From Q with Love: The 10 Best Bond Cars
Picking the greatest Bond cars is far from easy. Since 1962 — through 23 movies and seven actors — 007 has been behind the wheel of some of the finest and most exotic cars the world had to offer. And you just know that at some point in the movie, some bad guy is going to try to chase him down. Of course, pitted against James Bond’s superior driving skills and add-ons from gadgetmaster Q, they don’t stand a chance, and usually wind up dead. So the 10 Best Bond Cars might not be the most desirable ones, but the most dramatic and memorable ones.
10. Citroen 2CV
Movie: For Your Eyes Only
We’re used to seeing Bond drive some slick European exotic or rip-snortin’ American muscle car, but one of his most memorable chases occurred in just about the most mundane car ever made. There’s a scene in For Your Eyes Only in which the only car Bond (Roger Moore) can get his hands on is a yellow Citroën 2CV. If you’re not familiar with the classic Gallic econobox, all you need to know is that its name is derived from the French words for “two horsepower” (I’m not kidding). Still, Bond manages to elude several equally unspecial Peugeot 504s before his snail-shaped car rolls down a small hill, allowing him to reverse away. The bad guys are finally foiled when Bond’s fancy driving causes them both to crash their horrible, worthless French sedans.
9. AMC Hornet
Movie: The Man With the Golden Gun
At a time when the auto industry was putting out some of its worst products, so were the people who made James Bond movies. With a cartoonish plot, a somewhat effete leading man in Moore and lame dialogue, this martial arts-heavy rendition is not a great film, but there is a redeeming scene with an unlikely star — a 1974 AMC Hornet hatchback. For some reason, buffoonish Southern Sheriff J.W. Pepper was in Bangkok looking to buy the car. Bond steals into the scene, takes the car, crashes through the showroom window and, in one of the great stunts in pre-CGI Hollywood — takes it over a 52-foot jump while making a 360-degree corkscrew spin in midair. The stunt was done in one take and would have been a truly great film moment had it not been for the fact that Oscar-winning composer John Barry added a slide whistle sound effect. Instead, it was just another silly scene played for laughs in a forgettable film.
8. Sunbeam Alpine
Movie: Dr. No
It might surprise some that the James Bond film series did not start out big. In fact, for the first installation in the series — Dr. No — the producers could not find a single car company to provide them with a vehicle and instead had to borrow one from a local businessman in Jamaica, where the film was shot. Luckily, they got a good one. Bond’s first car was a Sunbeam Alpine, a sporty little roadster that was later made popular in the U.S. when Carroll Shelby convinced the company to give it an American V8 and sell it as the Sunbeam Tiger. The Alpine distinguished itself in Dr. No when Bond (Sean Connery) is being chased by some villains in a hearse. He drives the low-slung Alpine under a crane, the villains can’t follow and instead crash to their deaths.
7. BMW 750iL
Movie: Tomorrow Never Dies
Bond (Pierce Brosnan) uses this bullet-proof remote control car to escape some machine gun-armed villains in a parking garage. After jumping into the speeding Bimmer’s back window, he guides it from the backseat with a fancy flip phone with a very low-density display and an all-too-chummy GPS guide. He outdrives a Mercedes (take that, Daimler-Benz!), and several lesser cars on his way to freedom. The scene ends with Bond sending the BMW off the garage’s roof. It ends up crashing through the front window of an Avis rent-a-car outlet. There’s a joke there, but I don’t get it.
6. Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
Movie: Die Another Day
Nice enough car as Astons usually are, but a bit overloaded with the gadgets if you ask me. Along with the usual tack spreaders, rocket launchers and machine guns, this Ford-era Vanquish also has a self-flipping device and adaptive camouflage that renders it almost invisible. Interestingly, in the main chase scene, Bond (Brosnan) is chased by villain Zao in a mechanically similar Jaguar XKR — at a time when Jaguar was also part of the Ford family. Call it sibling rivalry.
5. Ford Mustang Mach 1
Movie: Diamonds Are Forever
This one isn’t strictly Bond’s car. Instead, he takes it from love interest Tiffany Case, but since he drives it in the film’s signature stunt, let’s just say it’s his. The producers knew they would be wrecking a lot of cars for the film, so they approached volume manufacturers instead of exotics. Ford agreed to supply the vehicles under the condition that the “star” car be a Mustang Mach 1. The big stunt features Bond (Connery), chased by cops, entering a Las Vegas alley on two wheels and somehow (the director, Guy Hamilton, cheated and only showed an inside-the-car reaction shot) came out on the opposite two wheels.
4. Aston Martin DBS V12/DB9
Movie: Casino Royale
Production values improved dramatically with this, the first of the series starring Daniel Craig, and the movies became more realistic. That extended to his car as well. In the Casino Royale reboot, his Aston appeared stock except for a hidden gun compartment and an onboard defibrillator. Still, it was a great car. Last of the Ford-era Astons, the DBS was fast, steady and very close to beautiful. But it presented some problems for the filmmakers. It was expensive, so they used a nearly identical-looking but cheaper DB9 for the end of the chase scene in which the car crashes when Bond swerves to avoid killing his love interest in the middle of the road. It was also too safe. In order to get the car to crash and spin, after several unsuccessful attempts, the effects crew hid an 18-inch ramp on the road and augmented it with an air cannon under the car. It then set a feature film record of seven complete rolls after that, though.
3. Aston Martin V8
Movie: The Living Daylights
Of all of Bond’s cars, this is the one I’d like to take home. One of the last traditional Aston Martins before the wild Lagonda experiment and the Ford takeover, the thunderous DOHC V8 and gorgeous styling make the Vantage Volante very desirable in a refined way. Still, the directors got a little silly with it. In a scene in which Bond (Timothy Dalton) is chased by police Ladas, he lasers one in half and cuts a hole in some ice to sink another, instead of just stepping on the accelerator and making them dots in the rearview mirror. Using headlight-mounted rockets to blow up the truck they used to block his way made sense, though.
2. Lotus Esprit S1
Movie: The Spy Who Loved Me
One of the most popular Bond films, the star of The Spy Who Loved Me might not be Moore as Bond, but rather his car, a Lotus Esprit S1. The Giugiaro-designed mid-engine coupe was probably the best looking car of the entire squared-off pop-up lights era. And it was quick. But it proved to be a problem for the stunt drivers, who were used to driving muscle cars. So Lotus engineer Roger Becker stepped in and showed them how it was done. Of course, the car is best known for the scene in which 007 escapes a helicopter by driving the Lotus straight into the Mediterranean. Once under water, it transforms into a fully functioning submarine, complete with surface-to-air missile. Tesla owner and billionaire Elon Musk — who was six years old when the film came out and has a great Bond-villain name — bought one of the cars from the film in 2013 and says he plans to make it submersible.
1. Aston Martin DB5
Movie: Goldfinger, GoldenEye, Casino Royale and Skyfall
Year: 1964, 1995, 2006 and 2012
A rolling work of art, the silver DB5 is synonymous with Bond, and has been a featured player in four of the series’ films (although we all know it’s really Connery’s). It was the first car that was recognized as being made specifically for Bond by Q. And he put in all the stops. Bond confounded meter maids with revolving license plates, while the bad guys were foiled with a bunch of tacks dropped from the trunk to puncture their tires, an oil dispenser to make them slide, a set of Ben-Hur-style rotating spikes in case they came even with him, an ejector seat in case one of them managed to get in with him — and one did — and even headlight-mounted machine guns in case they got in front of him. Easily the quintessential Bond car, it’s also the best.