The Aston Martin DB5 and James Bond are both icons in their own right, and bringing them together for the first time in 1964's Goldfinger was a partnership so perfect the car has appeared in the spy's stories eight more times in sixty years. It has to stop.
Full disclosure: This is an updated draft of an article formerly posted to BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com in March of 2015. The blog was deleted by the server host, so I'm saving any notable entries from the Wayback Machine and sharing what seems relevant here.
The DB5 is the ultimate icon of 1960's luxury - a timeless and elegant design that perfectly balances elements of its predecessors, while simultaneously leaping into the future. It's strong and smooth, like an athletic build in a perfectly fitted suit. It wants to be taken seriously, and is, but with hints of youthful excitement lingering just beneath the surface. It is confidence over the cockiness of other desperate contemporary designs. It doesn't ask for your attention, it charms it out of you.
When filmmakers began planning James Bond's third installment, Goldfinger, in their new blooming mega-hit film franchise they knew they wanted to go all out. They had put in their work with the first two films, and now it was time to have some fun. Looking at their source material, the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, James Bond drives an Aston Martin DB Mark III - but by 1964 it was an outdated model. The filmmakers went to Aston Martin with hopes for something new, and luckily for them the company was just completing its DB5. After a lot of convincing - and money - Aston Martin reluctantly allowed the film to use its original development cars, as well as a few production models for modifying the now famous gadgetry for filming.
It worked out great for both parties as Goldfinger immediately soared to heights of popularity the World over never seen for a film before, and a good-while after. They go together like the Beatles and earmuffs, a Dom Perignon '53 below the temperature of 38°F, henchman and deformities, or the 1960's and World domination. Starting with Goldfinger, the DB5 has appeared in nine of 25 Bond films over the last sixty years, and while that may not sound too ridiculous, it is slowly killing the iconical allure of the car.
The problem comes when you look at which films the car has starred in:
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Casino Royale (2006)
No Time To Die (2021)
Do you see the problem? From 1964 to 1994, a span of 40 years and 16 Bond films, the DB5 only appeared twice, and in consecutive outings. From 1995 to 2021, a span of 26 years and nine films, the DB5 has appeared seven times. That is a change from being in 12% of films up to 1994 and then 78% of films from 1994. The car is around six times more likely to be in a Bond film today than it was 20 years ago.
We need something new. There was hope with the release of Casino Royale in 2006. It was new; it was Bond's origin story. It was grounded in a modern world, with recognizable risks and real enemies. But the DB5 was still there. You could argue its iconography helped guarantee the success of a new Bond and it was inevitable, but it also reveals a hint of insecurity in trying something completely fresh, or just sticking to the newest Aston.
They stirred up the pot by having Bond win it in a poker match, unequipped with gadgets for now, and not handed to him from Q for the first time, or driven in ambigously from off-screen. It was a subtle wink to the audience, without throwing the car in our face desperately asking us to remember the good ol' days. The beautiful Aston Martin DBS was tasked for the real Bond-car work. It was a perfect blend of Ian Fleming's first story with the spy, and everything great we remember from the films - yet the film was still it's own, and did not rely on throwbacks to feel like a Bond film.
With 2012's Skyfall, it was the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, and fittingly the creative team behind the film went with a strong throwback vibe. I can not fault them for that. The entire final act of the film is meant to feel like it could take place in the 1960s with Bond in the DB5 at his Scotland estate, void of blocky buildings and an onslaught of modernness and technology.
This time it was almost exactly the famous Goldfinger DB5 - only the steering was on the wrong side. Ejector seat, forward machine guns and the rest of the original gadgets were back and in use just long enough to save the day, and then they blew the car into oblivion. I thought that perhaps that would be the moment we last saw of the DB5 in the Bond films - at least for awhile. But no.
While the easy argument is that the DB5 and the relationship with James Bond has only grown in value and iconography as time has gone on, thus growing the allure of the partnership, the statistics show a worrying trend that will eventually kill the influence the DB5 has on the Bond franchise, and on the public as a whole. It is the too-much-of-a-good thing predicament. Over-saturating new Bond films with the DB5 is a path of temporary enjoyment and inevitable destruction. Continuing to relive the golden days and not making the attempt to continue forward onto new iconography will eventually implode the creative process.
We know the Bond production team can shake things up and still be successful. The second-most popular car in the film series is a Lotus Esprit, which managed to make it into two of Roger Moore's films. There was even a throwback Lotus Evora mimicking the Esprit Turbo from For Your Eyes Only on sale just a few years ago.
There is the 1969 Aston Martin DBS from On Her Majesty's Secret Service that made an appearance in No Time To Die, and the franchise tried something new briefly with the prototype Aston Martin DB10 in Spectre. But they never committed fully to either, with the DB5 taking starring roles still.
