Spy Story: The James Bond Aston Martin DB5

It’s been called, ‘the most famous car in the world’ but the legendary James Bond Aston Martin DB5 that originally appeared in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger was just one of a quartet. Moreover, the DB5 that was sold in October 2010 wasn’t originally equipped with the gadgets that made the James Bond car famous. Intrigued? Don’t worry; all will soon become clear.

The first James Bond DB5 wasn’t even a DB5. It was a DB4-based prototype, the bodyshell being nearly identical to that of the DB5. This car, the one that appeared bearing (among others) the registration BMT 216A, was the car that was modified to suit its role in Goldfinger.

Enter John Stears. This may be an unfamiliar name but when we see his alter ego sobriquets, the light dawns. Known as ‘The Dean of Special Effects’ and ‘The Real Q’, Stears was an Oscar-winning special effects wizard. He later created Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder, the cute robots R2-D2 and C3PO, and the Jedi Knights’ light sabers for the Star Wars movies. But he was also the man behind Agent 007’s celebrated Aston Martin DB5, and its bullet-proof windows, revolving license plates, forward-firing machine guns, a rear oil-slick dispenser and a passenger-side ejector seat.

It wasn’t long before this particular Pinewood production was causing disquiet. Goldfinger producer Harry Saltzman voiced concern at the “$45,000 little bag of tricks” being used on public roads for high-speed chase sequences. Aston Martin came to the rescue, lending Eon Productions a second DB5, registered FMP 7B.

As things developed, this car became problematical. During filming, its 5-speed ZF gearbox broke. So, the far costlier ‘gadgets’ car is the one that’s seen in the movie, chasing ‘Tilly Masterson’s’ Ford Mustang Convertible in the Swiss Alps.

When the filming was completed, Aston Martin decided to equip the unreliable second car with gadgets. These were in fact replica items, with alterations to make them more reliable. Meanwhile, the original ‘gadgets’ car embarked on a worldwide publicity tour that lasted two years. Then, the gadgets were removed and the car was sold to Gavin Keyzar, a businessman from Kent. After having replica gadgets fitted to the car, Keyzar sold it in 1971 to Richard Loose, in Utah. Sotheby’s in New York then knocked the car down to Anthony Pugliese, who used is for promotional work. The car was stolen from Boca Raton airport in Florida in 1997; it was being stored in an aircraft hangar. Exit one of the James Bond DB5s…for a tidy $4.2 million dollars. This settlement was believed to be approximately 80% of the car’s insured value.

Two more DB5s now come into the picture. The Bond movies Goldfinger and Thunderball were so successful that Aston Martin produced two more James Bond DB5s, the so-called ‘press cars’. One of these was ultimately sold to Anthony Bamford, who swapped it for a (much more valuable) Ferrari GTO. One of the press cars now lives in the Louwmann museum in The Hague; RM Auctions, Arizona – sold its stablemate to a private buyer for $2.09 million.

And then there was one. The replica gadget-laden FMP 7B is the car that was sold in RM Auctions’ Battersea Park sale on 27th October last year. It was expected to net around $5 million but was sold to American enthusiast Harry Yeaggy for $4.6 million, or £2.9 million. All the proceeds from the sale were used to boost the charitable work of The Jerry Lee Foundation. Philadelphia radio station owner Jerry Lee set up this foundation and he had a vested interest in the James Bond DB5…he’d bought it in 1969, for $12,000!

So the most famous car in the world isn’t quite what it seems and no one knows what became of the original ‘gadgets’ DB4 prototype. But some consolation may exist in the knowledge that none of the Goldfinger car’s gadgets really worked. For example, the scene where the tyre slicer comes out of the rear axle of James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 was faked. A mocked-up quarter of the car was filmed on a small set. The tyres (and sills) of ‘Tilly Masterson’s’ Ford Mustang convertible were shredded – but not by the DB5. That’s movie magic for you!


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