Pick a vehicle — any vehicle. Got it? Now try to remember when James Bond crashed, commandeered or captained it. Because, in all likelihood, at some point in the last 60 years, he has.
27 films of globe-trotting and jet-setting have given 007 ample opportunity to build an enviable, eclectic garage. And he hasn’t disappointed. The man from MI6 has piloted planes, raced cars and jumped aboard boats. But he’s also suavely slid behind the wheels of double-decker buses, single-seat autogyros, personal submarines, moon buggies and Jet Skis. The man’s had two separate fistfights during two separate oil tanker car chases, for Q’s sake.
Seriously, try to think of something that he hasn’t driven. A tractor? Daniel Craig demolished half a Haitian building site using one in Casino Royale. A seaplane? Timothy Dalton commandeered one in Licence to Kill. A hovercraft? Pierce Brosnan floated his way across the Korean Demilitarized Zone in one at the beginning of Die Another Day. (You’d be forgiven for forgetting that last one — we’ve done our best to scrub the whole invisible-carring, ice-hotelling, tsunami-surfing movie from our minds.)
But cars are where Bond really comes into his own. Though kiboshed by product placement several times throughout the series — we’re looking at you, Ford Mondeo hire car — 007 tends to get at least one marvellous motor to see him through every story. From the Aston Martin DB5 to the Citroën 2CV, his wheels have been as varied as his missions — but we’ve found the definitive top ten…
10. 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever
Could it have been higher up this list? Yes. Did it slip those couple of places because of the two-wheeled stunt gaffe? Also yes. For those of you who haven’t seen Diamonds Are Forever – and you should, Connery shoots a fire extinguisher straight into someone’s face at one point — the Ford Mustang Mach 1 will forever be remembered as the car that drove into an alley on two wheels, then came out the other side on the other two wheels. A continuity masterpiece, this was not.
But the car. Oh, the car! Just look at it. When the production wanted to stage a Las Vegas car chase, they inked a deal with Ford to crash countless vehicles from the manufacturer — on the proviso that Connery would drive their prized Mustang Mach 1. With a ‘Sportsroof’ body, chrome pop-open gas cap and hood scoop, it was arguably too brash for the sleek British secret agent. But, then again, this is a film in which the Bond girl is named ‘Plenty O’Toole’ — so probably best not to dwell on taste.
9. Triumph Stag, Diamonds Are Forever
Bond drove a Triumph Stag, we hear you cry? Why yes he did, we answer — before his V8-powered Mustang antics in Diamonds Are Forever, in fact. Bond drives a Stag all the way to Amsterdam after assuming the identity of diamond smuggler Peter Franks. And, while we realise that this isn’t a Q-tampered car — no revolving number plates or ejector seats here, I’m afraid — we’ve snuck the Stag into our top ten.
Why? Simply because it’s an attainable slice of James Bond’s lifestyle. Few viewers could stump up for an Aston Martin, or afford a Bell Jetpack — but a Triumph Stag was well within the realms of possibility. And this Saffron Yellow, manual four-speed V8 sports car isn’t to be sniffed at. With a drop-top, MacPherson suspension and body by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti, it’s a little-remembered Bond car, but a diamond nonetheless.
8. Aston Martin Valhalla, No Time To Die
Speaking of unattainable, allow us to introduce the Aston Martin Valhalla. Just three months before the cameras started rolling on Daniel Craig’s upcoming Bond swansong, No Time To Die, Eon got in touch with the Aston Special Operations Team. “If you can get us a drivable Valhalla,” they said, “then it will feature in the film.” A drivable Valhalla didn’t exist — but Aston built one, and it has been squeezed into the final cut.
Somewhat sadly, the car will only feature in a static shot. And, in many ways, we wish that both Aston and Eon had just taken their time and given the car keys for the Valhalla to the next man to play Bond — more on that here. But, as things stand, Aston’s collaboration with Red Bull Racing will make its big screen debut in April. And, even if he’s not technically driven it yet, it’s still distinctively designed and outrageously fast enough to make it on Bond’s top list.
7. BMW R 1200 C Cruiser, Tomorrow Never Dies
Okay, okay. It’s not a car. But Bond drives this motorbike while handcuffed to a beautiful fellow secret agent, jumps it from rooftop to rooftop — even over the whirring, whirling blades of a pursuing helicopter. It makes two-wheeled driving look unbelievably cool — doing so despite a dodgy cream paint job. That’s right, cream. Well, it was the 90s.
This motor came during Brosnan’s Bond’s obsession with Beemers — try saying that after a couple of Martinis. A cruiser style bike, it afforded 007 a little more style than the dirt bikes Craig’s Bond has since favoured, and is powered by a hefty 1,200cc engine. So, despite not technically being a car, it nevertheless takes the crown as Brosnan’s best vehicle.
6. Toyota 2000GT Roadster, You Only Live Twice
Daniel Craig famously voted this as his favourite Bond car of all time — but it was Connery’s 007 who got behind the wheel of the Japanese pocket rocket. The Toyota wasn’t typically a convertible, but production had to do away with the roof to accommodate Connery’s 6’2” frame — and thus one of the most unlikely, endearing Bond cars of all time was born.
