20 January 2006
1965 Aston Martin DB5 Coupe
- Chassis no. DB52008R
Sold for $2,090,000
282hp, 3,995cc at 6,000rpm, dual overhead camshafts, five-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 98"
“The Most Famous Car in the World.” Such is the title of the book (by Dave Worrall, Solo Publishing, 1993) that chronicles the electrifying Aston Martin DB5 which roared into the popular consciousness with the release of the James Bond epic Goldfinger in 1964.
No other car has so completely captured the imagination of generations of filmgoers. The Silver Birch DB5, and the purposefulness with which it was deployed, represented the perfect embodiment of the virtues of the character first launched in the Ian Fleming novels in 1953: stunning elegance, international intrigue, and the command of visceral power.
In 1963 Aston Martin was one of the world’s smallest and most obscure of automakers, producing only a couple hundred cars a year, with each example built by hand. Aston’s exclusive client base included some of the most discerning connoisseurs of grand touring automobiles, many of whom were attracted to the marque by its long history of sports car racing success. Rare when new, and with a price roughly double that of the exciting new E-Type Jaguar and commensurate with a Bentley, Aston Martin was hardly a household name. But that was about to change. Soon its new DB5 model came to rival Sean Connery as the star of the hugely successful James Bond film franchise, becoming an object of intense fascination to men of all ages.
Rewind to 1958 when the DB5 series predecessor, the DB4, was unveiled at the Paris Salon, and where it caused a sensation. A totally new car, its introduction was a significant achievement for a small British manufacturer. The specification included a completely new steel platform chassis with disc brakes all around, and a freshly developed alloy twin-cam straight six cylinder engine, all clothed in fastback aluminum bodywork designed by Touring of Milan around their patented superleggera (super light) construction process. Overall, the new Aston was state-of-the-art for its time, a masterpiece of robust British engineering in combination with exquisite Italian styling.
In its fifth year of continuous development, the DB4 had become slightly longer and taller, evolving into an exciting long distance tourer. Aston Martin then upped the ante in 1963, with the introduction of the now legendary DB5 model. Upgrades involved a larger, 4.0 liter engine and triple SU carburetors as standard equipment, resulting in a nearly 20 percent increase in horsepower (factory rated at 282bhp). The new car boasted many refinements such as twin fuel fillers, electric windows and a more highly tuned exhaust system. Plus, after the first 50 units, the ZF five-speed gearbox became standard, providing the much-needed longer legs for motorway driving.
For Fleming’s novel Goldfinger, the new Bond car - as chosen from the MI6 motor pool - was the Aston Martin DB MkIII, then the current Aston model, and the foremost evolution of the DB2/4. In the book, the ‘optional extras’ included reinforced steel bumpers and a pistol concealed in a tray beneath the driver’s seat. This is what inspired the film’s producers (Henry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli a/k/a Eon Productions) to seek a new DB5, which had just been displayed to great acclaim at the Earl’s Court Motor Show in London.
Asked for the donation of such a car, Aston owner David Brown at first had turned them down, responding that he would be happy to sell them one for the standard price of £4500. Incensed, the producers briefly considered the alternatives of upgrading the ‘Blower Bentley’ that appeared in From Russia With Love, a Jensen, and even a Chevrolet. But in the end their minds were set on the DB5 so they made yet another appeal to the Works, this time bringing along their well-known set designer Ken Adam and special effects guru John Stears to explain their full intentions: to make a star out of the car.
Eventually a compromise was struck, with the Works supplying a car ‘on loan’ to the film team. The chosen one was a somewhat shopworn example, chassis no. DP216, that started life as a fifth-series DB4 prior to becoming the pre-production DB5 test mule. Originally liveried in red, this car was featured in contemporary advertising and factory brochures heralding the launch of the DB5 (even then sporting the now-notorious UK registration BMT 216A).
John Stears, whose FX credits include flying cars from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Star Wars went to work, re-engineering the DB5 to accommodate the plethora of hidden gadgetry for which the ‘Bond DB5’ has become celebrated. Revolving number plates, Browning machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick and nail spreaders, plus the infamous Martin-Baker fighter jet ejector seat are but some of the special features provided to the superspy by Q-Division. Notably, Stears received two Oscars for Special Effects, one for his involvement in Thunderball and the second for his expertise on the epic original Stars Wars film.
