The most iconic James Bond car, the Aston Martin DB5, first appeared back in 1964 in “Goldfinger.” In his look back at the film, Bob Westal discussed the car and all the gadgets.
No small part of the success of “Goldfinger” was the fact that it was the first film to really bring the gadgetry front and center. In this case, all those gadgets were mostly housed in one place — the world’s coolest automobile. So it was that Bond’s old Bentley was replaced with the more up to date Aston Martin DB5, as customized by production designer Ken Adam and efx genius John Stears.
An early example of the practice we now know as “product placement,” the Aston Martin company supplied a single car (another one was later purchased). As legend would have it, the auto was originally only to have a smoke screen device, but crew members began suggesting so many other nifty devices that James Bond becomes visibly irritated as Q informs him that describing them all won’t take more than an hour.
And what devices they were. Director Guy Hamilton had been plagued by parking tickets, so he was attracted to the revolving license plates that had been mentioned in the novel. Hamilton’s stepson suggested the auto-ejector seat that caused Bond to exclaim, “You’re joking!” There was also the bullet-proof windshields, the oil slick release mechanisms, and, of course, the left and right front-wing machine guns. Not technically built into the car as a practical effect, but created largely through the magic of editor Peter Hunt, the car also came equipped with a wheel-based tire-destroying device. That idea was a more or less direct lift from the killer chariots featured in the hit 1959 biblical epic, “Ben-Hur.”
The car was, of course, a huge hit with audiences and played no small part in the enormous commercial success of the James Bond series throughout the 1960s. Corgi’s model of the Q branch Aston Martin DB5 became the most successful toy of 1964 and one of the most iconic merchandizing opportunities of all time. (It was also maybe the first toy to be aimed at children from a movie containing material thought inappropriate for kids.) The Corgi DB5 was a key part of a worldwide merchandising bonanza that would prefigure films like 1977′s “Star Wars,” financed largely on the back of its built-in merchandising possibilities. David Worrell’s out-of-print 1993 book about the DB5 was aptly entitled The Most Famous Car in the World.
Business Insider recently did a post about the history of the Aston Martin DB5 in the Bond films, explaining how it started and then how it’s appeared in other Bond films. “Skyfall” is out in the US next week, and the Daniel Craig version of 007 enjoys the same vehicle in the latest film. Here’s a photo, and you can compare it to the Sean Connery photo above.