Don’t meet your heroes, they say. And there’s some truth to that: Were you to meet Sean Connery back in his glory days playing James Bond in Goldfinger, you’d find that the hair atop the suave secret agent’s head was as fictional as his license to kill. And were you to meet his Aston Martin DB5 on the set, you’d discover that the gadget-laden sports car was, in fact, two cars — neither of which was what it seemed. The car packed with the stunt gadgets, like the famous ejector seat and revolving license plates, was a static vehicle that never moved, as all the props made it too heavy; all the shots of Bond driving featured a stock DB5. (That car lacked any cutout for the ejector seat, because continuity apparently didn’t matter until the Eighties.)
But after filming wrapped, two more Bond-spec Aston Martins were whipped up for promotional usage for the next film in the series, 1965’s Thunderball — street-legal runners equipped with working versions of all those gadgets Q Branch stuffed into 007’s ride. (Well, with one or two exceptions, which we’ll get back to.)
One of those two cars — the closest thing one can actually buy to the most famous Bond car of all time — will be auctioned off on Thursday evening at RM Sotheby’s Aston Martin-centric auction in Monterey, California, as part of the annual automotive extravaganza surrounding the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Before that, however, Aston Martin and Sotheby’s brought the car to the auction house’s New York City headquarters to give the media a chance to scope it out firsthand.
This particular Aston was the West Coast promotional car, according to RM Sotheby’s, bopping around state fairs, movie premieres and other events. (Fun fact: It was briefly driven by Jackie Stewart.) After going on tour, it was bought in 1969 by a British car collector, Anthony Bamford; the following year, he sold it to the (now defunct) Smoky Mountain Car Museum of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where the car spent decades imprisoned in a wire-mesh cage to keep anyone from laying their greasy mitts on its sheetmetal. 35 years later, it was auctioned off to a private collector in Switzerland, then underwent an extensive, four-year restoration process to bring it back to its former glory.
It does indeed drive, though don’t expect to outrun any Ferrari F355s the way Pierce Brosnan’s Bond did in Goldeneye; all those fancy-pants gadgets add between 400 and 500 pounds to the car’s weight. But you don’t buy James Bond’s car to drive like James Bond; you buy it to show off all the cool gadgets built into it. The aft-mounted bullet shield rises and falls; hidden compartments in the tail lamps can spray tacks and nails (or whatever similarly-sized items you’d like) behind the car; the license plates do indeed spin between three different options at the flick of a switch. You can even pop the wheel-mounted tire-slashers out, should you want to go all Ben-Hur on I-95.
Sadly, not all the gadgets work as seen on TV. The .30-caliber Browning machine guns extend and retract from their hidey-holes, but perhaps unsurprisingly, they can’t actually spray hot lead into the traffic ahead of you. And the ejector seat is sadly incapable of propelling so much as a fly skyward — though the roof does indeed open as you’d expect.
Interested? Well, plan on forking over around $4–$6 million if you want to park this baby in your driveway. That’s in the same ballpark as the 25 DB5 Goldfinger “continuation cars” Aston Martin is making, which are selling for $3.3 million a pop. This car, however, has two qualities those cars lack: It’s street-legal…and, well, it’s an actual James Bond car.
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