The result created a worldwide sensation, for the 007 character, for the film franchise and for Aston Martin – the impact of which continues into the 21st century. Ingrained deeply into the minds of countless 14-year-old boys, the Bond DB5 image was commemorated on innumerable posters and in successive iterations of Corgi toy versions – their most successful model across several generations. Many of those boys grew up dreaming about owning the real thing…
There are four Aston Martin DB5s which can legitimately lay claim as James Bond cars from the period. The original, DP216, is known as the ‘Effects Car.’ This car was last known to be a part of a private collection in Florida, from where it was stolen out of a locked aircraft hanger in 1997. It is reported that an insurance settlement in excess of $4,000,000 was reached following the car’s disappearance. Many believe that it will never be seen again.
The second car, DB5/1486/R, was delivered to the producers in standard form and used in the films strictly as a fast driver (unburdened as it was, by the extra weight) and known as the ‘Road Car.’ 1486/R was later fitted with a set of gadgets installed by Aston Martin (which differed slightly from the engineering of the Effects Car), to take advantage of the global publicity juggernaut for the DB5.
(Ironically, when the Effects Car was returned to Aston Martin after its workout in Goldfinger and Thunderball, the gadgets were removed by the factory so the car could be returned to ‘civilian’ road use!)
For the worldwide debut of Thunderball, two more Bond DB5s were produced to order for Eon Productions (via their Swiss-based holding company, Danjaq S.A.) and ‘accessorized’ by the factory for promotional use. These were equipped with gadgetry to the exact same specification as Aston had developed for their own promo car, 1486/R. Known as the ‘Press Cars,’ DB5/2008/R and DB5/2017/R were dispatched to America, one to the East coast and one to the West.
With Thunderball onscreen in every town in 1966, the Press Cars were kept very busy with national and local appearances and a cross-country tour. Sears Roebuck took one of the cars on tour, housed in its own customized transporter, the rear panel proclaiming, ‘YOU’RE TRAILING AN ACTUAL JAMES BOND 007 ASTON MARTIN AUTOMOBILE – SEE IT AT SEARS!’
Mike Ashley, factory sales representative for Aston Martin, was given the job of accompanying the promo tour. “After delivering one of the first DB6s to Paul McCartney, I duly sailed to New York on the Queen Elizabeth. We appeared in most US magazines and attended the New York Auto Show as well as the Chicago Auto Show where we were joined by girls from the Playboy Mansion. A visit to Miami was next. While we were on a pallet being taken off by a forklift, we turned on the engine for the crowd and triggered the smoke screen. The press thought the car and plane were on fire – and some great photos resulted!
The highlight was the races at Laguna Seca where the DB5 was the pace car. I acquiesced to a mightier driver, namely Jackie Stewart, but had to remind him to beware of the left hand bends because we had the tyre cutter sticking out of the rear wheel. I got a great 8mm movie of him driving while I was in the back seat.”
By 1969, the Bond franchise had moved on to a new star actor and a new Aston, George Lazenby and the DBS, respectively. Their promotional utility past, Danjaq S.A. decided to sell the Press Cars, and both were quickly scooped up by Sir Anthony Bamford of Ashburne, Derbyshire for a reported £1500! Not more than three months later, Sir Anthony was offered a deal he could not refuse – to trade 2017/R for a Ferrari 250GTO!
2008/R was then road registered for the first time in the UK and used by Sir Anthony at his Midlands estate. In 1970 he put the car up for sale, at which point it was acquired by American collector B.H. Atchley, owner of the Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There it found its next and only long-term owner – until its occasion for sale at RM Auctions’ 2006 Arizona Biltmore Auction.
This car has resided on display, set within a wire mesh cage, as the primary attraction of the museum for the past 35 years. As such it has a well-documented ownership history with only three distinguished owners in total. 2008/R is also likely the most pristine original of the remaining three examples, having been untouched for the past three and a half decades.
An Aston Martin DB5 is a rare and desirable car in its own right. There were only 786 DB5 coupes built for an exacting and exclusive audience of performance GT aficionados. It was the natural choice for James Bond’s car, both elegant and powerful.
The offer of 2008/R presents a unique opportunity, not only to acquire one of the iconic models of its era, but one which is indelibly stamped upon our popular culture, and with a fascination that continues to this day. We believe the last time one of the cars was available via public sale was in 1986. Along with the car comes a thick history file with correspondence from Sir Anthony Bamford, supporting documentation from the factory, original logbook and owner’s handbook.
The astute buyer of 2008/R will obtain an important piece of history – indeed ‘The Most Famous Car in the World.’
