If you’re anything like us, the James Bond car chase will occupy a special part of your childhood memory. The speed, sound and sense of peril (and of course the gadgets) promoted these sacred cars from mere props and gave them a starring role all of their own.
Bond’s garage has of course been dominated by Aston Martin – a partnership which has seen 007 editions of the company’s cars, and its personalisation service christened simply as ‘Q’.
But others have enjoyed their time under the spotlights of Pinewood Studios.
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There was the Lotus Esprit submarine, the phone-controlled BMW 7-Series, and the humble Renault 11, which Bond managed to first decapitate, then halve into a two-wheeler.
Choosing the best Bond cars isn’t easy, but you probably all know where this is going to start...
Aston Martin DB5
- Starred in: Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, Skyfall, Spectre
- Gadgets: Machine guns, rotating number plates, oil slick, tyre slashers, tracking system, bullet-proof rear screen, ejector seat
- Price today: £800,000
Predictable, we know, but we couldn’t put together a list of iconic Bond cars without starting with the DB5. Three different DB5s have appeared in seven Bond films over the years, making it the stuff of cinematic legend.
For Sean Connery’s Bond, Q went to town with machine guns, tyre slashers, rotating number plates, a bullet-proof rear screen, and of course, an ejector seat.
Two DB5s were used in Goldfinger and Thunderball; a pre-production car fitted with the gadgets, and a regular car provided by Aston Martin for normal driving and static scenes.
The latter is now owned by Ohio-based car collector Harry Yeaggy, while the gadgets car was stolen from an airport hangar in Florida in 1997, never to be seen again.
The insurance company reportedly paid out $4m for the loss – the same as what Yeaggy paid for its sister at auction in 2010.
Lotus Esprit S1
- Starred in: The Spy Who Loved Me
- Gadgets: Turned into a submarine with torpedoes, mines and missile launcher
- Price today: £60,000
While other Bonds are often criticised for taking the gimmicks too far (by us, actually, further down) Roger Moore somehow got away with it, even when his Lotus Esprit turns into a submarine after being launching off a pier in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
The Esprit also featured torpedoes, mines, sprays of black dye to evade the enemy, and a vertical missile launcher on the rear deck.
As for where the Lotus is now, a certain Elon Musk of Tesla fame bought the submarine film prop (it didn’t actually transform, y’see) for $1m at auction in 2013. His plan? To turn it into an actual amphibious car powered by a Tesla motor, naturally.
Toyota 2000GT Convertible
- Starred in: You Only Live Twice
- Gadgets: TV screen behind seats
- Price now: £700,000+
Although not commissioned to Bond by Q Branch, the Toyota 2000GT gains an honorable mention for being one of the best-looking cars to feature in any 007 film.
Only sold to the public as a hardtop, the production team of You Only Live Twice wanted to convert the 2000GT into a targa with a removable roof panel. But after making the modification, they found Sean Connery’s head stuck out of the top, so the decision was made to chop the entire roof off and insert a fake cover to look like a soft top had been retracted.
Although not packing any weapons, the Toyota had a small TV screen behind the seats, used by Bond to watch a helicopter drop his pursuers into the sea.
Aston Martin DBS
- Starred in: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace
- Gadgets: Gun holder in glove box, medical kit with defibrillator
- Price now: £100,000
Light on gadgets but heavy on power, the DBS is Bond’s fastest car to date, with a near-200mph top speed and a 510-horsepower V12 under the long bonnet.
Unfortunately, Bond didn’t get much time to enjoy the car on its first outing in Casino Royale, as he rolled it moments after the chase with Le Chiffre began.
That roll, incidentally, sent a Guinness World Record at the time, for completing seven rotations during the stunt – a move helped by an 18-inch ramp in the road and an air cannon behind the stunt driver’s seat.
- Starred in: The World Is Not Enough
- Gadgets: Rocket launchers
- Price today: £220,000
BMW’s 168mph Z8 was something of an homage to its 507 roadster of the Fifties when it launched in 1999.
Benchmarked against the Ferrari 360, the Z8 was an altogether different animal to the daintier and downright disappointing Z3 Bond drove in Goldeneye two years earlier.
The rockets, machines guns, surface-to-air missiles and EMP generator helped to further boost the car’s firepower.
But the Z8 barely had chance to flex its Bavarian muscles before it was cut in two by a buzzsaw-carrying helicopter.
