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James Bond's Motor Works
Bond is back - and driving a BMW V8-powered Z8 roadster
1 Dec 1999
FOR Bond fans the gadgets are as much a part of the scenery as the cool, suave secret agent's antics themselves. And no gadget is more keenly anticipated than the non-standard issue get-you- out-of-trouble motor car.
From Bentley to Aston Martin, Lotus to BMW, Bond had tried a variety of exotic and not so exotic cars which all share one vital trait. They are wheeled battering rams which despite their high-tech trickery turn into disposable flak jackets at the cocking of a machine gun.
Below is a report passed to us by Department Q, vetted by our internal security department. It contains many up until now classified secrets from beneath the bonnet of generations of Bond cars.
PS: This message will self-destruct in 20 minutes. Memorise everything, there will be a test at the end.
IN "Dr. No" (1962), James Bond drove a light-blue Sunbeam Alpine series 5 convertible which was permanently lowered when Bond drove it under a truck in his efforts to escape.
In "From Russia with Love" (1963) a 4.5-litre Bentley Sports Tourer appeared early on, similar to the vehicle author Fleming said Bond owned in his own right in the original books. Later in the film, Bond is chauffeured in a black Rolls Royce in Istanbul.
It was not until the third film, "Goldfinger" that Bond gained a tweaked set of wheels.
The Aston Martin era WHEN "Goldfinger" was published in 1959, Fleming provided Bond with an Aston Martin for the first time.
In the book, Fleming described the choice of vehicle: "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-barrelled 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." But the production designer, Ken Adam, and the special effects supervisor, John Stears, were still not satisfied. In 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 which distributed ignited drops of acetylene gas that discharged themselves in the machine gun barrels.
Smoke cannisters from the Army, 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 10 metres 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 about 46cm from the bumper.
In his book "Aston Martin 1963 - 1972," Dudley Gershon even mentions some additional toys, such as a small compartment with different hand guns, 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 (246kW), 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 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 the luxury car-maker ever had.
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.
At the 12th Tokyo Motor Show in October, 1965, a Toyota 2000 GT coupe caused a sensation. It had an inline 2.0-litre, six- cylinder engine and a top speed of 220km/h.
Two of the 337 (other sources say 351) Toyota 200GTs were seconded to Bond duty and were transformed into convertibles for the film.
The A pillars and the windscreen remained intact but the rear of the vehicle was changed completely. Only the bumpers and the tail-lights 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 had 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 colour television.
In "The Man With the Golden Gun" from 1974 a highly unusual jump occurred in the middle of the requisite car chase.
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 realise 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 Bond 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 - and specified the weight, since the car and the driver together had to weigh exactly 1460.06kg.
The distance between the ramps was equally inflexible and had to be exactly 15.86 metres. The jump-off speed was established at 64.36km/h. Seven tests were performed in advance.
Chase almost over, Bond drives into a barn and unfolds his flying car. The basis of the car was an AMC "Matador Coupe" model. With the flight tail unit, the complete machine was 9.15 metres long, 12.80 metres wide and 3.04 metres high.
In the film it flew from Bangkok to an island in the China Sea but in reality it could only go about 500 metres, so it was replaced by a metre-long remote-controlled model for some of the filming.
The Lotus era FOR the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me", Lotus managed to displace Aston Martin as Bond's transport of choice.
It was no co-incidence. Lotus deliberately put a new Esprit under producer Cubby Broccoli's nose.
A pre-production car was parked directly in front of the Pinewood Studios in London. The car had been left 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.
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 body shells 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" was nothing more than grey oatmeal that was squirted out of a truck 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. Perry Submarines of Florida transformed the vehicles: 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 70km/h. The vehicle was "manned" by dummies.
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. 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 1.5-metre 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 10 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 "re-breathers" (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 coloured smoke screen and mines. The diver actuated the triggering elements from inside.
When the Lotus moved to the replica of the "Atlantis" underwater 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.
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 20 metres of track was laid under water.
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.
For Roger Moore's fifth term as Bond in "For Your Eyes Only" in 1981, 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 $15,000 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.
The second Aston Martin era 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) travelled on the Portuguese coast and in England in a DBS model.
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 recognisable special effects whatsoever.
Two years later, in the film "Diamonds are Forever," another DBS could be seen, but only by very attentive viewers. It was being equipped with rockets in "Q's" workshop, but neither the rockets nor the car were deployed.
Timothy Dalton's first deployment as 007 turned out to be a major job for this British manufacturer of luxury cars. Two vehicles were used, one soft-top "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 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 60cm 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 the Aston Martin stayed on track on the ice. In reality, they could only be lowered next to the tyres. 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 "Octopussy" in 1983, Bond was driven around in a black Mercedes 250SE. The Benz 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. Later, Bond gets caught in a chase near the train station in Karl Marx Stadt, East Germany (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.
The BMW era IN 1994 "GoldenEye" was in preparation and BMW made two prototype Z3 roadsters available for the film. Despite the launch hype (the Z3 had not been unveiled even during the shooting of the film, so it was top secret), the small Beemer enjoyed only a few seconds on screen.
In the 1997 film "Tomorrow Never Dies" Bond's links with BMW were so strong the film was practically a moving showroom for the firm. Bond had as his personal transport a rather unlikely beast, a V12 7 Series.
Bond 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.
These scenes were filmed at Stansted airport in London, Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel airport, the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in London and in downtown Hamburg.
Later in the film, while Bond is handcuffed to one of the female leads, they flee on a BMW R1200 Cruiser motorcycle and race across the roofs of an Asian city. The scenes were filmed in Bangkok and in the Frogmore Studios in England.
In the 19th 007 film "The World Is Not Enough," BMW again contributed a new secret model, the Z8 Convertible.
Three handmade prototypes worth about $650,000 were supplied for the filming.
The special equipment list includes a remote control driving system and a hidden rocket-launcher hidden in the car's side vents. The car is cut in half by steel saw blades dangling off a helicopter, helping to maintain the disposable image of Bond's special vehicles.
And finally, here's the test we promised you.
What is the British registration number of Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger?
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