FIVE Under-Appreciated Cars In The James Bond Films
Recently Aston Martin confirmed that four of its cars, classic and fruitcake mental alike, will star in the brand new 007 flick, No Time to Die. And in celebration, the intelligence officer’s luxury British carmaker of choice – sorry Bentley – has also unveiled an incredibly limited edition ‘Daniel Craig-designed’ 751hp DBS Superleggera. What makes this a special edition aside from new paint and bespoke leather? Literally nothing, but for a piddling $700,007, seven super fans will at least receive a free Omega watch.
Given that a review of the Craig-edition DBS seems unlikely any time, we’ve gone for the next best thing [cough] and dusted off the time-honoured ‘Bond car’ list. But, no, we’re not going to be featuring the best, the worst or even our favourite Bond cars. That means no Aston Martin DB5, no Lotus Esprit, no BMW 750iL (yes, really) and no Toyota 2000GT. Instead, we’re celebrating those poor wretches that have a significant (ish) role in the 007 canon, but which are too often forgotten when the Walther PPK is holstered. On that note…
*Editor’s Note. Not long after we published this list, news broke that a Jaguar C-X75, as used in the most recent 007 flick Spectre, would be going up for auction ahead of this year’s Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. You can check out the full story on that HERE
1. Lotus ‘Essex’ Turbo Esprit
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Put those flaming pitchforks down. This is not the S1 sub from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me we’re talking about, but rather the ‘Essex’-spec Esprit Turbo that made its one and only 007 outing in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.
That B, JB would be more reliant on his guile and skill than Q’s merry band of minions was made abundantly clear when his ‘Burglar Protected’ white Esprit Turbo went boom inside the first 20 minutes. While this, admittedly, led to one of the series’ most unorthodox, and famous, car chases, the Esprit Turbo deserved so much better.
For one thing, the ‘Essex’ Turbo Esprit was a limited edition model honouring the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation, sponsors of Formula 1’s Team Lotus at the time. For another, fewer than 50 were built, making it far rarer than Spy’s S1. The ‘Essex’ was also the first Esprit to be officially turbocharged by the factory, the ‘S2’s 2-litre four-cylinder being punched out to 2,174cc for 1980 and receiving a Garrett T3 turbocharger to up power and torque to 210hp and 200lb ft respectively. Performance got a similar tweak, with 0-100kph now do-able in around 5.6 seconds.
Designer Giorgio Guigiaro’s trump card? The more aggressive wrap-around front and rear bumpers, a new rear spoiler, and a louvered rear hatch, all of which bade a cheerful ‘bollocks to that!’ to the Esprit’s former grace and elegance, exaggerated further by a ski rack, gold lattice alloys and ‘Copper Fire Metallic’ paintwork on the example the late Sir Roger Moore drives into Cortina. Beyond gorgeous, the ‘Essex’ still received less screen time than a knackered Citroën 2CV and an increasingly hot and bothered Margaret Thatcher being wooed by a horny parrot.
*Image courtesy of EON Productions
2. Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II
- A View to a Kill (1985)
The Bond devotees amongst you – hello my brethren – may well think ‘Auric Goldfinger’ when delving into Rolls-Royce’s small but illustrious history in the James Bond franchise. Understandable, given that the Phantom III in 1964’s Goldfinger provided a cavernous-sized boot in which Sean Connery could stash a transmitting device, was the principal means of the titular villain’s gold smuggling operation, and predated Bumblebee’s two-tone yellow and black by 43 years without the help of Michael sodding Bay.
What fans are less likely to remember though is the silver Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II featured in 1985’s A View to a Kill, owned by Bond producer Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli himself and used by both Bond and Patrick MacNee to infiltrate the estate of ex-KGB agent, Max Zorin. Yet, Sir Roger’s last outing as 007 is usually remembered for…well, yes, that, plus Grace Jones’ biceps (really?), a car chase through Paris in a Renault 11 (sorry, what?), Tanya Robert’s awful ‘don’t-get-kidnapped-oh-never-mind’ modus operandi (come on now…), and, of course, Duran Duran (…yeah, okay, fair enough).
And that’s a shame, because, as well as looking the proverbial dogs nethers, the Silver Cloud is considered by collectors to be the last of the ‘truly regal’ limousines from Rolls-Royce. It spent five years in development ahead of an 11-year production run, featured what many believe to be one of the best chassis Rolls-Royce ever produced, and introduced the all-new 6.2-litre V8 that would remain the luxury marque’s staple until the end of the century. Turns out that, should you find yourself submerged under water at the whim of Christoper Walken, air could even be sucked from one of the rear tyres, though Mythbusters would probably like a word with you about that.
