- Brett Hatfield
The Cars of James Bond: 1963-1965 Aston Martin DB5
Arguably the coolest of all male role models is James Bond. Bond is the creation of Ian Fleming, a British Naval Intelligence Division officer and journalist turned novelist. Fleming relied on his naval background to weave the tapestry of his Bond twelve novels and two short stories. Bond is a fictional Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a MI-6) officer, also known by his numeric code moniker, 007. Handsome, intelligent, tough, always smooth, always gets the girl, and equipped with the best of gadgets and toys courtesy of MI6’s Q-Branch, James Bond is often the guy we wish we could be, if for no other reason than to drive what he drives.
In the twenty-six James Bond movies, Band has had a multitude of magnificent automobiles. Any real Bond fan will tell you the one that stands above the rest, as the most iconic, the one that is instantly associated with Bond is the Aston Martin DB5. Having made appearances is six different movies with three different Bonds (Goldfinger, Thunderball-Connery, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies-Brosnan, Casino Royale, Skyfall-Craig), there is no other movie car so closely associated with its owner. Equipped with hidden machine guns, tire slashing knock-off spinners, a rear-window bullet shield, an ejection seat, able to produce both a smokescreen and oil slick, all with the finesse and elegance inherent in a classic British coupe.
The Aston Martin DB5 was a refinement of the DB4. The two cars are nearly indistinguishable from one another visually. The real differences are the mechanical improvements, along with some creature comforts. The DB5 received the larger, more powerful 4.0 liter inline six from the Lagonda Rapide, replacing the DB4’s 3.7 liter unit. Other refinements included Girling disc brakes, and a new five-speed gearbox provided by ZF. Power improved by 22hp over the DB4, pushing the DB5’s peak to 242hp. Evolving from the more Spartan trim of early DB4s to a more refined grand tourer, the DB5 was replete with leather interior, Wilton wool carpets, power windows, and air conditioning. This increased weight from 2,900 lbs to 3,233 lbs. Despite the additional heft, the new engine could still push the DB5 to a 7.1 second sprint to 60mph, and top out at a very respectable 143mph terminal velocity.
There was a higher-performance variant of the DB5 known as the DB5 Vantage, which bowed in 1964. Breathing through a trio of twin-choke Weber 45 DCOE side-draft carbs, the Vantage also featured a more aggressive camshaft. Performance gains were realized higher in the rev range, but overall drivability suffered somewhat. Peak power output was significantly higher, with 325 hp coming from the throaty six. Only 65 Vantage coupes ever left the factory.
Another variant of the DB5 line was the convertible, later known as the Volante. Offered throughout the 1963-1965 DB5 production run, only 123 convertibles were ever built. Of those, nineteen were built as left-hand drive, twelve were fitted with the high-performance Vantage drivetrain. A few copies were equipped with a factory removable steel hardtop.
David Brown, Aston Martin company owner and an avid hunter, had a custom DB5 shooting brake made for his personal use. Essentially a two-door estate (station wagon for those of us on this side of the pond), was the inspiration for twelve other shooting brakes subsequently produced by custom coachbuilder Harold Radford.
Goldfinger, the first Bond film in which the DB5 appears, featured chassis number DP/216/1. This was the star car that had all the cool weapons and gadgets. After filming, Aston Martin removed the extra movie bits, and the car was sold. Subsequent owners installed replicas of the movie prop equipment. The car was again pushed into movie service for the 1981 film The Canonball Run, driven by one-time James Bond Roger Moore. Chassis DP/216/1 was eventually acquired by a collector in Florida at auction for $250,000 in 1986. In 1997, the DB5 was stolen from an airplane hangar in Boca Raton. It went missing for over two decades. With the prop gadgetry installed, the car was so heavy, the thieves had to drag it out by its axles As a result, the car left marks to where it is thought to have been loaded onto a cargo plane.
A tip revealing its possible whereabouts somewhere in the Middle East came to the car’s insurer. That company retained the services of Art Recovery International (ARI), to flesh out the tip’s veracity. ARI CEO Christopher Marinello indicated they had received a tip, and they were investigating. Marinello wanted to get the word out to the collector car community, hoping that the car’s identity would be verified before any further action was taken, saying, “We want to reach out to collector car community and vast array of mechanics to let them know we are very serious about recovering it. As there are many Aston Martins, it is very important that we get a shot of the chassis number, DP/216/1. This is what we are looking for, as it is very specific to the vehicle… it is crucial we retain a close up of the chassis number.” ARI say it is estimated by some auction houses that the missing DB5 could now be worth between $9 million and $13 million, given its status as the 007 DB5.
The other DB5 used in both Goldfinger and Thunderball. sold in August 2010 at the RM Auction in London for a staggering $4.6 million.
In 2018, Aston Martin announced that it plans to build 25 replicas of the DB5 as seen in Goldfinger, including some of the gadgets seen in the film, each selling for about $3.55 million per copy.