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No car is more closely identified with 007 than the Aston Martin DB5. It had a production run of only 1,023 cars and was produced between 1963 and 1965 – the DB5’s essential Britishness, bespoke craftsmanship, sleek, classic styling, made it a perfect fit for James Bond.
Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger novel specified that Bond drive a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB Mark III for the chase across Europe. The Mark III was introduced in 1957, the year before Fleming wrote Goldfinger. In preparation for the filming of GOLDFINGER, production designer Ken Adam and special effects’ John Stears visited Aston Martin Lagonda to make a deal with them for a car. On their visit they fell in love with the DB5 prototype and managed to secure it for the movie.
Production received just one car for the gadgets, no standbys, so it took some incredible work from the special effects team to fit them all into the confined space. John Stears said the first thing he did was make the hole for the ejector seat; «I marked it out, and taped off the roof of this beautiful car. I looked at it, went away and had a cup of coffee, came back, and got the drill, and drilled the hole.» Director Guy Hamilton claimed the revolving number plates were his input, saying wouldn’t it be «absolutely marvellous to collect a parking ticket and then juggle the number plate and drive off.»
Q shows the rest of the gadgets to Bond in his lab and Bond goes on to use many of these throughout the film. He uses the tracking system to follow Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce, the tire scythe to disable Tilly Masterson’s car, the smoke screen and oil slick functions to help him escape Goldfinger’s compound, protects himself with the rear bulletproof screen and ejects a guard riding with him out of the roof.
The DB5 returned in THUNDERBALL, repaired after Bond’s crash in GOLDFINGER but then didn’t appear for another 30 years until GOLDENEYE. A version of the iconic car was also featured in TOMORROW NEVER DIES, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, CASINO ROYALE, SKYFALL (where was destroyed by Silva’s team) and SPECTRE.
You can see 007’s Aston Martin DB5 at Bond in Motion at the London Film Museum.
In Goldfinger, Bond is first shown walking through Q’s lab in the basements of MI6. The producers choose to show off most of the gadgets upfront. After seeing a tear-gas emitting parking meter, a machine-gun proof jacket, and a grenade flask, Bond asks about his car.
Bond: Where’s my Bently?
Q: Oh, it’s had it’s day, I’m afraid.
Bond: Well, it’s never let me down.
Q: M’s orders, 007.
Q: You’ll be using this Aston Martin DB5, modifications.
The famous gadget laden DB5 was introduced 22 minutes into the film, leaving the audience a half hour of anticipation, until all the gadgets were put to use.
Revolving number plates
The Aston came complete with revolving number plates, which Q mentioned were valid in all countries. However, what he actually meant was all the countries Bond would travel through on his trip to Switzerland, to stake out Auric Goldfinger’s headquarters.
The countries are United Kingdom (BMT216A), France (4711-EA-62) and Switzerland (LU6789)
Bond started his trip in London, driving South-East to Dover, crossing the channel to Calais in France. He then drove, following Goldfinger, through Rouen, Orléans, by Bourge, and finally to Geneva in Switzerland. Having a local number plate at each point would attract less attention.
After winning a golf match, Bond plants a homing device in the boot of Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce, and uses the reception dashboard to track the Rolls to Switzerland. The dashboard was quite ahead of it’s day, and was similar to a modern GPS mapping device.
Q: Reception, on the dashboard here.
Q: Audio-Visual, range 150 miles.
Bond: Ingenious, and useful too. Allow a man to stop off for a quick one en route.
The device, and it’s operation, was taken straight from the novel, in which Bond tailed Goldfinger in an Aston Martin DB5. In the novel however, Bond had more trouble tracking Goldfinger, taking a wrong turn to Paris, and having to backtrack to Rouen.
