Aston Martin @ 100
When the brassy James Bond theme roars to life in a standout scene in “Skyfall,” it doesn’t occur during a rousing action sequence, but for the reveal of a car — the silver Aston Martin DB5 from 1964’s “Goldfinger.”Few films, other than the Batman franchise, have devoted so much screentime to a hero’s car as those that make up the James Bond series. And even in the Dark Knight’s case, his “car” is now something entirely different.
On film Bond’s had flings with other autos but he’s been more faithful to his Aston Martin than to any of his many female conquests.“We’ve used different cars from time to time, but we always do come back to Aston Martin,” producer Michael Wilson said in an interview while promoting “Skyfall.” Bond’s car had to live up to his expensive taste reflected in all his accessories: the suits and watches he wears, the hotels he stays in and the champagne he drinks. Ian Fleming had his suave spy drive a convertible Bentley in many of the books that were adapted for the bigscreen. But the Aston Martin has appeared in 11 of the 23 Bond films from Eon, more than any other car. Bond drives a DB5 in six of them. (Though Bond made the DB5 the most famous Aston Martin model, there were just 1,059 DB5s built, all from 1963-66). Other films feature Aston Martin’s newer Vanquish, Vantage Volante, DBS and DB9 sports cars. Roger Moore is the only actor to play 007 without driving an Aston Martin in the role, though he appeared in seven of the films. Moore’s Bond was mostly seen driving a Lotus Esprit, although Moore did get to drive a DB5 in the comedy “Cannonball Run,” where he riffs on his Bond past. James Bond’s various Aston Martins also appear in the “Agent Under Fire,” “From Russia With Love,” “Nightfire” and “Everything or Nothing” videogames — putting a younger demo behind the wheel of those classic cars, albeit digitally. The exposure over the decades has provided the British automaker with a halo effect, increasing the value of its vehicles among consumers — especially since the company doesn’t spend heavily on marketing. “Aston Martin is now synonymous with James Bond and undoubtedly this long-standing association has enabled us to achieve greater brand awareness globally, particularly in areas and nations where our brand is perhaps otherwise not as well known,” says Julian Jenkins, VP, Aston Martin, the Americas. Shots of Bond simply driving an Aston Martin aren’t what give the car its heroic aura, however. What upped the brand’s image was how he used the cars and their hidden gadgets, which have included an ejector seat, machine guns, rotating license plates, rocket and missile launchers, adaptive camouflage, spike-producing tires, tire-slashing spokes and lasers, heads-up display, rocket propulsion, bullet-proof glass and shield, oil slick and self-destruction. When the DB5 in “Skyfall” opened fire with its machine guns, well after the Bond theme proclaimed its entrance, it was the first time they’d appeared on screen since “Goldfinger.” “The DB5 was part of my boyhood, my generation’s boyhood,” said “Skyfall” helmer Sam Mendes, while promoting the film. Those iconic images of the Aston Martin in action have upped the price on vintage models as well. While a DB5 in good condition would cost around $650,000 today, one that was used in “Goldfinger” sold at auction in 2010 for $4.6 million, to collector Harry Yeaggy. Mostly because of Bond, the DB5 also appeared in “The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” where George Lazenby portrays a Bond-like character named JB. Models also appear in “Catch Me if You Can,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” and “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” — all as references to 007. Other carmakers have cast envious eyes on the sex appeal Aston Martin acquired by way of Bond and have elbowed their way into the act. In 1995, BMW inked a deal, worth an estimated $25 million, to have its lineup of cars and motorcycles appear in three of the franchise’s films — “GoldenEye,” “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The World Is Not Enough” — ponying up considerable placement and promotional dollars for the integration. Deal certainly paid off for BMW, with “GoldenEye” essentially launching the Z3 roadster. Naturally the films also packed gadgets into the cars, with the 7-series sedan controlled by remote control and the Z8 able to fire off missiles. He was back inside an Aston Martin in “Die Another Day,” when Ford Motor Co. took over the deal, helped along by payment of a hefty dowry of at least $35 million. Deal also enabled the automaker to spotlight its redesigned Ford Thunderbird, Volvo and Jaguar brands, which it owned at the time. Fords continue to appear in the series, but Aston Martin is now owned by the Investment Dar Co. of Kuwait.