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A Chronological History of the James Bond Film Vehicles

(BMW AG press release)
1. The Beginnings: English Sport Cars and Luxury Automobiles for 007
In the first movie, Dr. No (1962), Bond, who was played by Sean Connery, drove a light-blue convertible. It was a Sunbeam Alpine, series 5, from the 1961 model year. Bond was picked up from the airport in Kingston, Jamaica, by a taxi driver with a Chevrolet Bel-Air. Both cars were unspectacular production models, and therefore hardly worth mentioning. In From Russia with Love (1963) a 4 1/2 Liter Bentley Sports Tourer appeared right at the beginning – a car that was also a favorite of Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond novels. Later in the film, Bond is chauffeured in a black Rolls Royce in Istanbul. It was not until the third film, Goldfinger that a movie appeared that made an English sports car world famous.

2. The Aston Martin DB 5 from Goldfinger
When Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger was published in 1959, he provided James Bond with an Aston Martin for the first time. Prior to that, Bond had been driving Bentleys. In the book, he offered the following description: „Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the DB III. Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life. But the DB III had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque: these included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond’s front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barreled Colt 45 in a trick compartment under the driver’s seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive a radio station called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men." However Ken Adam, the production designer and John Stears, the special effects supervisor, were still not satisfied. In the autumn of 1963, they visited the Aston Martin works in Newport Pagnell, in order to discuss several modifications with a group of engineers. They chose what was then the fastest horse in the stall: a silver metallic Aston Martin DB 5 (silver birch would have been the factory standard). According to the script, Bond was to escape with the car and then defend himself with it. To make this possible, the following extras were installed in the vehicle with the license plate BMT 216 A:

Two machine guns that moved forward from behind the lamps for the parking lights. The gunfire was simulated: An electric motor distributed ignited drops of acetylene gas, which discharged themselves in the machine gun barrels. Smoke canisters from the Army, were fired out of the exhaust system to provide a smoke screen to the rear. When needed, a steel plate moved out of the tail of the vehicle to protect the occupants from approaching bullets. In actuality, it could not have provided any protection against a hail of real bullets. A license plate that could be turned electrically had plates available for Great Britain, France, and Switzerland. In the film they even said for every country, but only three were possible. The car also had tire cutters that could be projected electrically, but that was a special effects trick. They are similar to the chariot in Ben Hur, were welded to the wheel hubs, and turned in the direction opposite to the direction of travel. Nonetheless, it was not possible to make them project.

As an ejector seat, which catapulted an unwelcome opponent out through the roof, the car was equipped with a fighter-plane assembly, which was only installed for the corresponding scene, since it is significantly larger than a normal seat. For the other driving scenes, the normal equipment was used. The ejector seat was activated by a compressed-air cylinder and threw a dummy about ten meters up into the air. As for Fleming’s direction-finding device – the radar screen – they made do with an illuminated section of a map and a beam of light beneath a fake radio. There was an oil spray device behind the right rear flashing turn indicator. Another chamber on the other side was used to cast three-pointed nails onto the road with the aid of compressed air. Only a hint was given of the front ramming bumpers, which could be moved out electrically to a point approximately 46 cm from the bumper. In his book Aston Martin 1963 - 1972, Dudley Gershon even mentions some additional toys, such as a small compartment with different handguns, knives, and hand grenades. He felt that the whole thing made an impressive show, but the little box was not to be seen in the final film. Altogether, the car weighed about 300 pounds more than normal due to the numerous motors and other installed items, and the luggage compartment was relatively full. Nevertheless, the specified power output of 330 horsepower, which led to a top speed of 232 km/h, was hardly handicapped by this.

After it became clear that Goldfinger would become a huge financial success, and a flood of requests came to put the DB 5 on display, the company built two replicas of the car for promotional purposes. These cars had some additional equipment details. One of them had a telephone that was installed in the door on the driver’s side. It also had a special reserve tank and a very luxurious interior trim with antelope leather. All three vehicles (and two others which had been used during the filming) were exhibited at numerous motor shows and charity events; they turned out to be the best publicity-makers that the luxury carmaker ever had.