*Image courtesy of EON Productions
3. Aston Martin DBS Vantage
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Name the most memorable Aston Martins from the James Bond franchise as you can…
…okay, your list went as follows: the DB5 from Goldfinger, the DB10 from Spectre, the DB5 from Skyfall, the ‘Vanish’ (urgh) from Die Another Day, the DB5 from Thunderball, the DBS Coupe from Casino Royale, and the V8 Vantage from The Living Daylights. Wait, did we mention the DB5 from Tomorrow Never Dies?
But the DBS Vantage from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which made a fleeting appearance in George Lazenby’s sole outing as 007? It’s unquestionably the most underutilised Aston of the entire series. A shame, given what the producers had to work with.
First unveiled at Blenheim Palace in 1967 after going through two design houses, the DBS Vantage was originally intended to be a successor to the DB6, only for plans to change when the latter continued production into 1970. No matter, as the full four-seater grand tourer offered a more comfortable ride thanks to its completely overhauled rear axle, a ‘cleaner’ and more modern design, and, eventually, a choice of two engines. The second, a 5.5-litre V8, proved particularly juicy, as it produced 320hp, could leapfrog 250kph, and ripped more than a second off the 0-100kph time of the 4-litre straight-six alternative.
And yet, aside from one admittedly excellent pre-title sequence on the beach, the DBS’ only real notable addition to the 007 franchise is its lack of a bullet proof windscreen, leading to the death of Mrs James Bond. Ask a fan to think of a ‘60s-era 007 Aston, and Lazenby’s daily driver is unlikely to be top of the list.
This never happened to the other fellow.
*Images courtesy of EON Productions and Aston Martin
4. Alfa Romeo GTV6
- Octopussy (1983)
And there’s the hat trick for Rodge, Sir Rodge with this little belter from the entertainingly woeful Ocotopussy. Silly name, silly concept, surprisingly good villain, and forever to blame for James Bond’s one and only turn as a circus clown and escape via hollowed out, mechanical crocodile. A two-minute Alfa car chase where surprisingly little happens didn’t really stand a chance.
As Davide mentioned in this article from 2016 though, there is far more to the GTV6, formerly the GT Veloce, than an underwhelming sprint race with the East German police. The bodywork for instance, penned by ‘Car Designer of the Century’ circa 1999 Giorgetto Giugiaro transformed Alfa’s comparatively meh Type 116 Alfetta saloon into one of the company’s most rakish coupes, courtesy of beefier bumpers and overhangs front and rear and the now hallmark hood scoop. Under that lay essentially the same 160hp 2.5-litre V6 as used in the luxury Alfa 6, an early instance of the ‘Busso’ unit developed by engineer Giuseppe Busso that many still consider the best sounding V6 of all time. No real wonder that those sonorous notes run almost continually during that two-minute chase.
Now, 0-100kph in just over eight seconds may not sound particularly punchy, but when combined with a chassis honed for racing, revised suspension and perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the GTV6 was competitive enough to win the European Touring Car Championship four years in a row from 1982 to 1985, the British Touring Car Championship with Andy Rouse in 1983 (following Rover’s disqualification), and its class on the Tour de Corse rally from 1983 to 1986.
None of that was quite enough to usurp a Mercedes W108 that can drive on the railway tracks, however.
*Images courtesy of EON Productions and Josh Clason
5. Ferrari F335 GTS
- Goldeneye (1995)
Probably the dodgiest item on this list, given that Piers Brosnan, donning the tuxedo for the first time in 1995’s Goldeneye, never drove the Italian targa top on-screen, and the mountain-side car chase is probably one of the best of the 007 canon. Still, my list, my rules, comment section, etc. Plus, fans tend to remember the return of Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 after a 30-year hiatus more than its Cote D’Azur sparring partner. That, and Famke Janssen’s – ahem – ‘spirited’ method of execution, the whole exploding pen thing, and a sensational turn by Sean Bean’s treacherous 006 – “for England, James?” – doesn’t help the Ferrari’s cause.
Which is a shame, because my word, the F335 was a belter. Packing a mid-rear 3.5-litre V8 meant the F355, in GTS trim, was capable of producing 380hp and sprinting from 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds en-route to a 295kph top speed. Simply put, in real life the prancing horse would have stuffed the DB5’s 282hp 4-litre straight-six, which topped out at 229kph and lagged almost four seconds behind on the run to the ton. ‘Ladies first indeed’, Piers.
On top of that, the F355 boasted a stunning design from Pininfarina, was the last of the mid-engined Ferraris to feature the flying buttress, and featured the company’s first attempt at an F1-spec single-clutch automated transmission. But enough of that, say the producers, there’s a BMW Z3 to promote.
Fun fact, a Berlinetta version of the F355 later appeared in 2002’s Die Another Day. In true Ferrari fashion, it too was upstaged by bafflingly poor CGI, Toby Stephens’ Korean heritage, and, Good Lord, a Madonna cameo. The F355 is last seen being lawn-darted into a paddy field.
Die Another Day is not a good film.
*Images courtesy of The James Bond Archives and AutoFerrari.com