– Don Rose
Editor Emeritus; The Vantage Point
Quarterly Journal of the Aston Martin Owners Club, North America
(with thanks to Dave Worrall and Mike Ashley)
The James Bond Aston Martin
From 35 Years Ago to Today
When it first arrived at the Smoky Mountain Car Museum, the James Bond Aston Martin was immediately put at the very front of the museum where it became the featured display piece. B.H. Atchley did something wonderful in putting the car on display – he ensured that the Aston would remain just as he bought it in entirely original condition.
There is no question as to the Aston’s authenticity as it retains nearly every feature it displayed as a promotional car almost 40 years ago. Over the course of the next 35 years the Aston would move only sparingly. It was placed on jackstands and protected by a four-foot tall iron fence bolted to the ground with chicken wire woven through the spacing. It was virtually impossible to even touch the car let alone move it out of the museum. It remained displayed this way until just months prior to the auction when the car was removed from the museum and sent to RM Restorations to prepare and evaluate the car for the January auction. Notably, the Aston was started and if not driven at least left to idle annually ensuring its proper mechanical operating condition.
Upon its arrival at RM, a thorough mechanical service was executed on behalf of the Atchley family. It was immediately determined that the Aston had survived the test of time brilliantly as it required only light mechanical freshening to make the car roadworthy.
True to form, the engine runs great, the gearbox is as tight and smooth as one expects on a well-preserved original car and the overall driving experience is nothing short of perfection. Driving the James Bond Aston Martin is exhilarating, like nothing else. It is ethereal in every respect; It can be likened to the experience of meeting your boyhood fantasy 20 years later and realizing she is even more beautiful now, than she was then.
Cosmetically, the Aston remains in almost 100 percent original condition. The Silver Birch paint has faded and shows some areas of more significant wear, specifically the driver’s side front fender and hood where the paint has started to bubble, and while there are minor chips and scratches throughout the higher stress areas of the car, it appears there is no evidence of damage or collision anywhere on the car. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the car’s overall preservation is the operating condition of the 007 features specified so long ago by the resourceful and ingenious “Q”.
Going to work on the car straight away, Don McLellan, Managing Director of RM Restorations, immediately determined that the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 would return to its former glory with little trouble. Accordingly, the revolving license plates were repaired to normal operation, as was the retractable bulletproof screen. The two front fender-hidden Browning machine guns, which are powered by a propane and oxygen mixture, were also restored and now work perfectly (to the delight of all of those who have witnessed them in action).
The extending bumper over-riders, which are hydraulically operated, also operate as intended, as does the nail ejection unit. The smoke screen and oil slick sprayer, both of which appear to have worked previously, can be easily returned to full operation; however, in the interest of safety it has been decided not to restore the functionality of these features. Lastly, the passenger ejector, which was replaced with a non-standard blue leather seat, will remain inoperable and in as-found condition.
The interior of the Aston, with the exception of the passenger ejector seat is entirely original and displays a lovely patina. The driver’s seat, console and door panels are all original and show some wear but apparently have never been redyed or required serious repair. The headliner is in excellent condition displaying no evidence of leakage around the removable roof section and is in need of no repair whatsoever. The interior “007 optional extras” are mostly operational including the center console weapon panel switchboard and radar tracking display screen with illumination. The mobile phone hidden in the driver’s side armrest, while ironically clever in its creation, is the original prop piece to the car and predates the contemporary version with a bit more panache and style. Lastly, the weapons tray, which is present, is missing the gun and hand grenade though the gun case is still present.
The James Bond Aston Martin DB5 offered here qualifies for a number of singular titles and all are correct. It is amazing to see something so beautifully preserved and untouched as it speaks volumes of its former owners and their fastidious care of the car.
The management of RM Auctions would like to thank Don Rose, Dave Worrall and Mike Ashley for their assistance, knowledge and considerable insight in making the sale of this very special car one of unquestionable authenticity.
RM Auctions is delighted and proud to have been selected to offer this car on behalf of the Smoky Mountain Car Museum and the Atchley Family. True to form, the opportunity to purchase what has clearly become the “World’s Most Famous Car” requires little explanation of its importance at auction. It goes without saying but one can only imagine the opportunities a car of such historical magnitude and importance represents for its next owner. Without question, this represents the opportunity to turn a boyhood fantasy for millions into a tangible reality for one that can be enjoyed exactly as it was meant to be.
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