3. The Aston Martin DB 5 from Thunderball (1965)
In early 1965, one of the three vehicles was deployed again in Bond’s next appearance: Thunderball. During the pre-title sequence, it was allowed to again show its opponents what it had. The scene took place outside the Chateau d´Anet palace near Paris: Fleeing from shooting pursuers, the rear wall moved out and two pipes beneath the bumper poured a hefty stream of water onto the three approaching gangsters.

The Aston Martin DB 5 made further appearances in GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). For Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film, three cars with the license plate number BMT 214 A were employed in February 1995. They were used on the set in Gréolières in Southern France. In Monaco, there was then a car chase with a yellow Ferrari 355 GTS. In Tomorrow Never Dies the DB 5 makes a brief appearance. Scenes were created in London and on the grounds of New College in Oxford, England. The car is to continue to appear in the films as Bond’s private car, while his company car can vary depending on his mission.

4. Shooting BSA 650 cc Lightning Motorcycle in Thunderball (1965)
Motorcycles played important roles several times in James Bond movies. There are bikes in action in the films Thunderball, For Your Eyes Only, GoldenEye, and Tomorrow Never Dies, One of the most dangerous deployments took place in 1965 during the filming for Thunderball on the English race track Silverstone. There, director Terence Young staged an action sequence for the fourth 007 film. The script called for Bond (Sean Connery), in Aston Martin DB 5, to be pursued by Spectre Agent Count Lippe in a black Ford Skyliner. As the driver begins to shoot, a motorcycle suddenly races up from behind, fires off two rockets, which accurately strike their target – the tail of the Ford (which then begins to skid and explodes on the edge of the road). The motorcycle selected for this job was a BSA 650 cc Lightning. On each side of the full fairing, it hid two Icarus rockets that were triggered by an electrical impulse. They had a range of about half a mile. Special effects technician John Stears, who received an Oscar for his work in this film, installed four rockets which had been proved by artillery units. They were ignited by a 38-caliber cartridge. The rockets did not detonate until they struck the sheet metal. Two contained napalm, two contained black blasting powder.

5. The Toyota 2000 GT in You Only Live Twice (1967)
At the 12th Tokyo Motor Show in October 1965, a Toyota 2000 GT caused a sensation. It had an inline six-cylinder engine with a swept displacement of two liters and two camshafts that helped the car reach a top speed of 220 km/h. This was made possible by 150 bhp at 6600 rpm. Furthermore, the car featured excellent technical details: independent suspension in the front and rear, Dunlop disk brakes at the front and rear, and a five-speed transmission. By October 1967, 337 (other sources say 351) of these cars had rolled off the assembly line. Two of them were transformed into convertibles for the film. The front pillars and the windshield remained intact, but the rear of the vehicle was changed completely. Only the bumpers and the taillights were kept. In the film, the open two-seater is not even used by Bond himself, but rather by his colleague Aki, played by the Japanese actress Akiko Wakabayashi. Nevertheless, for those days, the car was equipped with revolutionary extras. In keeping with Japan’s reputation as a nation of technological enthusiasts, the car was equipped with the following electronic toys: a closed-circuit TV system (whereby the cameras were installed behind the license plates and recorded everything that could be seen in front of or behind the vehicle), a cordless telephone, a HiFi receiver, a cassette player that turned itself on as soon as voices could be heard, a video recorder in the glove compartment, and a miniature color television.

6. Flying Cars in The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974)
It seems unreal the first time you see the scene, but it was not a trick. Bond and Sheriff Pepper are following Scaramanga and his assistant Nick Nack. Suddenly, they realize that the bad guys are about to get away on the other side of the river. A broken-down bridge seems to be the answer. There are still two parts on each side, so Bonds sits back a bit, accelerates, shoots across the arm of the river doing a barrel roll, and lands safely on the other side. The idea came from the stunt show of a New Yorker named Jay Milligan, who suggested it to Cubby Broccoli for the next Bond film.

