Aston Martin DB5 at 50
The Aston Martin DB5. Possibly the most recognised car in the world, thanks to one less-than-careful previous owner, namely James Bond, oo7.
In the novel Goldfinger, Ian Fleming gave Bond the Aston Martin DB III to temporarily replace his usual Bentley. In this instance the vehicle was selected from the Secret Intelligence Service’s car pool. No Ford Focus for Bond this time, it would seem. In the novel, Bond chooses between the Aston and a Jaguar, feeling that there was little between them, but that Aston had the slight edge.
Ironically, this same decision arose during the pre-production of Goldfinger, when the producers were looking for a vehicle for Bond to drive in the film. The producers did approach Aston Martin, who initially turned them down flat. The alternative was the Jaguar E-Type, which was supposedly producer “Cubby” Broccoli preferred choice of car. However, Sir William Lyons – the head of Jaguar – refused to lend the production the three Jaguars “Cubby” requested.
Eventually, Aston Martin relented, allowing the production two vehicles – the prototype DB5 and ne of the early production models. This decision would change the identity of the marque forever, helping to create one of the world’s most iconic vehicles and forever associating Aston Martin with James Bond. Jaguar is still playing catch up to this day.
But what of this particular car that became so famous? In the novel, the DB III has a few tricks up its sleeve, such as a hidden gun compartment and reinforced steel bumpers, but nothing like the additional armament that production designer Ken Adam devised for it. The extras on the DB5 that had audiences gasping were truly the product of Ken’s fertile imagination, and much of the car’s iconic status in the mind of the public can be traced to his efforts.
The two DB5s that were used for the filming of Goldfinger were a standard production DB5, known as the “Road Car” (chassis DB5/1486/R), which was used for the driving and high-speed chase sequences. The prototype DB5 was to become the “Gadget Car” (chassis DP/2161/1) was used for the stunt and effects sequences.
It was the “Gadget Car” that first had all the modifications put into it – the “Road Car” initially was left as standard, only later being fitted with all the extras for promotional purposes and to capitalise on the films’ success – so it is this “Gadget Car” that is, for all intents and purposes, the DB5 that we associate with Goldfinger and James Bond.
This particular car has had something of a chequered history. After the filming of Goldfinger and Thunderball was completed, EON Productions sold the car back to Aston Martin. Astonishingly, Aston Martin stripped it of all of its gadgets and gear and put it up for sale as a “used car” with 50,000 miles on the clock. It was sold in 1968 to Gavin Keyzar, who had no idea that this was the vehicle that had been made famous by James Bond. As soon as he realised its significance, Keyzar designed replica gadgets and had them installed into the car capitalise on the vehicle’s cinematic history.
It was later sold on to Richard Loose and made an appearance in film The Cannonball Run, this time driven by Sir Roger Moore, who was the incumbent James Bond at the time. Later, this car would be driven by former Bond George Lazenby in the television film The Return of the Man from UNCLE. In the film, Lazenby plays a spy named J.B. in a not so subtle nod to the Bond films. Loose also owned the Rolls Royce Phantom III that driven by Goldfinger in the film. Loose sold the Rolls – along with the DB5 – in 1987 through auction at Sotheby’s New York. The new owner of the DB5 was Anthony Pugliese, a developer from Florida, who purchased the car for $275,000 US.
Sometime in the 90s, Anthony Pugliese had the car appraised at a whopping $4 million and had it insured for $3.2 million, not small change by any standards. So, rather than keep it parked up in his garage, he stored the car in a secure airport hangar in Boca Raton, Florida, where the most intriguing part of the DB5’s story takes place.
Late one night in 1997, in a covert mission worthy of James Bond himself, the car was stolen. In an event oddly reminiscent of the break in to Fort Knox in Goldfinger, the intrepid thief bypassed the alarm system, cut through the hangar door moulding and through the steel bolts. A truck was then used to pull the hangar door off its hinges and – as evidenced by the tyre marks – used to drag the DB5 away to a small cargo plane.
Since the theft, many have speculated on the DB5’s fate, but wherever the car ended up, it has never been seen since.
Not quite as strange as the fate of the “Gadget Car”, but almost as intriguing, is the story of the other Goldfinger DB5, the “Road Car” – the standard spec DB5 that had been lent to EON by Aston Martin for the driving sequences.
This car initially had no gadgets, but was fitted with the full compliment to promote Goldfinger after filming wrapped. However, upon its return to Aston Martin, this too was stripped of all its paraphernalia and resold as a used car in 1968. The mind truly boggles as to what the folks at Aston Martin must have been thinking.
This car was sold to an American named Jerry Lee in 1968. At the time the car was in a pretty sorry condition. However, it was spruced up by Aston Martin and went on to be proudly displayed in motor shows, until it was damaged at a car show in Memphis, Tennessee. After this, Lee vowed never to display it again.
However, in 1977, the chairman of Aston Martin U.S.A. asked Lee if he would allow the car to be displayed at the New York Auto Show. Aston Martin would pay for an overhaul and for the gadgets to be reinstalled. After some consideration, Lee agreed, and the car was displayed one last time. Lee now keeps the Aston in his house and has never publicly displayed it since.
There are two other DB5s that were used to promote the film Thunderball. These have their own stories too, the most interesting of which is probably that they were purchased by EON from Aston Martin for almost three times their road price, due to the fact that it was Aston Martin that this time put in all the gadgets. Obviously, EON had as much sense as Aston Martin, because it then sold them as a pair in 1969 to Sir Anthony Bamford (the chairman and managing director of JCB) for a mere £1500. Bamford traded one of these DB5s in a straight swap to a Mr. Luscombe-Whyte for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO – making Bamford the only man to own two Ferrari 250 GTOs – a car that would now fetch around $10 million US.
These two promotional DB5s have found various homes over the years, but it is the story of the original “Gadget Car” that holds the most interest. Where is it now? Well, the truth is that nobody knows. The insurance company paid out on the vehicle, and, despite an extensive investigation, it was never found. It seems to have vanished without trace. For all anyone knows it could be sitting in a private garage somewhere, belonging to a mysterious gentleman thief…
Check out more on the history of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 in David Worrell’s book “The Most Famous Car In The World”.
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