When it was first announced that Aston Martin would be making a bespoke model specifically for Spectre it was huge. I thought - finally, something new - and I genuinely believed it had the chance to be just as big as the DB5 or Lotus Esprit. Putting Bond back in the DB5 anyway completely washes away any impact the new car has a chance of making.
Today we look back 60 years to the DB5 and its perfect fit in the James Bond universe, and we pay homage to its uniqueness and impact. But ask yourself - looking at the latest Bond films and culture in general, in 50 more years, what are we creating today that will share the same impact and admiration as the DB5 today? Will seeing the DB5 inspire the same reaction then as it does now? All we'll see is a glut of movies - a majority since 1994 - begging us to remember that time James Bond drove a DB5 and looked good. It's time to kill your darlings, both Aston and Eon.
"History is moving pretty quickly these days, and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts." The words of Fleming could describe a car. Perhaps the once-hero DB5's over-stayed welcome may begin to detract from the franchise it's history is so engrained with. Do I expect you to stop? No, Mr. Bond, but at the very least I expect you to try.
Then it was bought back in Spectre. And like so many of the decisions in that movie, actively works aginst sound decisions made in the previous ones.
But it did allow for the glorious NTTD Matera chase. So all is square I suppose.
I wouldnt mind the next 007 having it, but not immediately. Give it a 1-2 film rest and have him gain it in his third. Maybe have him find it at a villains base and pinch it.
I looked through B26 threads and didn't find much about the car. I looked for DB5 threads but the search function was difficult and I didn't remember anything specific. The disclosure states why this is lengthy, I updated a concept I was upset about back even in 2015, but updated post-NTTD release.
This can be retitled "What Should Bond Drive In B26?" If it's a better approach, since there is already a thread for who the new Q, Moneypenny etc. should be, who the next director should be, the next actor, etc. But I hope the main car is not a gadget DB5.
I don't think it's that controversial of an opinion to ask for some variety in my Bond movies.
The DB5 is of another nature, in spite of myself being struck (or should it be stricken?) by the lovely sports cars of the mid-sixties, when I first was able to admire those as a, say, 8- to 10-year old child. I still admire Mercedes 300 SL roadsters, Jaguar E-Types, and of course Aston Martins from the era. (Porsches, not so much, by the way.)
But in that regard, I fully agree with the OP that it has been overdone. First of all, the DB5s (that's supposed to be the plural) in the movies before SF do not pretend to be identical (though the general public will perceive them as such). Still they are, of course, being used as symbols that tie the franchise together.
The one that Brosnan uses (without any discernable gadgets) has the registration BMT214A. As I understand it, cars in UK keep their registration number forever. There must be a reason why the producers didn't simply put the GF/TB car's BMT216A on the one used in GE if they wanted to pretend it was the same one. Just because the original one was stolen and missing at the time?
The one that Bond wins in CR has left-hand steering, no British registration. and of course none of the gadgets that the Goldfinger/Thunderball car had. But of course it plays to the crowd's nostalgic feelings that Bond should have a DB5, even if he wins it at a poker game.
Then it suddenly breaks loose again in Skyfall. Bond reveals the DB5 with (GF/TB's) registration BMT216A, right-hand steering, complete with an ejection seat button, and which will later also shoot its way with its headlight guns before being destroyed. It surpasses my abilities for the famous suspension of disbelief to think that Q Branch could have converted the car won by Bond to this vehicle.
The reveal of the DB5 was a huge hit with the audience, whatever sense it made (i.e. none; I'm afraid). But it was worth it simply for keeping people happy for a while. I saw Skyfall on its first public day at the Odeon Leicester Square (we travelled to London specifically for the occasion) and a few weeks later in Hamburg. Those two occasions were, I think, the only times I remember a cinema audience actually and overwhelmingly applauding a scene. And I was elated myself, so I don't complain.
But they needn't have shown the car being restored in the Q Branch lab in SP, and exciting as the scenes in Matera were, they shouldn't have revived it for that. The same goes for the V8 Vantage, which may still have made sense in Dalton's days, but not in NTTD (although there without any "usual refinements"). The Vantage served well, though, in their attempt to elicit nostalgia for OHMSS, as did the reuse of "We Have All the Time in the World".
I hope that, unless they restart the Bond series as period pieces, the DB5 has now outlived its tenure as Bond's staff car. If any future Bond movie timeline is still taking place in the respective present, the DB5 has no place in it. Maybe they could show one parked somewhere just for the effect, but not as a real gadget in play here.
I suppose that this was why they upgraded to the Walther P99 in the Brosnan era, something they seem to have reversed in the Craig era with the return to Bond's traditional Walther PPK. While I do feel a real attachment to the Walther PPK as Bond's signature gun it is true that even Fleming had Bond use the Beretta .25 in the first books up to FRWL and he had Bond use heavier Smith and Wesson revolvers too.
