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The Name’s Martin… Aston Martin: A Look at the Bond Cars

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This isn't actually a review of the new Bond flick Casino Royale, as such. I'm going to come at this from a strange perspective (as the title might suggest), so if you're looking for a 'proper' review , then pop over and see Dan's review of the film.

My review is not going to be of the movie, but rather it will be of – in my opinion – the real stars of the movie: the cars. For me, regardless of who's playing Bond, the automobiles are always the true stars.

Before you dismiss this as a bad idea, think about it: has there ever been a bad Bond car?

Let's go through the list, but here I will add a warning: it gets nerdy from here on in, so either be a fan of the cars, Bond, or ideally both, before continuing.

Bond's car in the Fleming books was not, as most people think, an Aston Martin. No, it was a 1930 Bentley Convertible, complete with a 4.5-litre supercharged engine. It was actually mentioned in the Casino Royale book as Bond's hobby. Fleming, however, got his dates wrong, as it's stated that he bought the car almost new in 1933, then in Live and Let Die states it was a 1933 model; however the 4.5-litre SC ceased production in 1930. Fleming later corrected his error in the Moonraker book.

When the movies were released, however, the car was given a starring role rather than just the sideline role the books had given it.

Possibly the most famous Bond car is the Aston Martin DB5. This appeared primarily in Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, and now in Casino Royale.

The car was also the one to introduce us to the Q branch of MI6. It was the car to receive the standard bulletproof panels and revolving number plates and the famous ejector seat.

The Aston Martin DB Mark III was used by Ian Fleming in the Goldfinger book. However the DB Mark III was not used in the movie, and was replaced with the DB5 above.

The reason for this was one of sponsorship. The DB5 was the car that Aston Martin had for sale in the early '60s, where the DB Mark III had gone out of production in 1959 to be replaced by the DB4/5.

You Only Live Twice did not feature many cars; instead the star of the motor show was the Gyrocopter called 'Little Nellie'. There was, however, a very special car featured in the movie, even if most people didn't notice it. Toyota actually built two 'one off' 2000GT Convertibles. These where the only convertible versions of the 2000GT ever built — one is on display in the Toyota headquarters in Japan.

The next movie brought back the Aston Martin. On Her Majesty's Secret Service saw a new Bond (George Lazenby), and it also saw a new Aston. The Aston Martin DBS was used by the Australian Bond. The car did not have a big part in either of the movies it featured in (it was also seen in Diamonds Are Forever). It did, however, steal the scenes it was in. The car was in the pre-credits, and it was also the car Bond got married in. Diamonds Are Forever also included the Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback.

The Man with the Golden Gun featured a reduced car lineup (in the sexy car stake, that is). There was the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, but the car that everyone remembers is the AMC Hornet — yup, the one that does the corkscrew jump.

The Spy Who Loved Me brought another one of the memorable Bond cars. Yup, it was the '70s and the first of the Lotus Esprits to feature in Bond.

This Bond car was the most Q'd up car yet. It was not only a mobile gun platform, but a submarine as well.

The next Lotus was the Esprit Turbo. There was actually two Esprits in this movie — Bond has the white one blown up (security system) at the beginning of the movie, and is then provided with possibly the worst colour Bond car ever, a burgundy Esprit Turbo.

Octopussy featured no Bond cars as such, however it is interesting in that one of the cars used in the movie (Bond steals it in a getaway) is an Alfa Romeo GTV 6 Quadrifoglio, rare and possibly the best Alfa of the period.

Timothy Dalton took over the role of Bond in The Living Daylights. In this he was equipped again with a Q'd out Aston Martin. This time it was one of the best sounding cars of all time, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante.

GoldenEye introduces another couple of names. Those names are BMW, Ferrari, and Pierce Brosnan. The Ferrari in question was a F355 GTS. In the movie Bond races Xenia Onatopp down a mountainside in his DB5. Now we all know in the real world Bond would not stand a chance. But the sequence is good, and shows off some nice driving. The movie also famously has the T-55 Tank chase sequence. The Bond car however was a BMW Z3; it was the first non-British Bond car, and is only actually seen in one scene of the movie.

Tomorrow Never Dies has an excellent scene with a BMW 750iL. Bond uses the car to escape the bad guys in a chase sequence inside a multi-story car park. The nice thing about this car is that the writers obviously realised that a German car for an English gentleman was not perhaps the greatest marketing choice. They were, however, stuck with it, having signed a three-movie deal, and decided to play on the "Germanity" of the car. The 750iL features a female computer voice with a very German mannerism.

The World is Not Enough featured the last of the BMW cars. This one was the BMW Z8 and also did not feature highly in the movie. This is the last time that Desmond Llewelyn takes the Q role. The car gets cut in half late on in the film.

Die Another Day brought Aston Martin back to the Bond car role. The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish is used in the last of the Pierce Brosnan movies. This car along with its sister the Jaguar XKR are used for some of the big segments of the movie. There is a great car chase on ice. The Jaguar is the bad guy car and has as many toys as the Aston Martin. The Aston however can cloak itself, and uses this to save the girl.

That brings us gloriously into Casino Royale. The star car of this show is again the Aston Martin DBS. However this is the new DBS, and is one fine looking car. It's based on the Aston Martin DB9, but where that looks pretty, the DBS looks purposeful.

The DBS comes to an unfortunate end in the movie, but by then has already stolen the heart of the petrol heads amongst us.

The car does not feature as a moving object quite as much as it possibly should, and is not as gadget laden (maybe) as some of Bond's previous cars. It does hint at a gadget laden underbelly though. The car after all saves Bond's life (twice if you count the fact he does not die in the accident). Aston Martin have stated that the DBS will go on sale next year, and although it will not be quite the same as the Bond edition, it will certainly keep all the important parts of this stars character.

The DB5 also makes a welcome return in a guest appearance, if only briefly; the old dear is still looking and sounding great.

There is one unwelcome sight, though. The new Ford Mondeo shows its face at the start of the movie. It's not that it's a bad car, or even that bad looking. No it's just that it's not a Bond car!

We all look back at Bond stories from the past 54 years and know that all the Bond cars have got that, well, Bondness about them. The Mondeo, however, will not hold up to that — in 15 or 20 years time it will just be an old Mondeo no matter how many shiny bolt-ons they put on the car.

That said, it's not in the movie for very long, and if the producers had to pay Ford Motor Corp to use the DBR by using the Mondeo, then it was worth it.

To the movie then. I would say it's a cracking Bond film, and all the Daniel Craig naysayers (myself included) have been proven wrong. He is a good Bond!

The book is well honored, even if it's all been updated like Texas Hold 'em instead of Baccarat. The torture scenes have come across well from the book.

There are some great action scenes — the parkour scene at the beginning of the movie is well done, and very cleverly shot, and the part is played by Sebastien Foucan, who is widely considered to be the father of the sport.

The little niggle in the movie was that the Sony brand showed up far too often. I don't mind a bit of product placement, but the brand was everywhere in the movie. That said Ford did a good job as well — not only was the Mondeo and Aston featured, there was Jaguar and Land Rover as well.

All I can say is, go and watch it yourself, it's a good movie. Long live Bond, and hurry up with Bond 22!

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