Arm Rest Controls
The drivers arm rest opens to reveal the DB5’s defense mechanism controls (as Q describes them). From top left:
- Oil Slick – Top left switch
- Smoke Screen – Top right switch
- Left/Right Front Wing Machine Guns – Middle switches
- Rear Bullet Proof Screen – Bottom right switch
Bond is tailing Goldfinger across the Swiss Alps, when he is overtaken by a girl in a Fort Mustang convertible. He begins to chase her, but then goes down a gear and slows down, retorting «Discipline 007, discipline.»
The beeps from his GPS dashboard get closer together, and Bond stops at the side of a road, not wanting to get too close to Goldfinger. At this point, Tilly Masterson, the girl in the Mustang attempts to shoot Goldfinger, but misses and almost hits Bond.
Bond spots her on the road a few minutes later, and uses the DB5’s tire slashers to destroy her car, so that he can get some more information. It isn’t clear which switch on the armrest is for the tire slashers, but it is presumably one on the second row.
Bond hides in the hills above Auric Enterprises, and waits until dark. While there, he spots Tilly Masterson with a rifle, and grabs her, thinking she might be trying to kill him. In the struggle, her rifle barrel touches against a wire fence, alerting security.
Bond invites her into the Aston, and uses a smoke screen to confuse the security men. The trick works, and one of them crashes into a tree.
The smoke screen manages to rid Bond of one of his assailants, but another security car goes through the smoke undeterred. Bond engages his next gadget, the oil slick, to shake off his other tail. The spewing oil has a red sheik to it, from the rear lights on the DB5. The enemy car skids on the oil, and runs off the edge of a cliff, exploding in the process.
Rear Bullet-Proof Screen
Having disabled two of the security cars, Bond approaches a fork in the road, and makes the wrong decision. He goes left, which leads to a cliff edge, and breaks just in time. As further security men approach, Bond has no chance to go back to the fork, so he raises the rear bullet proof screen to protect Tilly, and gets out to shoot them.
One point always mentioned regarding this, is that Q said the windscreen, side, and rear windows were all bullet proof. Then, why would Bond need an additional bullet proof bit of metal?
The answer lays in a later scene. Bond is trying to escape from the complex, and gets shot at by an old lady with a machine gun. The bullets begin to weaken the windscreen glass (see image on left), and Bond decides to swerve out of her path, to avoid further damage to the window. In short, although the rear window would withstand some damage, a solid iron plate would be more durable against constant fire.
Front Wing Machine Guns
Nearing the end of Bond’s chase through Auric Enterprises, he drives into another dead
end, and is tricked by a mirror at the end of his path. Seeing his own headlights in the mirror, he thinks it is another car, and engages his front wing machine guns to shoot at them.
Also visible in the picture on the left are the front extending over-rider rams, which aimed to protect the in the case of a minor collision.
The ejector seat is one of the most remembered gadgets from the James Bond series, and definitely a fan favourite from Goldfinger. But it was only a quick scene, and not overly impressive by itself. The real key was the anticipation. The audience was shown early on, back in Q’s lab, that the DB5 had an ejector seat, so everybody knew it was going to be used at some point.
Desmond Llewelyn had first appeared as Q in From Russia With Love, but he didn’t have particularly much character. When he came back for Goldfinger, he initially made the Q character respectful of Bond. However, it was pointed out that Q should be somewhat annoyed at Bond for constantly destroying his cars and gadgets.
Goldfinger was where Q’s character really came out, and the scene introducing the ejector seat is still considered to be one of Desmond’s best scenes.
Q: Now, this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here?
Q: Now, if you take the top off, you’ll find a little red button.
Q: Whatever you do, don’t touch it!
Bond: And why not?
Q: Because you’ll release this section of the roof and engage and fire the passenger ejector seat.
Bond: Ejector seat? You’re joking!
Q: I never joke about my work, 007
In Skyfall, the BD5 comes back and Bond is decided to use the ejector seat with the late M, Judi Dench where the car is destroyed by Silva. In Spectre, 007 and Madeline leave London with the DB5