During the filming, Milligan supervised the scene. His driver, stunt man Loren „Bumps" Willert, took Bond’s place in the car. Six cameras recorded the moment. For safety’s sake, there were two frogmen in the water and an emergency vehicle and a crane were ready on site – but everything went off like clockwork.

A computer in the aeronautical laboratory at the local Cornell University (CAL) was fed with the data prior to the stunt. The institute works for the U.S. public roads authority and has all kinds of data on car crashes, road routes, flooring materials, and cornering techniques. Using the data submitted, the computer calculated the dimensions of the ramp, specified teak wood, determined the ideal car – an AMC Hornet hatchback special (AMC stands for the U.S. car model American Motors Cassini Coupé) – and specified the weight, since the car and the driver together had to weigh exactly 1460.06 kg. The distance between the ramps was equally inflexible and had to be exactly 15.86 meters. The jump-off speed was established at 64.36 km/h. Seven tests were performed in advance. The basis for the car that was capable of flying was also from AMC, but it was a Matador Coupe model. With the flight tail unit, the complete machine was 9.15 meters long, 12.80 meters wide, and 3.04 meters high. It was exhibited several times at motor shows. In the film it flew from Bangkok to an island in the China Sea, but in reality it could only go about 500 meters, so it was replaced by a meter-long remote-controlled model for some of the filming.

7. Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
At the end of 1975, the newest design from the Lotus company was presented at the Earls Court Motor Show in London – the Esprit that had been created by Italian designer Giorgio Giugiaro. The car not only impressed the automotive world, but also producer Broccoli, who found a pre-series model directly in front of the Pinewood Studios in London. The car had been parked there by a Lotus manager. Don McLaughlan, a PR man from Lotus, had heard that the preparations had begun for a new 007 adventure, and he wanted to make the car available for the production. Experience with the vehicles from other films had shown that the publicity effect was enormous. The works delivered two street-legal production vehicles which were only equipped with an additional piece of sheet metal beneath the radiator to protect the cars from the rough streets of the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, where these sequences were to be filmed. Additionally, six more bodyshells were delivered, one of which was sealed for underwater scenes.

On the winding Costa Smeralda, the Lotus is chased by a black Ford Taunus and sprays cement out of four nozzles located behind the license plate in order to blind the Taunus driver. The cement, by the way, was nothing more than gray oatmeal that was squirted out of a truck that was carrying a hose device. The Taunus (which was attached to a crane in such a way that it was not visible to the camera) then flew down the embankment and landed squarely on the roof of a house. A specially installed metal slide generated the effect.

Turning the Lotus into a submarine proved to be a great deal more complicated. Since the script called for Bond’s car to be universally deployable, the decision was made to equip several vehicles with different functions. The company Perry Submarines of Florida transformed the vehicles:


1. When the Lotus raced from the pier into the water, the crew used compressed-air rockets to accelerate the vehicle (which was guided with steel cables) up to a speed of 70 km/h. The vehicle was manned with dummies. 2. For the miraculous transformation to a submarine, a full-sized model was used. The wheels folded to the inside, fins and a periscope came out. The scene was filmed in the Bahamas. 3. The helicopter circling the submarine was a remote-controlled mock-up. Nevertheless, for the scene that can be seen on the car’s monitor, a real helicopter was hung from a crane on the pier in Sardinia. A surface-to-air missile was then fired from the submersible car of original size, and the approx. 1.50- meter model of the helicopter exploded. The movement of the Lotus under water was filmed with the original-size car. A diver hidden inside operated four battery- powered motors that allowed a maximum speed of ten knots. The film team wanted to ensure that the recordings did not include escaping air bubbles, so they performed different experiments with what are known as rebreathers (small devices that make it possible to breath underwater for a short time without making bubbles). Nevertheless, this idea was rejected because of safety considerations. The driver went back to wearing his normal diving equipment. The Lotus defended itself using torpedos, a colored smoke screen, and mines. The diver actuated the triggering elements from inside. 4. When the Lotus moved to the replica of the Atlantisunderwater station, a model that was made at a 1:4 scale was used again. At times it was remote controlled, at times it was moved along tracks that had been laid on the seabed. 5. For the unforgettable scene in which the Lotus pops up out of the water and drives onto the beach, a vehicle equipped with a marine screw propeller is pulled out of the ocean along hidden tracks. Altogether, about twenty meters of tracks were laid under water.

