-bed car, plus one new full production DB5, serial number DB5/1486/R.

As a well used demonstrator DP/216/1 was earmarked as the “special equipment” car and was heavily modified to carry its array of gadgets, and repainted to the more familiar silver color.  The gadgets added extra weight which severely affected the handling. DB5/1486 was therefore put into service as the “road car” for majority of driving scenes.

 The cars were used again in the following 007 adventure, Thunderball. Interest in the car was so high that the production company purchased two DB5s from Aston Martin,  2008/R and 2017/R, which were fitted out with the movie gadgets and sent on a promotional tour.

After completion of Thunderball, the original two DB5s were returned to Aston Martin who immediately removed all the gadgets from DP/216/1. restored it to full road-going trim and put it up for sale. In 1968 it was sold, and re-registered as 6633PP. The new owner was quick to capitalize on his car’s heritage and had replica gadgets installed a year later.

 In 1971 the car was sold to an American collector who held on to it till 1987. During this time the car made one final movie appearance, this time with Roger Moore behind the wheel, in 1981’s Cannonball Run

At its 1987 auction the car was purchased by a collector in Florida and stored in an aircraft hanger at Boca Ratan. From where the car disappeared in mysterious circumstance one night in 1997, and has never been seen since. A case almost worthy of 007 himself  - You can read more the mystery of its disappearance on the Hero Collector site.

After its return to Aston Martin the “road car” DB5/1486 was also sold to an American collector. At one point a set of gadgets was installed so it could be displayed at motor shows. After the car was damaged at a show it was withdrawn from public displays until it sold to another collector at auction in 2010.

After the Thunderball marketing campaign was over the two press cars were sold off cheaply to British car collector, Lord Bamforth, who almost immediately swapped one of them (DB5/2017/R) for a Ferrari. The car was then sold to a Canadian restaurant owner, where it spent thirteen years sitting in a special display outside his restaurant in Vancouver. When the restaurant went out of business the car spent the next nine years bouncing around various owners before ending up at its current home, in the Dutch National Automobile Museum. 

Lord Bamforth held on to the second press car (DB5/2008/R) for a few years until he sold it to the owner of a car museum in Tennessee, where it stayed until 2006. It then underwent a full detailed restoration and was again offered for sale by auction in 2013 and 2019.

Most of the DB5s you see in later Bond movies, or in various shows and movies that pay homage to the car are either 1964 model year cars that have been refurbished to look like the iconic 1963 car, or (as in the case of the latest Bond movie No Time To Die) replicas built on more modern car floor platforms.

But no matter what is under the skin, or which BD5 we are looking at, it’s stood the test of time as the coolest spy accessory, and the most iconic movie car.