Elegant secret agent James Bond is famous not only for his impeccable style, seductive charm, and deadly skills, but also for his legendary cars. Bond’s car has become more than just a vehicle over the years. They reflected technological developments, the evolution of design, and the mood of the times and became icons of their time. For many car enthusiasts and Bond fans, these vehicles represent the definitive Bond experience.
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1960s: The beginning of Aston Martin
James Bond’s association with Aston Martin began with the 1964 film Goldfinger. Dubbed “the most famous car in the world,” the Aston Martin DB5 was equipped with a variety of technologies including ejector seats, machine guns, and rotating number plates. Its silver birch hue and smooth shape became associated with Bond’s sophisticated image.
One of Goldfinger’s most iconic moments sees Bond chased by the villain’s henchmen through the winding roads of the Swiss Alps. With its shiny silver birch exterior, the Aston Martin DB5 is not only a means of transport, but also a weapon and a shield. As the chase escalates, Bond calmly activates the car’s hidden functions. Some of his pursuers are dispatched as a machine gun appears from behind the front sign. But the real highlight was when a henchman tried to outrun him, Bond cleverly used an ejection seat to stop him and send the shocked enemy flying into the air. This scenario not only highlighted the DB5’s iconic status, but also established the pursuit of Bond cars as a mainstay of the series.
1970s: Experimentation and diversity
Aston Martins remained popular, but in the 70s Bond started driving a wider range of cars. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the Lotus Esprit S1 created a stir not only on the road but also in the water. Nicknamed “Wet Nelly”, the car can transform into a submarine, underscoring the series’ penchant for innovation and fantasy.
In one of The Spy Who Loved Me’s most iconic moments, Bond is chased by a helicopter piloted by the deadly assassin Naomi. He rides along the coastal road in his sleek white Lotus Esprit, offering little protection from the air in the open countryside. After a series of heart-stopping movements, Bond steers the Lotus off the pier and into the turquoise waters below. But just when it seemed like he had met a tragic end, the car startled everyone, especially the bewildered onlookers on the beach. Lotus transforms into a fully functional submarine powered by a vortex of technology, its wheels folding away to reveal its fins. While Bond neutralizes the underwater threat, ‘Wet Nellie’ glides beneath the surface, leaving the audience in awe of the vehicle’s dual power.
Another memorable scene from the 1970s Bond films is the AMC Hornet in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). In a chase scene set in the busy streets of Bangkok, Bond hijacks a red hatchback. What follows is a thrilling chase that ends with an amazing stunt. Hornet performs his perfect 360 degree aerial corkscrew jump over the river and smoothly lands on the opposite bank. This stunt was performed in one take, demonstrating his era’s focus on practical effects and pushing the boundaries of on-screen vehicular action.
1980s: Returning to roots and embracing the exotic
The 1980s marked a return to the beloved Aston Martin with the V8 Vantage of The Living Daylights (1987). This vehicle combines traditional style with the demands of the modern world. However, Bond also drove a variety of other cars, such as the Citroen 2CV in For Your Eyes Only (1981), demonstrating the series’ versatility and unpredictability.
Iconic scenes from The Living Daylights unfold in the cold surroundings of Bratislava. Bond drives the powerful Aston Martin V8 Vantage as he pursues his enemies in a thrilling chase. Bond navigates treacherous roads and uses his car’s gadgets to outwit his pursuers. The V8 Vantage shows its mettle by deploying retractable spikes from its tires to increase traction on slippery roads and firing rocket-propelled grenades from the car’s ski compartment. But the most dramatic scene is when Bond activates the car’s self-destruct function, leaving his pursuers stunned and narrowly avoiding an explosion. Meanwhile, “For Your Eyes Only” follows a Citroën 2CV on a contrastingly hilarious chase through a Spanish olive grove. Its quirky appearance and incredible tenacity made it the focal point of the film, proving that any car in the Bond world can hold up well in the right hands.
1990s-2000s: Classic meets modern
The 90s and early 2000s were the perfect blend of classic and modern. The BMW Z3 in GoldenEye (1995) and the BMW 750iL in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) reflect the modernity of the times. Still, the return of Aston’s Martin DB5 in “Casino Royale” (2006) was a nostalgic nod, cementing its timeless appeal.
The BMW 750iL is more than just a Tomorrow Never Dies car. It becomes an extension of Bond himself. Represented by Pierce Brosnan, Bond demonstrates the power of technology in an exciting scenario set within a multi-storey car park by remotely controlling his BMW using a specially developed mobile phone. As enemies rush around him, Bond expertly controls the car from the back seat and uses the onboard gadgets to fend off his pursuers. From releasing tear gas to emitting metal spikes, the 750iL transforms into a technological wonder while in operation. The climax of this series is both thrilling and entertaining. Bond drives his car off the roof and into the rental car shop below, but he is never in the driver’s seat. This sequence embodies the fusion of classic Bond charm and his cutting-edge 1990s technology.
2010s and beyond: sustainable future and high-tech features
As the world became more environmentally conscious, so did Bond’s car choices. While the Aston Martin DB10 in Spectre (2015) offered a futuristic design, in No Time to Die (2021) the Aston Martin DB10, a hypercar pointing to a more sustainable future, It introduced Valhalla to the audience. These cars are equipped with cutting-edge features and represent the blend of luxury and technology that defines the modern Bond era.
No Time to Die is a thrilling chase through the winding little streets of Matera, Italy. Bond drives an Aston Martin DB5 while being chased by rivals in a state-of-the-art Jaguar C-X75. The old townscape becomes a battlefield, reverberating with the sound of engines and the screeching of tires. Valhalla’s sophisticated aerodynamics and hybrid powertrain come into play as the race heats up, expertly handling tight turns and rapid acceleration. But speed isn’t the only thing that matters in Valhalla. It also has many protection features. When cornered, Bond activates his car’s adaptive camouflage, making it virtually invisible and allowing him to elude his pursuers for a time. This scenario exemplifies how the Bond series perfectly blends aspects of old pursuits with futuristic technology, showing the advancements in car functionality over the years.
James Bond cars have always reflected the eras they have been showcased in, from the elegant and classic designs of the 60s to the high-tech and sustainable models of recent years. These cars are more than just vehicles. They tell the story of the evolution of design, the advancement of technology, and the changing dynamics of luxury and practicality. As we wait for the next Bond film, one thing is certain: Bond’s cars will once again captivate our imaginations and tell the stories of the times we live in.