Those looking for a nerdy bit of trivia, try this on for size; the last Z8 sold new in the UK carries the same number plate – V354 FMP – used by Bond’s car, which was not registered to the vehicle used for filming. A different Z8 was also owned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was convinced to buy the car by Oracle boss Larry Ellison in 2000.
- Starred in: Tomorrow Never Dies
- Gadgets: Smartphone remote control, rockets, machine guns, tear gas
- Price today: £6,000
The BMW from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) featured the usual arsenal of tear gas, rockets and machine guns, but what made the car really cool was how Bond could drive it remotely with his Ericsson mobile phone.
Pure sci-fi for the Nineties, but fast-forward 20 years and today’s 5- and 7-Series can almost do the same thing via their touch-screen key fobs.
Sadly, today’s cars can only be driven remotely at walking pace. And no, you can’t launch one off a multi-story into the window of a car rental shop like Bond did. Probably.
- Starred in: Die Another Day
- Gadgets: Mini gun, missile launchers, rear mortars, thermal imaging
- Price now: £15,000
It’s rare for the bad guy to have a car to match Bonds – just look at Eric Goldfinger’s Rolls-Royce – but that’s exactly what happened in Die Another Day, when Zao was given a Jaguar XKR loaded to the teeth with ammunition to chase down Bond in his Aston.
Eight Jags were used for filming, all of which were modified with the help of Jaguar itself. Those used for the car chase in Iceland received heavy modifications – in fact, the bodies were fixed to the modified chassis of four Ford Explorer SUVs, then given a custom all-wheel-drive system, and the V8 engine from a Ford Mustang.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante
- Starred in: The Living Daylights
- Gadgets: Missiles, head-up display, laser cutters, retractable skis, deployable tyre spikes and a rocket booster
- Price today: £190,000 - £250,000
Hailed as Britain’s first supercar when it launched in 1977, the 170mph Vantage Volante could hit 60mph in 5.3 seconds. Middling by today’s supercar standards, but at the time it was a crucial tenth quicker than the Ferrari Daytona.
Aston fans will notice how the ‘Volante’ (meaning convertible) spends most of its screen time as a hardtop car. This is because filming began with a Volante borrowed from Aston chairman Victor Gauntlett – and the car was introduced as such on screen – but was replaced by a hard-topped Vantage saloon in later scenes.
To cover up the change in car, it is described as being “winterised” for Bond’s trip to Czechoslovakia.
Aston Martin Vanquish
- Starred in: Die Another Day
- Gadgets: Shotguns, machine guns, rockets, ejector seat, retractable tyre seat, adaptive camouflage, thermal imaging
Q’s flirting with gimmicks is usually only surpassed by Bond’s conversations with Moneypenny, but for Die Another Day we reckon Q takes a hollow victory.
For Bond’s 20th outing on the big screen, Q took the gorgeous Aston Martin Vanquish and simply didn’t know when to stop. The bonnet shotguns and ejector seat are a nice nod to the DB5, but then Q makes the car turn invisible at the platform of an abandoned Underground station, and the tone of the film is set.
What could have been an epic car chase across a frozen lake turns into a gimmick-fest quicker than Bond can crack open the Bollinger. Even the production team let the side down, replacing the Aston’s sonorous V12 with a Ford-sourced V8. Sacrilege of the highest order, Q.
Aston Martin DB10
- Starred in: Spectre
- Gadgets: Flamethrowers, machine gun, driver ejector seat
- Price now: £2.4m
The DB10 is only car to have been built specifically for a James Bond film. Just ten examples were produced by Aston Martin for Spectre (2015), eight for producing the film and two show cars for promotional duties.
Although not certified for use on the road, one of the two cars was sold at auction in 2016 for £2.4m, with all of the proceeds going to charity.
Although unique to Bond, the 190mph DB10 shares its basic design with the new Aston Martin Vantage, which has just gone on sale.
But, as good as the DB10 looks, its role in Spectre fell a little flat. Even though bad guy Mr Hinx drove the stunning Jaguar C-X75 concept, the classic Bond car chase had somehow lost its dynamism, speed and sense of peril; it was a painting-by-number pursuit which was over all too quickly.
Renault 11 TXE
- Starred in: A View to a Kill
- Gadgets: Uncanny ability to survive two huge accidents
- Price now: £400, if you can be bothered to find one
It was only a 1980s Renault 11 and it was only a taxi, but what a scene. Commandeered by Bond next to the Eiffel Tower to hunt down the bad guys (who were parachuting in, naturally) the humble Renault was first launched up a ramp and along the roof of a moving bus, before being decapitated by a low barrier.
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