50 Years of James Bond and his Licence To Drive

12 November 2012: As James Bond completes 50 years with the release of ‘Skyfall’, one wonders what makes Ian Fleming’s fictional character so popular. After all, it is the most successful movie franchise in the world and just keeps growing in stature.

Daniel Craig with the Aston Martin DB5 in ‘Skyfall’ (2012)

One of the biggest draws for audiences worldwide apart from Bond himself, have been his girls and his cars; and when we talk about 007 we can’t help but talk about his Licence to Drive. Even Bond knows that he wouldn’t be Bond without his exotic set of wheels. Some of them have been the most stylish and rare cars the world has ever seen and they have been extremely well integrated into the script. More often than not, it is his car that helps him woo a bevy of Bond girls with effortless charm and gets him out of trouble when he is caught in a hopelessly sticky situation.

Sean Connery with the DB5 in ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)

The car that is synonymous with James Bond of course is the Aston Martin, although there have been some other classic cars as well. Since ‘Dr. No’ which released in 1962, cars have played a pivotal role in Bond movies. The first Bond car was the Sunbeam Alpine, followed by the fabulous Aston Martin DB5 which made its appearance in ‘Goldfinger’ in 1964. The vehicle made an applaud worthy comeback in ‘Skyfall’ in 2012 adding a lot of chrome and retro chic styling to the proceedings, and it kind of accentuated Daniel Craig’s ruggedly sharp Tom Ford draped edgy character. The gasps in the theatre when the car makes an entry made it clear that it was much anticipated and a smart move on the part of the makers to bring it back. And the car looked breathtaking against the beautiful backdrop of the Skyfall mansion set amidst the Scottish highlands.

The Lotus Esprit S1 in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977)

The Aston Martin DBS was introduced in 1969 in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ followed by the Chevrolet Impala Convertible in ‘Live and Let Die’ in 1973. The Lotus Esprit S1 with its underwater kit that transforms the car into a submarine was introduced in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me‘ (1977) and was an object of much fascination the world over due to its high tech over-the-top gadgetry. In fact all of Bond’s cars are custom made machines with outlandish specifications, which have included machine guns, rocket firing systems, ejector seats, a cloaking device to make it invisible, and a host of other such stuff. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante in ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987) for example, had retractable skis and spiked tyres for skiing in snowy conditions.

Not all Bond cars have seen a successful outing though. BMW made an entry with the Z3 in ‘Goldeneye’ (1995), followed by the 7 Series in the 1997 hit ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and the Z8 in ‘The World is not Enough’ (1999). But clearly Bond and BMW didn’t go down too well with audience and critics.

Aston Martin DBS V12 in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
Aston Martin DBS in ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008)

Bond was reunited with the good old Aston Martin once again in ‘Die Another Day’ in 2002. In an unforgettable action packed car chase sequence shot in Iceland, Pierce Brosnon in an Aston Martin Vanquish chased the enemy in a Jaguar XKR and left the audience gasping on the edge of their seats. Even the Aston Martin DBS V12 in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006) was a beautiful piece of machine, and ably complemented Bond’s aura with its screen presence. The DBS also featured in ‘Quantum of Solace’ in 2008, but the movie itself was quite a forgettable experience and rated as one of the weakest movies in the franchise. And then came ‘Skyfall’. With Sam Mendes at the helm little could go wrong and this movie has given a new twist to Bond’s character. The DB5 was back and so was Bond at his best.

Aston Martin and Bond clearly share a unique relationship that makes the whole viewing experience quite thrilling and it would be futile to experiment with other vehicles in the future. Why fix it if it’s just so perfect? Clearly, Aston Martin emerges as the perfect ride for Bond. It’s a shame though that we have to wait another two years to see him and his next set of hot wheels.

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