Although most James Bond fans would nowadays tell you that Aston Martin is the car brand of choice for 007, Ian Fleming always imagined the world's most famous spy driving a Bentley Convertible. Needless to say, over the years, more than one car brand was represented in Bond movies, but the Aston Martin DB5 remained the weapon of choice during more than one of the sequels.
In the very first movie from 1962 (Dr. No), Sean Connery didn't go over the top and probably nobody remembers that his car of choice was mainly a light-blue Sunbeam Alpine Convertible. A Bentley 4 ½ Liter Sports Tourer appeared in “From Russia with Love”, but it wasn't until the third adaptation (Goldfinger) that the most famous Bond car started to make a name for itself.
Interestingly, the Aston Martin DB5 wasn't originally cast by Ian Fleming in the Goldfinger novel. The “BMT 216 A” licence plate appeared on an older DB III model in the book, and was far less personalized than in the movie, at least according to this book-quote:
"Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the DB III. Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life. But the DB III had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque: these included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond’s front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barreled Colt 45 in a trick compartment under the driver’s seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive a radio station called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men."
Since the DB Mark III (the “Mark”particle was only added to distinguish it from the DB3, which was a race car) was built only until 1959 – the launch of the Goldfinger novel – the movie creators were forced to use a more up-to-date Aston model in the 1964 movie. Ken Adams and John Stears (production designer and special effect supervisor, respectively) visited the Aston Martin headquarters in Newport Pagnell in 1963 to choose a car and discuss what kind of modifications were to be made to it in order to look good in the Bond movie.
The fastest car in the 1963 Aston Martin line-up was the mighty DB5. The level of customization the older Aston had in the novel was nothing compared to the number of gadgets the producers insisted the newer car should have in the film. Having more firepower than a whole battalion carving a road through the jungle in 'Nam, the DB5's standard features consisted of:
- two machine guns that erected from behind the parking lights at the flick of a switch. The gunfire was simulated with acetylene gas set on fire in the machine gun barrels and ignited by an electric motor;
- the smoke screen fired out of the rear of the vehicle was provided by smoke canisters taken from the British Army;
- a steel plate risen on command would protect the car's occupants from any firepower coming from the rear;
- the license plate was actually a combo which could be rotated to show a different country plate every time. In the movie it is mentioned that all the country plates in the world were available, but only Great Britain, France and Switzerland were shown;
- similar to Roman battle chariots, the car had wire cutters fitted to the wheel hubs;
- the ejector seat fitted could catapult any unwelcome passengers right through the roof of the vehicle about 30 feet (roughly 10 meters) in the air. It was part of a real fighter-plane assembly which was only used for filming the corresponding scenes, since it was much larger than a regular car seat;
- the primitive navigation system introduced by Ian Fleming in the novel was only a make-believe component in the movie: an illuminated section of a map and a beam of light beneath a normal radio;
- a device which could spray oil on the road was located behind the right rear turn indicator (in Britain they drive on the left side of the road);
The movie was so successful that it turned out to be probably the most efficient publicity stunt for the DB5 and for the Aston Martin brand worldwide. The brand itself recognized this so they built two replica models of the car in order to put it on promotional displays.
With a water-dispensing gadget added to the rear, the now famous DB5 made another appearance in the movie “Thunderball”, in 1965. Although since then other gadget-filled-mobiles have appeared in the rest of the flicks that followed, the original DB5 continued to have brief appearances in “GoldenEye” (1995), “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “Casino Royale” (2006), "Skyfall" (2012) and "Spectre" (2015) therefore achieving automotive cult status.