Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Top Five: James Bond Cars

In only a few short weeks, the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall (2012) will premiere in theaters nationwide.  I’ll be reviewing this brand new Daniel Craig, 007 film here on the blog on Tuesday, November 12th

But in the meantime, I’ve been celebrating the James Bond franchise’s 50th anniversary with several “Top Five” entries that survey various facets of the films, from villains to “Bond Girls,” to favorite title songs.

Today, I’m offering up selections for my personal “Top Five” Bond cars. 

Now normally I’m not exactly a big “car” guy.  That might change, however, if cars on the market today were to come equipped with ejector seats, lasers, tire spikes, and the like.

Also, my definition of a “Top Five” Bond car may differ radically from the norm.  For me, it’s not so much how hot the car looks that matters.  We expect a Bond car to boast nice lines, after all. 

Rather, my top five cars have been chosen because of how they are utilized in a particular film’s narrative. 

In other words, I’m looking at how the cars fit in, overall, with story, theme, and action. 

After all, doesn’t it get boring and highly selective to choose between an Audi 200 Avant and an Audi 200 Quattro, for example?

All that established, let’s get started.

5. AMC Hornet. The Man with The Golden Gun

Okay, I’m biased about this selection.  Myfirst car in high school was a used AMC 1973 Hornet.  So on a purely personal level I have tremendous affection for this less-than-stylish Bond car. 

Plus, in real life, the AMC Hornet was the only vehicle in the world that could make the film’s bridge jump successfully.  It wasn’t a Porsche.  It wasn’t a Lotus.  It wasn’t an Audi or an Aston Martin. 

Nope, it was a Hornet!  The car deserves some credit for performing an otherwise impossible stunt, which is why it makes the list.

4. Citroen 2CV. For Your Eyes Only (1981).

Another non-traditional choice, I readily admit, and it comes from my absolute favorite Roger Moore era Bond film.  This movie followed Moonraker in series continuity, and to one extent or another, For Your Eyes Only was all about “re-grounding” the 007 mythos after the space adventuring of the previous film (not to mention the slapstick shtick of Jaws…).   

Early in the film, Bond is on the run with lovely Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) when a bunch of goons bash the window on his expensive, tech-heavy Lotus Esprit.  The car’s self-destruct mechanism promptly activates, leaving Bond and Melina to a little yellow Citroen.  What follows is one of the best and most inventive car chases in the 007 mythos as Bond uses the Citroen’s unexpected advantages -- a small size, extreme maneuverability and even durability -- against his numerous opponents.

3 Bentley 4.5 Litre. Never Say Never Again (1983). 

Again, I must assume this is an unlikely choice for many Bond fans.  The Bentley in Never Say Never Again isn’t utilized in a car chase, and it features no gadgets whatsoever.  In fact, we see it only briefly as Bond drives to a health clinic.   

But this 1930s-era car still looks great and that’s the point.  Age doesn’t matter.  This was a metaphor, of course, for the return of Sean Connery in the role of a lifetime after a departure of more than a decade.  Connery was older, yes, and his hair was thinning.  But as Bond, he could still get the job done with panache.   “They don’t make them like they used to,” says a valet as Bond drives up in his Bentley.  “She’s still in pretty good shape,” Bond replies.  

And the same thing goes for Mr. Connery.

2. Lotus Esprit S1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). 

This car was to kids of the Moore Era of the 1970s what the Aston Martin DB5 was to kids in the 1960s Connery Era.  It was a fabulously “cool” car in appearance, but also one given a fantasy sheen in terms of its unusual capabilities. 

In this case, of course, the Lotus Esprit could double as a compact submarine, and was literally a transforming car.   Heavily- armed, and deadly on land or at sea, the Lotus Esprit is one of Bond’s all-time best cars.  The only point against the Lotus is that it is responsible for the death of Caroline Munro’s character, Naomi.

1. Aston Martin DB5. Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965).

This is likely the one car on the list that isn’t a surprise, I assume, since it has been termed “The most famous car in the world.” 

Today, we all recognize the silver Aston Martin DB5 is crucial part of the Goldfinger -- and Bond -- mystique.  That third 007 film is nearly perfect in so many regards, and introduced so many of the “core” elements of the series, from the slightly cheeky (but spectacular…) pre-title sequence to the soldier villain with the weird personal characteristics (Odd Job).   The Aston Martin is part of that equation.  It’s every kid’s dream car: stylish, fast and kitted-up with ejector seat, rear water tanks, rotating license plate, tire spikes, bullet-proof shield and more. 

In one way or another, this Bond car inspired every one that came after it.  If we dream about owning a Bond car, I readily admit a Citroen or a Hornet doesn’t cut the mustard.  But the Aston Martin DB5 likely tops every fan’s dream list.


  1. Anonymous10:44 AM

    John excellent choices in Bond film cars. I think that the jump that the AMC Hornet did in The Man With The Golden Gun earns it a position. That real stunt jump was greater than any I have ever seen on film or television in The Dukes Of Hazzard series.


  2. Great list, especially with the iconic Aston Martin DB5 at the top. I have to say, though, I'm partial to the cool Toyota 2000GT Roadster in 'You Only Live Twice' and the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in 'Diamonds Are Forever'. I wouldn't throw out the Aston Martin DBS in 'Casino Royale', either.

  3. What, no love for Bond's Ford LTD Crown Victoria from 'A View To a Kill'? It had a console full of Werther's and an antenna that could pick up talk radio!

  4. Another great and entertaining list! Great to see some love for "For Your Eyes Only" my favorite of the Moore films as well. And that car chase is a big reason for it. Bond gets to show off his skills and not rely on gadgets to get out of a jam. I also loved your comment about the Lotus blowing up Miss Munro. That moment always makes me cry. ;)

  5. Nice pick of the yellow Citroen. That whole car chase in FYEO is just so much fun!


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