The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 became an iconic classic car after featuring in the James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball. Ian Fleming released the James Bond novel “Goldfinger” in 1959. After the success of the first two Bond films, there was interest in turning it into a film. In the Goldfinger book, James Bond drove an Aston Martin DB Mark III. But the film’s special effects designer, John Stears, wanted something more modern. Specifically, the new Aston Martin DB5. Aston agreed, supplying a prototype built on a DB4 chassis. So the car in Goldfinger is actually a DB4! Here is why the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 is the most recognisable film cars of all time.
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Design that hooked everything
Gadgets had proved popular from previous Bond films, so to raise the excitement of the chase scenes the DB5 was kitted out with a variety of technological features to fend off Bond’s foes. All windows were bullet-proof, the number plates revolved, tyre cutters were built into the hubcaps. At the back, the car could billow out smoke, or produce an oil slick. There was a bullet-proof screen at the rear which is oddly redundant when the rear glass was supposed to be bullet-proof. At the front, the bumpers extended to become battering rams, and of course machine guns were hidden behind the indicators.
Inside, all the gadgets were controlled from the centre armrest. Also, a large display allowed Bond to track his enemies with a homing beacon. Finally, the gearstick hid a button to activate a passenger ejector seat.
Featured in the Goldfinger and Thunderball.
Two cars were used for filming – one for the driving scenes, and one for the special effects. The special effects car was also used in the sequel – “Thunderball”. Both cars were returned to Aston Martin after filming. But to help promote Goldfinger, two more DB5s were built with replicas of some of James Bond’s gadgets. The film was a great success, and the car became one of the first automotive film stars. With the increasing popularity of small die-cast cars, Corgi released a model the same year the film released. It featured battering rams, retractable machine guns, a rear bullet screen and of course the ejector seat.
Surprisingly it was painted gold, not silver, but this was because the silver colour chosen made the car look unfinished. Plus, gold was cooler and reminded people of the Goldfinger film. It was the toy car to have in the 1960s, and by 1968 Corgi had sold almost 4M of them. After created the special features for the DB5, John Stears would go on to create the flying car in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. The flying car in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, and would create not just Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder and lightsaber, but C3PO and R2-D2. He also created the Death Star, so we suppose he’s responsible for all those that died in the destruction of Alderaan.
DB5 story after films
Aston Martin held on to the two DB5’s until 1968 when they were sold. The road car – the one used in the driving scenes – had the movie gadgets removed. But just a year later the owner had replica gadgets reinstalled. It was sold again, and the new owner allowed it to be used in the 1981 film “The Cannonball Run”. Where it was driven by Roger Moore, in a tongue in cheek reference to the James Bond films he was appearing in at the time. The car was sold in 1987 but was stolen ten years later and has never been seen again. The gadget car – the one used for the special effects in Goldfinger and Thunderball was again stripped of its gadgets. The owner displayed it at various events until it got damaged, and he vowed to never show it again.
DB5 is now owned by National Automobile Museum in Holland
Aston Martin managed to bring the car out of retirement to be shown on their stand at the 1977 New York Auto Show. Aston paid for the gadgets to be reinstalled, and the car was a big hit, being shown again in 1981. It was sold in 2010 and the owner shows the car from time to time. As for the two publicity cars that were owned by the film company, both were sold for the bargain-basement price of $3,750 USD in 1969. By the 1970s one car had become the centre of attraction outside a Canadian restaurant. After changing hands again several times it ended up as a show car in a Jaguar dealership in New Jersey. After the dealership went broke it was sold again and is now in the National Automobile Museum in Holland.
The second publicity car was sold to the owner of the Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Tennessee. Where it was displayed encased in an iron cage until 2006 when it was sold again to a collector in Switzerland. Corgi has continued to sell James Bond’s DB5.
DB5 is an iconic classic car
The iconic Aston Martin DB5 has appeared in other James Bond films, as a nod to the classic films from the 1960s. It’s one of the most recognisable film cars of all time. Its first reappearance was in GoldenEye, as Bond’s personal vehicle without any of the gadgets, other than a champagne cooler in the armrest because it was the 1990s, a fax machine. The car appeared in the next film “Tomorrow Never Dies” and was set to make an appearance in “The World Is Not Enough”, but its scenes were cut. The series was rebooted in 2006 with Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale”. This time it’s the villain that owns the DB5, and Bond wins it in a card game.
Bond’s DB5 is spectacularly blown up in “Skyfall”, only to reappear in 2015’s “Spectre”. There is so much love for the iconic DB5, so there was great excitement when Aston Martin announced in 2020 that they were going to build another 25 of them. They would be fitting replicas of most of the gadgets. Well, they couldn’t exactly fit an ejector seat, could they?
The car, which because of the gadgets isn’t street legal, has a rotating number plate. Also smoke that comes out the back, jets that instead of shooting oil, shoot water, the bullet-proof rear shield that’s been built from a bullet-proof material. Of course fake machine guns behind the front indicators. They even included the large round display so you too can track your enemies, or help you get to the shops. This is why the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 is the most recognisable film cars of all time.