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.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Aston Martin DB5 James Bond
Years Produced:1963-65
Number Produced:886 coupes
Original List Price:$12,850
Tune Up Cost:$750-$1000
Distributor Caps:Original Lucas $250
Chassis Number Location:On firewall under hood
Engine Number Location:(same number as chassis) On chassis plate and valve cover
Club Info:Aston Martin Owners Club
Alternatives:1957-61 Jaguar XK150, 1955-63 AC Aceca, 1954-58 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sprint

This 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe “James Bond” sold to an SCMer from Switzerland, via telephone, at RM’s Arizona Biltmore Resort Sale January 20, 2006, for $2.1 million. Can it be said that it was well bought, or that even on that evening it got all the money?

I’d argue that collector-car values do not apply to 2008/R. It’s no longer just a car, any more than the velvet garment worn by Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind” is just a dress, or a guitar played by John Lennon in “Hard Day’s Night” is merely a musical instrument.

Of course, Lot 155 is not the car driven by Sean Connery in “Goldfinger” or even in “Thunderball”. It’s a replica of a movie prop, though Connery is supposed to have driven it to events.

Valued as just another DB5, I’d have difficulty arguing it’s worth more than $150,000. It was fitted with replicas of all the guns and gadgets, but few were operational. The car was, at best, in number three condition. The finish is dull and the soft trim and rubber has dried with age. What would you expect of a vehicle that’s been sitting in a cage in a small car museum for 35 years?

But these DB5s established product placement, now such an important part of modern film financing. To explain why this car drew the price it did, we have to recognize that it’s one of three remaining examples of commercial acceptance of the value of product placement in movies and, importantly, a significant cultural symbol.

We saw ourselves at the wheel

This 1965 DB5 Coupe is one of the icons of the Baby Boomers; it represents the dreams of a generation that came of age in the ’60s. We were all confronted by Vietnam, political protests, and flower power, but secretly longed for a world where martinis were specifically ordered by dashing secret agents who wore white dinner jackets under their wetsuits and Beretta pistols in shoulder holsters discreetly concealed by their Savile Row tailors.

Every time we braked and downshifted for a tight curve in our MGB GTs, we saw ourselves at the wheel of the DB5, pursuing a blonde in a Mustang convertible over an Alpine pass. For one collector, being able to own and drive that symbol was worth $2 million.

The rest of us should be glad that this car belongs to a collector rather than being stuffed and mounted in a Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas or a tacky diorama in a museum somewhere in the hinterlands.

We don’t need to know that the navigation and radar screen on the console is just a picture glued on a piece of plywood or that the ejection seat button isn’t connected, any more than we need to know that Connery is now playing senior-citizen character roles and the lovely starlets from the Bond films live in retirement communities in Arizona-between visits to plastic surgeons.

The sale reminded me briefly of the days when anything was possible as long as one had the style to carry it off. And one buyer decided, at least each time he is behind the wheel of this DB5 Coupe, to momentarily halt the march of time that dims those memories.

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