As 007 goes female, one of James Bond’s most iconic cars gets a makeover

Jul 22, 2019
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Life inspires art, and then art returns the favour.

The gadget-filled Aston Martin DB5 that starred in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger led to the creation of a hugely popular diecast Corgi toy – you might remember the ability to fire a plastic passenger from the ejector seat – with Aston Martin Works admitting the model version played a significant role in inspiring the creation of what is basically a full-sized version.

“As people get older, so the toys get bigger,” says Paul Spires, Works’s president.

More expensive, too. Just 25 of these Goldfinger-spec ‘Continuation’ DB5s will be built, priced at £2.75 million (A$4.99 million) ex-works in the UK before taxes are applied. Oh, and one other thing: being entirely new from the ground up, they won’t be road legal.

There do seem to be some ways around such restrictions. Spires admits examples of Works’s first Continuation model, the DB4 GT, have been used in road-based competition events in some parts of the world. But for many buyers, the Goldfinger DB5 will never be travelling further than the end of their – doubtless substantial – driveways.

With development on the car ongoing, Works invited CarAdvice to its Newport Pagnell headquarters in the UK to see prototype versions of some of the gadgets the car will be fitted with. The plan is to offer everything the original film car was fitted with, but the challenge is making these work reliably and repeatedly.

Works has called in the expertise of Chris Corbould. The English special-effects wizard has worked on every James Bond film since The Spy Who Loved Me (apart from Octopussy), with other credits including most of Batman’s recent outings. He won an Oscar for Inception. He admits it took him “about a second and a half” to take up Aston’s request for help with the Goldfinger car.

The Goldfinger DB5’s arsenal of lethal gadgets all came from the mind of production designer Ken Adam, and some of his other credits include the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the war room in Dr. Strangelove. Original drawings show that some of his ideas for the DB5 didn’t make it into the film; he envisaged blades in the ends of the bumpers, and even sketched a hand grenade integrated into the top of a cocktail shaker.

But almost everything that appeared in the film will be on the new car: replica machine guns, an oil spray, a smokescreen, rotating licence plates and a pop-up rear bulletproof screen, even a version of the radar tracking screen. The only substantial omission from the list is the passenger ejector seat, reckoned to be not quite capable of meeting health and safety standards. The idea is to offer a “teaser” system, likely to give a substantial jolt.

Corbould’s team is working on the machine guns, oil spray and smokescreen, with prototype versions on display alongside the original DB5, which is being measured to help create the Continuations. He admits that creating effects that work more than once is very different to what he normally does.

“If we were doing an oil slick in a film, then we could fill the boot with equipment and put out about 50 litres in a couple of seconds,” he says. “Here it needs to fit into a much smaller space and has to work again and again.”

The machine guns are a serious packaging challenge, as they have to fit inside the front wings ahead of the front wheels. An electrical actuator slides a pretend barrel forwards and through a fold-down indicator bulb, with this then moving to give the impression of recoil from firing. Guns used in films typically have pyrotechnics, but the DB5 has ultra-bright bulbs and the noise of firing will come from loudspeakers – up close they look impressively convincing.

The oil sprayer deploys through the tail-lights with a similar active mechanism, although the system fires water rather than oil. The smoke screen uses a pair of commercial smoke makers, which work by passing a glycol solution over a heating element. As such, they are pretty much scaled-up vape machines, with Corbould joking it might be possible to add aroma to them.

We’re told the finished system may well incorporate a fan to better disperse the cloud, which managed to fill the viewing room in Works in a few seconds.

Beyond these systems, Spires admits there will be some form of central command system for the various devices. Meaning that, in addition to the period-correct switch panel that will operate them, it is possible there will be an external controller or even a smartphone app to allow owners to play with their toys while better able to see them outside the car.

The rest of the DB5 will be pretty much entirely original, using the same modern casting of the six-cylinder twin-cam engine that has been fitted to the previous DB4 GT and forthcoming DB4 Zagato Continuation models.

It will also breathe through period-correct triple carburettors and have no form of emissions control system; this is effectively the same DB5 you could have bought in 1964.

The official collaboration between Aston Martin Works and Eon Films that led to the Goldfinger DB5 is also a broad hint that we can expect to see the relationship continue into the forthcoming 25th Bond film; the production limit of 25 Continuation models chosen to link to that number. 007’s DB5 appeared in the last two films and is likely to make another cameo, probably alongside a considerably more futuristic Aston.

“There was a huge debate about whether we should blow the DB5 up or not,” Corbould admits, referring to its unfortunate end in Skyfall.

The Goldfinger DB5 might seem like a ridiculous indulgence, but it does celebrate what might have been the most important car in Aston’s history.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that without Goldfinger and the Bond connection, Aston might not have survived,” Spires says. The company’s sales increased dramatically after this hugely successful piece of product placement.

With Works committed to an ongoing series of Continuation models, it’s entirely possible that we will see other Bond-themed re-creations, too.

Are you a fan of the Bond cars? Which is your favourite?

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