In the film, the car belongs to Aki, a Japanese SIS agent who assists Bond in his fight against Blofeld and the SPECTRE-affiliated Mr. Osato. But it’s one of the rare Bond cars that isn’t first-and-foremost known for being parked in the superspy’s garage. Instead, heralded as the far eastern country’s first ever supercar, it has carved out a mid-engined, low-slung niche for itself as one of the first seriously collectible Japanese cars.
5. Aston Martin DB10, Spectre
Good god, Bond. Could you get any slicker? If that choreographed car chase through the dusky streets of Rome wasn’t cool enough, 007 tears through it in an Aston Martin DB10 he stole from 009. Created specifically for the film — the first time Aston had done such a thing — this 4.7 litre, V8-powered, six-speed sex machine is perhaps the coolest thing about Spectre. And this is a film that, lest we forget, sees Bond sledge the fuselage of a crashed plane to Lea Seydoux’s rescue.
And that’s before we get to the gadgets; a flame thrower and stealth ejector seat and parachute among them. We’d also like to throw out a commendation to the DB10’s partner in speeding; the Jaguar C-X75. Another concept, this vividly orange collaboration with the Williams F1 team was turbocharged, supercharged and electrically charged — a worthy adversary to Bond’s Tiber-bound Aston.
4. Lotus Esprit S1, The Spy Who Loved Me
But first, let’s get another Lotus Esprit out of the way. Roger Moore’s Bond had a couple of these wedgy sportsters during his time as Bond, and we also love the copper metallic model featured in For Your Eyes Only — ski rack obviously included. But there’s no arguing that the white Lotus Esprit S1 is the king of the Esprits, and one of the best Bond cars of all time.
It was a car that turned into a submarine — the stuff of teenage boy’s, not to mention grown men’s, dreams. Shot in the Bahamas, the now-iconic scene used a full-sized model, with folding wheels, fins and a periscope, transformed by Perry Submarines of Florida. It’s a piece of gadget-laden film history, but the story behind Eon acquiring the car might be better. In August 1976, Don McLaughlan, head of public relations at Lotus, drove an unbranded, prototype Esprit and parked it outside Eon. Upon seeing the car, producers fell in love — and asked to feature the car in the upcoming tenth Bond film.
3. Aston Martin V8 Vantage Series III, The Living Daylights
Oh, you didn’t think Dalton would get anywhere near this list? Well, we’re firm believers in the Welshman’s two gritty cracks at the Bond franchise — not to mention his choice in wheels. Set to make a reappearance in this year’s No Time To Die, the V8 Vantage initially appeared in The Living Daylights — Aston Martin’s much-heralded return to the franchise. And, while the car looks handsome throughout the film, it’s only after Q Branch ‘winterfy’ the wheels that we’re really interested.
Evading the KGB, Bond mounts a daring escape to Austria in the V8 Vantage — fitted with tyre spikes, heat-seeking missiles, lasers, retractable skis and a self-destruct system. But why do we love it so much? Because this was one of the first times Bond got behind the wheel of a car that was not only incredibly stylish and had the pedigree of Aston Martin, but also looked muscly enough to actually do the job. Deserving of a podium.
2. Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
That’s right, every Bond gets a look-in on this list (no-one counts Niven, and neither should you). You’ve had Connery, Craig, Moore and Dalton — and now comes the turn of George Lazenby. Or his wife, anyway. This Mercury Cougar XR7, in bright red, was driven by Dame Diana Rigg’s Countess Tracy di Vincenzo in the 1969 film — and set a high bar for every Bond car to come.
Prepared by Carroll Shelby, the car overshadows Bond’s Aston Martin DBS from the moment it appears on the Portuguese coast to the sequence in which it is used to escape Blofeld’s henchmen in Switzerland. It’s here where the red really pops against the snow and, although the film left a little to be desired, the car gave us one of the best snowy high-speed chases in the whole franchise.
1. Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger
Nobody does it better — so how could it not be the Aston Martin DB5 in the top spot? We know, we know. It’s cool these days to bash the grand tourer a bit, and dedicate your dinner party chat to why it wasn’t actually the best car in the franchise. But it was, wasn’t it? So much so that, when No Time To Die hits cinemas this year, it will have starred in eight James Bond films. Eight! That even overtakes Roger Moore’s tally — and he was nudging 60 by the time he handed over his Walther PPK.
The DB5, on the other hand, hasn’t aged a day. With a straight-six, four-litre engine, the car is almost as spectacular off-screen as it is on — but Q-branch’s special tweaks really clinch it the top spot. Smoke screens! Oil slicks! Machine guns! Bullet shields! And all of these handy henchman-evading tricks and tools while still looking so gorgeous? The other cars didn’t stand a chance…
You know what he drives, but what does he wear? Here are the suits we’d like to see on Bond in No Time To Die…
Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.