Mechanics, technicians, stucco specialists, and carpenters worked with stucco and wood for about four months for the entire sequence. Two camera teams, one of which was under the leadership of underwater specialist Lamar Boren, were then involved for the same length of time. The stars, Barbara Bach and Roger Moore, never saw the Bahamas. They did their fighting in the sealed car in the diving pool on the grounds of Pinewood Studios in London.

8. Lotus Esprit Turbo in For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For Roger Moore’s fifth role, the script called for two vehicles. First, on the island of Corfu, Bond used a white Esprit Turbo. When the bad guys tried to break into it, it destroyed itself. Then, in Cortina d´Ampezzo, another Esprit Turbo, this time with a copper metallic paint, was used.

Since the two camera teams on the island of Corfu needed the car at several points of the island at the same time, two white vehicles had to be shipped there. Additionally, a chassis worth about 16,000 German marks was delivered, whereupon it was professionally blown into bits. In January 1981, the same vehicles were waiting in Cortina d´Ampezzo. They had been repainted with the copper metallic paint. The interior trim with the top-quality, brown Connolly leather remained the same. The only change was the mounting of a roof rack for four pairs of skis. The antenna had to be taken off, since it would not have been good for the shooting, and the brake lights were disconnected – after all, James Bond never brakes, he only accelerates. At temperatures down to 18 degrees Celsius below zero, the car was only to be seen in two short scenes: once during the arrival in Cortina in front of the Hotel Miramonti, then once in front of the ice stadium.

9. Citroën 2 CV in For Your Eyes Only (1981)
A bright yellow Deux Chevaux, a Citroën 2 CV, performed some amazing tricks. From the outside, the boneshaker looked like any other of these French cars that sold millions and developed a cult following, but there were changes made to the inside for this special task. It was equipped with a Citroën GS powerplant, a flat-four engine with 1015 cc and 54 bhp (instead of the normal 29). To make this possible, the chassis had to be lengthened slightly towards the front. The transmission and clutch housings were modified, and a special support helped hold the clutch release bearing, which had been moved forward. In the end, car journalists were able to record a top speed of 164 km/h. As with the 2 CV Cross model, special shock absorbers were installed, and heavy-duty stabilizers limited the rocking movements typical for the car and prevented heavy tilt to the side. A roll bar protected the stunt men. Since the sound of the exhaust suddenly changed due to the special engine, a specially tuned exhaust system was added; it made the car sound like a production model. The seats had plastic upholstery; static seatbelts were installed.

Altogether, four identical models were used in the film. They had been prepared by the British Citroën subsidiary in Slough. The filming was done exclusively on the Greek island of Corfu, even though part of the action was supposed to be taking place in Spain near Madrid, and a bus that moved towards the 2CV was displaying a sign showing a corresponding destination. Thanks to the ramps that were installed, it was possible to film the jumps on the winding roads on the middle of the island. The rollover took place in the small village of Pagli.

10. The Aston Martin DBS Models and the V8 Vantage in The Living Daylights (1987)
After the great successes in Goldfinger and Thunderball, the Aston Martin models only played minor roles in the next films in the Bond series. George Lazenby, for instance, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) traveled on the Portuguese coast and in England in a DBS model. Nevertheless, according to the Aston Martin Owners Club, it was only equipped with a special engine that was installed in the Development Department; other than that, there were no recognizable special effects whatsoever.

