I grew up with James Bond. That’s not really an exaggeration. I remember proudly telling my babysitter I’d been watching the films for years. My favourite parts: the chase scenes. So when I went to London last month and discovered Bond in Motion, a museum exhibit filled with actual Bond vehicles, I drooled a bit. And then I started snapping pictures. 56k warning: images ahead!
If you’re a Bond fan, you should really go check it out yourself. There’s nothing quite like being an arm’s length away from your favourite films. By the time you get there, it might even have some vehicles from SPECTRE, the new Bond film coming this fall.
But if you can’t afford a ticket to London quite yet — or if you need some more convincing — perhaps a few of my favourite pictures will do the trick.
(Just make sure to click those little magnifying glass icons on each picture for more detail!)
Goldfinger’s 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III
The first car you see when you enter the gallery, and the oldest, too. Used in Goldfinger (1964), but the vehicle was built decades earlier.
The car itself was a huge plot point in the movie: its powerful V12 engine, designed to carry the Phantom III’s immense 7,700 lb weight, let Goldfinger use it to smuggle tons of gold disguised as parts of the car’s chassis.
Aston Martin DB5
The Bond car that started it all. Well, kind of. In the books, Bond drove a Bentley, and Sean Connery drives an Alpine Sunbeam in the first film. But when it comes to a movie car bristling with amazing gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (1964) started the trend.
Except this Aston Martin DB5 isn’t the original car from Goldfinger, either. That one was stolen from an airport hangar in 1997 — a mystery to this day. This is the one used in Goldeneye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
While pop-out machine guns and a rear bullet shield made it to the silver screen, other gadgets didn’t. Did you know the DB5 was supposed to have bladed bumpers and a search light?
Make sure to hover over the upper-left hand corner of the image and hit the magnifying glass button for more detail.
Back to the real car. These beauties can be worth $US1.5 million even if they aren’t associated with a Bond film, which makes it all the more tragic when they get destroyed. The other Goldfinger car — used at promotional events to show off the gadgets — regularly changes hands for over $US4 million at auction.
Fun fact: before Goldfinger, the original James Bond DB5 was dark red — not grey. Not that you’d be able to tell in the black-and-white TV episode where it first appeared.
Lotus Esprit S1
Yes, the greatest moment in car gadget history: the Lotus Esprit that transformed into a submarine. From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
So many amazing stories surround this car. Like how Lotus pulled off a marketing coup by seducing the film execs with its raw beauty. Or how Lotus needed to provide their own driver because the car had too much grip to slide.
Or how a blue collar worker paid $US100 for a storage unit — sight unseen — and found the working Bond submarine inside. Or how Elon Musk (yes that Elon Musk) bought it at auction and promised to make it transform for real.
It doesn’t look like this Lotus sub is the same one Musk bought, though. According to JamesBondLifestyle, this is the one that totally wrecks a helicopter with an underwater missile. You’ll also find a Lotus Esprit in For Your Eyes Only (1981).
This isn’t a prop. It’s not a miniature model suspended by wires for the film. The famous Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice (1967) is an actual working Wallis WA-116 gyrocopter — designed by British aviator Ken Wallis and flown by him in the film.
While the machine guns, rockets, missiles, and flamethrowers might be fake, this tiny autogyro’s performance was not. It could fly at speeds up to 209km/h per hour and climb roughly 4km above the ground.
In 2002, Wallis became one of the oldest pilots to set an aviation world record, at the age of 89, in one of the autogyros he built. He died just two years ago.
Some of the storyboards for Little Nellie’s sequences in the film.
Bell-Textron Jetpack, aka the Rocket Belt
OK, this one’s just a prop. But only because the London Film Museum hasn’t yet got its hands on the real one. No joke — this prop from Die Another Day (2002) is based on the actual working jetpack from 1965’s Thunderball. No cranes, no wires, just actual thrust from a mix of nitrogen and hydrogen peroxide.
1987 Aston Martin V8 Vantage (and cello)
My favourite Bond car by a country mile. If you ask me, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the real star of 1987’s The Living Daylights. It’s a glorious automobile outfitted with spiked tires, skis, and a rocket motor that all deploy at the push of a button to keep it driving through any obstacle imaginable. Plus hidden rockets before those were dime-a-dozen for Bond.
