James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, which roared into the public consciousness in the 1964 movie “Goldfinger,” has a fair claim on being “The Most Famous Car in the World,” as Dave Worrall’s 1993 book asserts.
That Silver Birch DB5 embodied the virtues of the character first launched in Ian Fleming’s spy novels in 1953: stunning elegance, international intrigue, and visceral power.
But in 1963, Aston Martin was one of the world’s smallest and most obscure automakers, hand-making about 200 cars a year. Aston’s exclusive client base was limited to connoisseurs of grand touring automobiles, attracted by the marque’s racing pedigree. But with “Goldfinger,” the DB5’s image fascinated men of all ages.
In fact, the DB5 was merely an upgraded version of the DB4, which had been in production for five years. Upgrades included a larger 4.0-liter engine and triple SU carburetors as standard equipment, resulting in a 20 percent increase in horsepower to 282 bhp. After the first 50 units, the ZF five-speed gearbox was standardized, providing much-needed longer legs for motorway driving.
In Ian Fleming’s novel “Goldfinger,” Bond selected an Aston Martin DB MkIII, the current Aston model when the book was written, from the MI6 motorpool. His “optional extras” were restricted to reinforced steel bumpers and a pistol in a tray under the driver’s seat.
But it was enough to inspire the film’s producers to seek a new DB5, which had just been displayed to great acclaim at London’s 1963 Earls Court Motor Show.
One of four Bond cars
At first, Aston owner David Brown turned them down, offering instead to sell them a production model for the standard price of £4,500. But eventually Brown agreed to loan the film team chassis DP216, the DB4 that had been presented as the new DB5 at Earls Court. It was re-engineered to accommodate Q’s hidden gadgetry and armament.
There are four cars that can claim to be James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. The original, DP216, was known as the “effects car.” Ironically, when the effects car was returned to Aston Martin after the movies, the gadgets were removed and the car was returned to “civilian” use.
Subsequently, replicas of the gadgets were installed and it became a part of a private collection in Florida, making headlines when it was stolen from an aircraft hangar in 1997. An insurance settlement in excess of $4,000,000 was rumored and the car has never been found.
Because the effects car was so heavy, a standard DB5, serial number 1486/R, known as the “road car,” was used in the driving scenes and adapted for the ejection seat scenes. Though not seen for many years, that car is believed to be in North America.
For the worldwide debut of “Thunderball,” the second film in which the DB5 appears, the producers “accessorized” two more DB5s for promotional use. Known as the “press” cars, DB5/2008/R and DB5/2017/R were used for press events and premieres of the film in America.
Traded away for a GTO
By 1969, the Bond franchise had moved on to a new actor and a new Aston. The two press cars were returned to England and sold to Sir Anthony Bamford for a reported £1,500. Three months later, Sir Anthony traded 2017/R for a Ferrari 250 GTO (still a brilliant swap). The Bond DB5 in the “Cars of the Stars” museum in Keswick, England, is generally accepted to be 2017/R.
The second press car, 2008/R, was driven by Sir Anthony occasionally, then sold in 1970 to B.H. Atchley, owner of the Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Tennessee, where it has been the primary attraction for 35 years. With this documented history, 2008/R is probably the soundest, most original survivor.