Two years later, in the film Diamonds are Forever, which appeared in 1971, another DBS could be seen, but only by very attentive viewers. It was being equipped with rockets in Q’sworkshop, but neither the rockets nor the car were deployed. Nonetheless, Timothy Dalton’s first deployment on the 007 front turned out to be a major job for this British manufacturer of luxury cars. Two vehicles were used, one softtop Volante version and two hardtop cars. The convertible belonged to the man who, at that time, was the Managing Director of Aston Martin, Victor Gauntlett. The filming was done in Vienna, and in Stonor Park near Henley-on-Thames, England. For the winter scenes, the crew selected the frozen Weißensee in Upper Carinthia. Prior to this, the car was equipped with diverse extras, such as rocket drive (even though it was only a huge gas flame that gave this impression), steel spikes, and a device for cutting through ice. The latter was used to cause a pursuing Lada to break the ice and make acquaintance with the cold water. That scene was created after the fact on the artificial lake at Pinewood Studios, since the ice on Weissensee Lake was 60 centimeters thick in early 1987. Additional extras in the DBS V8 included the following: It could fire off rockets. A Heads Up Display appeared to show targets on the windshield. The decorative trim turned into snow outriggers that helped ensure that the Aston Martin stayed on track on the ice. In reality, they only be could only be lowered next to the tires. The retracting spikes and the wheel-mounted laser, which was used to cut apart a pursuing police Lada, were special effects that, like many others, were created in the studio. A ramp was built for a jump over a dam.

In addition to the Aston Martin models, two Audi 200 Quattros with stone-gray metallic paint saw action in Vienna and Morocco. A stunt scene with a Land Rover was staged in two parts, first at the end of September and early October 1986 in Gibraltar, and then in December of the same year on the cliff-lined coast of Beachy Head near Eastbourne in Sussex, England. Here, the Land Rover flew dramatically over the cliff and exploded during the fall. The scenes were filmed with 12 pictures per second to help the car speed up.

11. German Cars on 007 Missions
For many years, German cars have played roles in James Bond’s adventures. In 1964, for instance, black Mercedes 190 coupés pursued Bond’s Aston Martin in Goldfinger. A fleet of seven BMW 2000 CS models was used for the promotion of the film You Only Live Twice in 1967. In cooperation with the Hertz car rental company, women were flown in specially from Japan to drive the cars through Germany and Austria. In 1969, it was again a black Mercedes sedan that had to take the punishment as a pursuers’ vehicle with Irma Bunt and three other bad guys on board. Later, Bond’s wife was also shot from this car.

In Octopussy in 1983, BMWs, as well as Mercedes and a VW, were part of the action. Mercedes delivered a black 250 SE model, which was seen in two sequences. Driven by a chauffeur, the Mercedes crossed the border between East and West Germany at Checkpoint Charlie with Bond (Roger Moore) and his boss M (Robert Brown) in the back seat. Moreover, Bond gets caught in a chase near the train station in Karl Marx Stadt, DDR (the scenes were filmed in Peterborough, England) and escapes by spontaneously continuing his travels on railroad tracks.

To make this trick work, the special effects technicians changed the vehicle’s axles. When a train approached from the other direction, 007 left the interior of the car through the sunroof, climbed onto the roof, and jumped onto the train moving next to him. Here, Martin Grace doubled for Roger Moore. The Mercedes, which was left to its fate, is then flung into the air before landing in a pond. A ramp built for this scene created the effect.

12. The First BMW Appearance: Octopussy (1983)
In a chase scene on the Berlin Avus, the Police, who had 5 Series BMWs cars and a BMW motorcycle, are in pursuit of James Bond, who is driving a stolen Alfa Romeo on a breakneck ride through the streets of Berlin.

13. Bond’s Motor Works – BMW Equips 007
In summer 1994 GoldenEye was in preparation, and cars were an important element for its success. After the producers visited BMW’s design center in Munich, the decision was made to use the Z3 roadster as James Bond’s official car. It was the first German car that Bond drove as his official car. Important factors in the decision were certainly also the fact that, in the meantime, BMW had also become English – by purchasing the Rover Group – and that the car was produced in the U.S. plant in Spartanburg, which gave the car an international character. The common marketing goals were also important to both parties in maximising the appeal of the car and the film to all their customers. The agreement called for BMW to refer to the film in a world-wide campaign for the car from November 1995 through March 1996.