In the long series of Bond continuation novels by John Gardner he had Bond equipped with such handguns as the Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum (in Licence Renewed), the Heckler & Koch VP70 (in For Special Services), the Heckler & Koch P7 (in Icebreaker) and the ASP 9mm for the novels after that. Gardner explained the real-world reasoning behind the replacement of Bond's Walther PPK gun in his first Bond novel, Licence Renewed (1981):
During the years when he had made a special reputation for himself in the old Double-O Section, Bond had used many hand weapons: ranging from the .25 Beretta - which the Armourer sarcastically dismissed as 'a lady's gun' - to the .38 Colt Police Positive; the Colt .45 automatic; .38 Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight; and his favourite, the Walther PPK 7.65mm. carried in the famous Berns-Martin triple draw holster.
By now, however, the PPK had been withdrawn from use, following its nasty habit of jamming at crucial moments. The weapon did this once too often, on the night of March 20th, 1974, when a would-be kidnapper with a history of mental illness attempted to abduct Princess Anne and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips. The royal couple's bodyguard, Inspector Ian Beaton, was wounded, and, in an attempt to return fire, his Walther jammed. That, then, was the end of this particular hand gun as far as the British police and security services were concerned.
Since then, Bond had done most of his range work with either the Colt .45 - which was far too heavy and difficult to use in covert field operations - or the old standby .38 Cobra: Colt's long-term favourite snub-nosed revolver for undercover use. Bond, naturally, did not disclose the fact that he carried an unauthorised Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum in a secret compartment in the Saab.
(Coronet paperback edition, Fourth impression 1985, p. 48).
I've posted a link to an interview with Princess Anne's bodyguard below, confirming the factual nature of Gardner's decision to have Bond use other handguns in place of the Walther PPK due to the fallout from the failed 1974 kidnap attempt:
As for the DB5, well....I loved its use in NTTD but generally speaking I agree that it's a bit played out at this stage.
I only have a very vague memory, but I think it was something like someone actually owned the 216A registration number at the time so they couldn't get permission to use it?
Why's that? Converting a car to right-hand drive isn't too hard to do, especially an older simpler car like that. I'm sure if you ask Aston Works they probably do that reasonably often. And adding gadgets to cars is kind of what Q branch do, surely?
Here's another Aston garage which does the conversion:
Converting RHD/LHD cars
Yeah I didn't mind it at all (I'd forgotten that Craig uses the P99 in CR as well) although I guess it's a bit big for JB's gun. I've no idea if they make guns that small any more though, I suppose maybe they don't.
Oh really? Do they still make them then?
I feel like it's done now. My total guess is that they'll move on from a lot of the iconography next time and just keep the key stuff.
Well, according to their own site, they still do :
Of course, the converse being, if it never leaves it is never missed. And the mundane wins out.
I owned a Walther G22 rifle for a while - unfortunately I had to get rid of it after bullpup style semi-automatic rifles were outlawed here. I bought it simply because it looked cool, so I guess I can understand why the filmmakers might stick with the gun that looks nicest on screen.
It's probably a controversial opinion, but I wouldn't mind seeing another make/model car come into the fray over the DB5. The BMWs in the Brosnan era weren't very exciting (or nice to look at) but I do like the idea of Bond driving a car that isn't massively beyond the realm of what can be bought by your slightly above average consumer - just with some added quirks.
Maybe one of the higher end Range Rovers perhaps... I can't think of many more.
The Walther PPK and PPK/S make sense in a casino or executing spycraft. In assault mode Bond just takes on a bigger handgun, I'm open to possibilities, plus still has the PPK in reserve. At the same time Walther PPS, PPQ, CCP and others are outright ugly creations.
As far as the PPK, when there's a more beautiful weapon available for OO7 to make his own I'll believe it when I see it. With the passage of time it becomes even more unique and special to Bond.
Or maybe there are other possibilities to modernize for today's audience like this (CO2) PPK/S.
Yes I was really excited by that clip of the Defenders and bikes doing those huge jumps down the hillside; I thought we were going to get a chase which was all like that, and which I've never seen before. But it just turned into James driving through a stream and bumping sides with some other cars.
Of course Aston have their own off-roader now so I would't bet on 007 needing a Range Rover! :D
I'd be inclined to agree if they hadn't been replaced by other weapons the world over in the last couple of decades. I'm sure there's politics involved; money, tenders, who gets what. But it seems that there are just better/more advanced weapons out there that can be easily concealed. But alas, this is fiction, and the iconography is worth it I suppose.
I actually have one of these (just minus the pink) and they are indeed great fun!
Not being very car/vehicle savvy, I actually didn't know that these were a thing!
I'd be fine with one of them making an appearance. They're very easy on the eye.