By Simon de Burton
With the Impending release of the latest film in the James Bond franchise ‘No Time To Die’ I thought it might be fun to go back and look into the most famous of all of the Bond motorcars, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5. Standard equipment on the DB5 included reclining seats, wool pile carpets, electric windows, twin fuel tanks, chrome wire wheels, oil cooler, magnesium-alloy body built to Superleggera patent technique, full leather trim in the cabin – machine guns, smoke screen maker, bullet-proof shield, ejector seat, revolving number-plates, and even a fire extinguisher. All models have two doors and are of a 2+2 configuration.
If you’re a James Bond fan with a Midas touch that’s sufficiently deft to have left you with a spare £3.5m GBP about $630,523,40 AUD to spend on a new set of wheels, Aston Martin could have just the car for you: a near-perfect recreation of the 1964 DB5 that first found fame in the third 007 movie, Goldfinger.
Finished in the exact ‘Silver Birch’ paintwork as the car driven by Sean Connery’s Bond, it really is difficult to tell apart from what is often called ‘the most famous car in the world’ – save for the fact that it’s brand new from the ground up.
Aston Martin will build 25 customer examples of the meticulous copy, which almost exactly mimics the car seen in both Goldfinger and Thunderball, the film that followed in 1965.
And the appearance is not just skin deep, because the recreations all feature many of the gadgets fitted by Q Branch in order to help Bond shake-off pursuing enemies, right down to a pair of (fake) machine guns concealed behind the drop-down side lights, a boot-mounted bullet shield, a smokescreen generator, revolving licence plates, front and rear battering rams and tyre slashers that fit at the centre of the car’s wire-spoked wheels.
Inside, there’s an old-fashioned Bakelite phone in the driver’s door pocket (it works, and even boasts Bluetooth connectivity), a Cold-war style radar screen that serves as a basic navigation unit – and even one of the famous red ejection seat button atop the gear lever. The seat itself is fixed for un-Bond-like ‘safety reasons’, although there is a removable roof panel covering a suitably human-sized opening.
Each Goldfinger DB5 is hand-built at Aston Martin Works in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire (the very site of the original model’s production line) using brand new components, resulting in a car with true time-warp appeal. It looks, sounds and drives just as 007’s car would have done, save for some minor upgrades to areas such as the brakes, suspension and engine cooling system to make it easier to live with in 21st century traffic.
HRH Prince Charles is known to be a driver of the DB6, pictured here with Daniel Craig
Licensed by Bond film maker EON Productions, the Goldfinger ‘continuations’ were developed with the help of EON’s special effects supervisor Chris Corbould who had particular input into the car’s machine guns, smoke screen and oil slick gadgets – although Aston’s engineers developed most of the other, non-optional ‘extras’.
The drawback is that none of the 25 will be sanctioned for road use in Great Britain.
The car was rolled out at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire – an imposing, stucco-fronted building that Bond scholars will know as the location of the golf match between 007 and Auric Goldfinger and the place where the latter’s diminutive oriental henchman, Oddjob, demonstrated the lethal powers of his steel-rimmed bowler hat by decapitating an item of garden statuary with a single throw.
With no assassins present, it should have been a simple matter of slipping behind the wheel and setting off – were it not for the fact that, compared with a modern car, the DB5 feels absolutely tiny.
At six feet tall I found myself ‘craning’ in order to keep my head off the roof, so how six-foot-two Sean Connery managed remains a mystery (unless, perhaps, the new car’s seats had been over-stuffed….)
Once properly positioned and underway, however, the appeal of being behind the wheel of Bond’s car soon shone through – if not quite as brightly as the sun which, on that particular day, managed to push the mercury close to 30 degrees.
A lack of air conditioning combined with the DB5’s cosy interior and the physical effort demanded by this decidedly analogue car’s 1960s-weight controls certainly brought my admiration of the ever-cool Bond to a whole new level – and I’m now even more impressed with his evasive driving skills than I was before.
While the DB5 was undoubtedly quick in its day and its claimed top speed of 140 mph-plus is probably attainable, its performance is probably akin to that of a modern-day, mid-range family hatchback. At one point, while cantering along at what felt like an exciting 70 mph, I was effortlessly overtaken by a road-mender’s truck going at least 20 mph faster – and it was carrying a mini digger.
The DB5 driving experience, however, is still utterly glorious. The four-litre, straight six engine is as smooth as silk and produces a delightfully throaty exhaust note as the revs rise, while the five-speed, ZF transmission invites plenty of throttle-blipping between gear changes and serves to remind just how un-involving modern cars have become.
Naturally, ‘James Bond’s car’ attracted huge attention on the road, both from other motorists and from pedestrians, many of whom stopped in their tracks to gaze at the passing car as though Connery himself were behind the wheel.
To their understandable disappointment, all they got was me feeling both self-conscious and inadequate, while also looking nervous about the prospect of crashing a £3.5m car.
And to put that price into perspective, it’s worth noting that, of the two DB5s that actually appeared in the Goldfinger and Thunderball films, one was stolen in 1997 and never recovered, while the other sold at auction in 2010 for $4.6m. Two further cars were used for publicity, one of which belongs to the Louwman Collection in The Hague, while the other sold at auction last year for $6.4m.