It’s hard to imagine James Bond behind the wheel of anything but an Aston Martin. It’s a love affair between two British icons that’s set to last, says Dave CALHOUn

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Image 1:Pierce Brosnan gets ready for a close-up during Die Another Day.
Image 2: Shooting GoldenEye with Famke Janssen in a red Ferrari with Bond about to beat her in a race in his Aston Martin DB5.

The pages of Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger— the author’s seventh James Bond novel—are where the enduring romance between 007 and Aston Martin was born. In his bestselling 1959 book, Fleming wrote that his debonair, hard-as-nails British spy drove an Aston Martin DB3 while driving through Europe on the hunt for notorious villain Auric Goldfinger. Fleming explained that Bond’s car boasted only a few, subtle modifications to assist his work as a MI6 spy: the bumpers were reinforced and a secret compartment allowed him to hide a Colt 45 pistol. So began a love affair between a fictional character and a classic British car that’s thrived for over half a century. Although this romance began with the printed word, film affects a very special magic, and it was with the 1964 film version of Goldfinger starring Sean Connery that the iconic relationship between James Bond and Aston Martin was truly sealed.

When Bond producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman imported Bond’s car from Fleming’s book for the film, they upgraded him to the then latest model, the DB5. It was a wise choice: the combination of Sean Connery and the DB5 was too much for audiences to resist. Here you had a new kind of film star—suave, handsome but also brutish and with a hint of rough—coupled with an extremely beautiful and utterly modern car. “Where’s my Bentley?” Bond asks Desmond Llewelyn’s Q as he’s shown his gadgets and vehicle at the start of Goldfinger. “Oh, it’s had its day, I’m afraid,” replies Q. The DB5 has been at the heart of this pairing ever since. When the current producers of the Bond films, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, came to celebrate the series’ 50th anniversary in 2012 with Skyfall, it was the DB5 that made a storming reappearance with Daniel Craig’s Bond driving it to Scotland for the film’s explosive climax.

Of course, the beauty of all Bond’s cars has been that they are always so much more than they appear. Like so many of Bond’s love interests, they are attractive on the surface, but deadly beneath the bonnet. Bond’s silver DB5 in Goldfinger had its cutting-edge modifications courtesy of production designer Sir Ken Adam, whose work on Bond and with Stanley Kubrick would soon make him a movie legend. The car had revolving number plates, which meant he could drive through France and Switzerland without alerting anyone to the presence of a foreign car. One switch would cause an oil slick; another activated machine guns on the wings of the car; yet another allowed the driver to use tyre slashers that extended from the front wheels; and hidden in the gear stick was a button to activate the passenger ejector seat.

“Like Bond’s love interests, his cars are always more than they appear: attractive on the surface but deadly beneath the bonnet”

When the DB5 was later immortalised as a toy, its pièce de résistance was the ejector seat. Skyfall director Sam Mendes remembers playing with it as a boy: “I had the toy with the ejector seat. I lost the little man that flew out and spent the rest of my childhood looking for him behind various sofas. The DB5 is part of my boyhood.” When Goldfinger was released, the film-makers knew that the DB5 was well on the way to becoming an icon. Promoting the film in Paris, Sean Connery drove up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the car, flanked by no fewer than 60 women painted from head to toe in gold like the model in the film’s now-legendary opening sequence and Jill Masterson’s infamous end in the film.

The original storyboard showing the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante executing a perfect ascent over a fence and soldiers in The Living Daylights

After Goldfinger, Aston Martin models would make nine more appearances in Bond films, although some were more fleeting than others. The DB5 returned in Thunderball (1965), now featuring a rear-facing water cannon and, most memorably, a jetpack in the boot that allowed Connery’s Bond to lift off at a crucial moment. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the DBS plays a tragic role. At the end of the film, Bond and his new bride, Tracy, leave on their honeymoon in the DBS. When Bond stops on a mountain road to remove the wedding flowers, Tracy is tragically shot dead by Blofeld’s assistant, Irma Bunt.

Perhaps surprisingly, the one Bond actor who never had the joy of driving an Aston Martin—at least on screen—was Roger Moore. We have to leap to 1987 and Timothy Dalton’s first appearance as 007 in The Living Daylights to find him driving a 1985 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. “I had a few optional extras installed,” quips Bond as we discover that the car boasts spikes protruding from the wheels and the ability to launch rockets.

Sketches of the V8 Vantage Volante for The Living Daylights.

The film used both the coupe and volante versions of the car. The Bond films, of course, have always had to compete with the ever evolving technologies of other movie genres, so the car was also fitted with a laser straight from sci-fi that could destroy other vehicles from a distance. The DB5 made a long-awaited return in 1995 when Pierce Brosnan took over as Bond in GoldenEye. He races it against a Ferrari in the film’s opening scene (and wins, of course). It also appeared in the next Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): we see it parked outside a college at the University of Oxford (where 007 is busy romancing an academic) and later on the road when Bond arrives at the Ministry of Defence for a meeting.

In his last film as 007, Die Another Day (2002), Brosnan drives a new Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. The car was as stylish and iconic as ever and was equipped with some remarkable new gadgets. When Q (John Cleese) shows Bond the car (“the ultimate in British engineering”), he also reveals a cloaking device that makes the car disappear. “Aston Martin call it the Vanquish,” he deadpans. “We call it the Vanish.”

The original storyboard showing the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante executing a perfect ascent over a fence and soldiers in The Living Daylights

With Casino Royale in 2006, the producers took the Bond story back to the beginning, telling how Bond acquired the DB5 by winning the car in a poker game. Elsewhere in the film, he drives the brand new DBS—rolling it seven times in one record-breaking stunt (an air-pressure gun underneath the car did the trick). Two Aston Martin cars—one classic, one new—helped a rebooted Bond pull off the extraordinary trick of appearing both completely modern and undeniably traditional at the same time.

Daniel Craig fires a shotgun with the DB5 as cover as Skyfall approaches its dramatic climax

Fans will be delighted to hear that Daniel Craig will once again return as the legendary British secret agent in the 24th James Bond film. It is set for release in UK theatres on 23 October, 2015. Whatever this new adventure for 007 holds, we are hopeful that among the relationships that remain part of Bond’s life—his clashes with his boss M, his playful sparring with Q and his unfailing grip on a gun—the one with Aston Martin continues to endure and thrive.