It might sound like bad parenting, but I was brought up in James Bond films. One of my older cousins— who used to babysit my siblings and me — jokes to this day about the time he was over to watch us, and we informed him that we were only allowed to watch Disney movies and James Bond films. Bond is a pivotal character in modern cinema, and the image of Bond portrays elements of class, style, and brute strength. For many, he is the quintessential archetype of being tough, making him the timeless embodiment of manliness that has outlasted that of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood—who, oddly enough, was once approached to play the character of Bond.
Skyfall, the twenty-third Bond film, or what I consider to be the third film in the re-imagined series, is set to premiere in November 2012. Shortly after the first previews for Skyfall were released, a keen-eyed fan noticed a familiar element in one of the sequences: the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, complete with the same plates as those from the timeless classic. Bond Cars are just as iconic as the man himself, and for this reason—and in anticipation of the upcoming film—I felt it appropriate to recap what I consider to be the most memorable cars of James Bond. While forming this list, I avoided focusing purely on the gadgetry that is often most associated with Bond cars and looked more at the iconic roles the vehicles held within the films themselves. So without further ado, here are the top five Bond cars of all time.
After a decade of pretty-boy antics and ridiculous plot lines—ridiculous even for Bond—we were finally met with a 007 who was willing to take a punch. The 2006 Casino Royale, which is arguably a revamp of the series, gave audiences a fresh new look at who Bond is and what he does. Daniel Craig portrays a Bond who commands an authority that we have not seen before. His car, the Aston Martin DBS, matched the persona of this new Bond—dark and powerful: no tricks, just business—classy, yet unafraid to take a beating. The car itself will always be remembered for the heart-stopping 7 ¾ crash-roll that set a world record for movie stunts. While the vehicle was nearly void of gizmos and gadgetry, it will forever be known as the car that brought Bond into the twenty-first century. Current price tag: $90,000-$110,000
4. 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Also frequently considered a revamp of the original series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first film to offer audiences a non-Connery Bond and was one of the only films to follow the book with near precision. Somewhat low in the use of high-tech gadgets, the film portrays a more realistic view of Bond. His soon to be wife—yes, Bond gets hitched in this one—helps him escape SPECTRE in her 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7. The scene to follow is one of the best Bond car chases in the series’ history. The terrain is snowy Switzerland, and the Cougar has no special tire studs, oil slicks, or other clever devices to thwart the pursuers. The XR-7 was a high-performance version of the Mercury, likely housing a Ford 390 V8, and the idea of this muscle car navigating the tiny streets and alleys of Switzerland is a harrowing notion; yet, they do so with the class and style typical of the Bond archetype. Current price tag: $13,000-17,000
3. 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 – Diamonds are Forever (1971)
The Bond film immediately following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service saw Connery’s return as the lead role, but once again used an American car as the iconic vehicle of the film. Most of the film takes place in the United States—a locale not characteristic of most Bond films—and in Las Vegas, of all places. This opportunity gave way to another very memorable chase scene of the Bond franchise, making the 1971 Mach 1’s presence on the iconic pre-industrialized Vegas strip an unforgettable moment in cinema. The car makes a bold statement, also the first year that Ford supersized the once compact pony car. Bond is in America, doing the American thing for this film, and seeing the ’71 Mach 1 drive on only two right tires is a spectacle, to say the least. The stunts are amazing, and the entire scene manages to pay homage to the classic “bumbling cop” routine of the early keystone era.
Current price tag: $ 15,000-25,000
2. 1985 Aston Martin V8 Volante – The Living Daylights (1987)
Enter Timothy Dalton: Bond number 4. Dalton’s debut as Bond in The Living Daylights also brought a return of the iconic Aston Martin, fully tricked out by Q division. The laundry list of devices is long, including laser beams, jet propulsion, even a self-destruct mechanism. The car is extremely stylish for an era known for boxier automobiles. In the scene that highlights the car’s capabilities, it stands as an even starker contrast beside the archaic soviet police vehicles Bond literally drives circles around. Like many Bond cars, the Volante lives a concise life, but unlike others, the gadgetry seems amazingly necessary for the terrain and situation Bond finds himself in. Current price tag: $45,000-55,000
1. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964)
There is probably not a soul out there who could argue with this one. This car not only fetches the highest price of any model of Bond car at auction, but the car has also made a plethora of cameos in the films throughout the duration of the franchise. The car was loaded with gadgets, from the ejector seat to the rotating license plate, to the bulletproof plate that could be raised to protect the rear windshield. The DB5 is the original Bond car and essentially became the prototype for all future films as far as function and style. The fact that Goldfinger is regularly revered as the best of all Bond films has also helped to propel the car’s popularity. The actual DB5 from the film recently sold for over 4-million dollars. A similar model can be had considerably less, though it will still cost you as much as a house. This is a true testament to this automobile’s significance and image and its place in popular world culture.
Current price tag: $450,000-650,000
James Bond is the most successful film franchise in history. The fact that the series has been able to continually mold itself to fit contemporary times signifies its place in movie culture. Regardless of who plays the man with the license to kill or what vehicle he drives, Bond will always be there to offer us a glimpse of a world most of us can only dream of: a world of fast cars, beautiful women, adventure, and nightly martinis—shaken, not stirred.
Jack Payton is a car nut in the purest form. He loves to write about everything gear related, and rebuilt his first engine at 15. He works as the online publisher for the online tire retailer tires-easy.com. In his spare time he enjoys cruising, attending car shows, and collecting vinyl.