Go ahead and tell me this isn’t the best Bond chase scene ever.
And by the way, those push-button studded tires are now a real thing.
The famous cello from The Living Daylights — a Bond vehicle in its own right.
2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and Jaguar XKR
If you ask me, 2002’s Die Another Day is when Bond vehicles jumped the shark. In the film, Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish has an invisibility cloak. And because one fully weaponised vehicle wasn’t enough, the movie has two: the villain drives a Jaguar XKR equipped with heat-seeking missiles, mortars, and a freaking auto-tracking minigun turret mounted to the back.
It doesn’t make the cars any less gorgeous, though. Shame Pierce Brosnan lost his in a garage fire earlier this year.
Just your standard-issue rockets and machine guns up front.
Auto-tracking shotguns which Bond famously uses to perforate the car’s manual.
Plenty of weaponry baked into the Jag, too.
And the coolest part: the remote control box that the stunt team used to fire all those weapons. So. Many. Wonderful. Buttons.
2006 Aston Martin DBS
What is this wreck? Why, it’s the Aston Martin DBS that was intentionally flipped a world-record 7 and 1/2 times in Casino Royale (2006). It bit the dust right at the beginning of what seemed to be a typical Bond chase scene.
Earlier in the film, the car’s on-board defibrillator helped Bond come back from certain death, but its screen time was rather short-lived. Oh, and the car wasn’t actually an Aston Martin DBS, but rather the earlier DB9 dressed up to look like the upcoming vehicle. The DBS wasn’t in production yet.
This slightly more intact vehicle is the real deal, though — the battle-scarred Aston Martin DBS from the amazing opening scene in Quantum of Solace (2008).
Incidentally, Daniel Craig’s stunt driver in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall is none other than Ben Collins — Top Gear’s famous Stig.
1997 BMW 750iL
AKA the one Bond drove with a cell phone. In 1997. Before smartphones or were a thing. The car chase was a little short, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. The most amazing part: 20 years later, you can get a real BMW with a remote control keyfob that lets the car park itself.
Plus, I was amazed to find the Film Museum had an actual rental car form filled out with James Bond’s information. Bond rents the BMW from an Avis dealership, and — in a manner of speaking — returns it there as well!
The 750iL wasn’t the only beamer in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond and femme fatale Wai Lin rode it together face-to-face while fending off foes, driving from rooftop to rooftop, and finally jumping over the blades of an enemy helicopter.
“A stunt man drove the BMW Cruiser R 1200 C at 60 mph to successfully make the 44-foot leap across the roof of the two buildings,” notes Bond Lifestyle.
1999 BMW Z8
Another remote-control BMW from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. It’s actually not a real BMW Z8 — the real car wasn’t ready yet — but rather a Z8 shell on top of a kit car built by the filmmakers.
Again, the BMW didn’t get much screen time: just long enough for Bond to fire this laser-guided missile into an enemy helicopter before the car met its end.
1983 Acrostar BD-5J
Remember when Roger Moore dodged a missile by flying through a hangar in the world’s smallest jet? Yep, the Octopussy plane was also totally real. It weighs just 162kg and flies 482 kilometres per hour, and it went up for auction late last year.
The jet, designed in the 70s, has recently found new life as an inexpensive cruise missile simulator. As in, this plane is small enough to pretend to be a missile. Oh, and a man who pieced together his own BD-5 recently died crashing it.
Other items of interest
The Citroen 2CV from For Your Eyes Only (1981), complete with fake bullet holes. It takes tumble after tumble, but keeps on going!
The Tuk Tuk taxi from Octopussy (1983).
The Renault 11 from A View to a Kill (1985). The front-wheel drive car gets cut in half, but Bond keeps on driving. The one I saw in the museum was actually re-formed from the two pieces.
The Honda CRF250R motorcycles from Skyfall (2012).
A one-third scale model of an AugustaWestland AW101 helicopter used in the battle sequence at the end of Skyfall.
The Q-Boat from The World is Not Enough (1999)
The Bathosub from Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Dive vehicles from The Spy Who Loved Me, designed by Ralph Osterhout if I’m not mistaken:
The Mercury Cougar XR7 from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969):
Bond’s WetBike from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
The crocodile suit from Octopussy (1983).
All images used with permission of the London Film Museum. Additional Bond knowledge from Justin Westbrook.