The agreement called for BMW to refer to the film in a special way in a worldwide campaign for the car from November 1995 through March 1996. This meant that BMW did not purchase a license, but rather became a marketing partner. No money changed hands between the contracting parties, since both had common interests, which were accomplished through what is referred to as cross promotion. The chief of BMW at that time, Bernd Pischetsrieder, confirmed this at the General Meeting of Shareholders, and Richard Gaul, Chief of Public Relations at BMW, supplemented as follows: We made two prototypes available for the filming. These cars are now back in our possession and can be used for exhibits. No money was paid; we never do that.

On January 22, 1995, the cooperation of BMW was officially announced at a press conference held for the start of the filming for GoldenEye in the English studios in Leavesden – which, by the way, used to be Rolls Royce buildings. Forty television stations from all over the world and approximately 500 journalists were present. A large, brown shipping container with a white & blue BMW emblem, which stood between an Aston Martin DB 5 with silver metallic paint and a yellow Ferrari 355 GTS, revealed the fact that the Z3 roadster from BMW would see action, but did not reveal the car’s appearance, which at that time was still top secret.

The car was kept in utter secrecy. Not a photograph became published, not even from the filming sessions that were done in public.

For the filming, BMW provided two handmade pre-production models. Additionally, there were transportation costs and accompany guards, so that no photographs would get into the hands of the press prior to the official premiere of the films and the car. The filming was done in Pinewood Studios in London and in Puerto Rico, which doubled for Cuba.

On November 13, 1995, the day of the international premiere of GoldenEye in Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Z3 roadster was presented to the press in Central Park by Q actor Desmond Llewelyn and by the star, Pierce Brosnan. That evening, twenty Z3s were available near the theater for curious eyes to examine. The car became a big success right away. There were also prominent people from the film industry among the customers, such as Alec Baldwin, who bought one for his wife, Kim Basinger; Madonna, who even bought two for good friends; and Steven Spielberg – he gave one of these white & blue cars to his 75-year old mother.

14. BMW Lives Twice in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Thanks to the large amount of attention that the Z3 attracted, both partners were interested in continuing the cooperation. This time, the screenplay called for Bond to rent a 7 Series sedan at the airport in Hamburg. He is briefed by Q, and becomes involved in a chase that leads into a parking garage. There he gets out of the car and guides it per cellular phone until it takes a long fall and lands at one of the car rental company’s branch offices. On April 23, 1997, the announcement was made in London that the Bavarians would again equip Bond with an official car. The involvement was actually in two parts. First, in the scenes from Hamburg, BMW 750iL models with aspen silver metallic paint are part of the action. These scenes were filmed at Stansted airport in London, Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel airport, the Brent Cross Shopping Center in London, and in downtown Hamburg.

The second part of the Bavarian participation involved the delivery of BMW R 1200 C Cruiser motorcycles, the first chopper that the company from Munich had ever built. With this ivory-colored bike, Bond and his ally Wai Lin (the Malayan actress Michelle Yeoh) flee from the press headquarters of media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). In this scene, they are chained to one another with handcuffs and race across the roofs of a major Asian city with this handicap. The scenes were filmed in Bangkok and in the Frogmore Studios in England. With a spectacular jump on the BMW motorcycle, they cross a street by flying from roof to roof.

15. Made in Germany – The Z8 is the New Sports Car for James Bond
In the 19th 007 film made by EON Productions Ltd., The World Is Not Enough, vehicles from BMW will again make a special appearance. One particular highlight will certainly be the deployment of the Z8 sports car, with which Bond – played for the third time by Pierce Brosnan, goes to the front. This time he drives a car with silver metallic paint, black leather interior trim, and a whole series of extras. The car has, for example:

  • a remote control and a perfect navigation system,
  • a hidden rocket-firing station in the car’s side vents,

All this can be seen beginning on December 9, 1999 when The World Is Not Enough is released in German cinemas. The filming was done in Baku on the Caspian Sea and at Pinewood Studios in England. Three handmade prototypes worth approximately 700,000 German marks were made available for the filming. Thanks to their high-tech equipment and explosive details, they ensure climaxes of intensive action in the most successful cinema series of all times and a successful arrival on the threshold of the next millennium.


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