N o one could have predicted the fabulously successful multi-decade synergy that would develop when production designer Ken Adam and special effects man John Stears visited Aston Martin’s Newport-Pagnell plant in late 1963. The two men were on a mission to source a pair of the latest Aston Martin models for use in Eon Productions’ third adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, again about the MI6 superspy with a license to kill, James Bond. The film was called Goldfinger.
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Two near-identical cars were built and loaned to Eon Productions for filming, with each fulfilling various roles; one for stunt driving and chase sequences and therefore needing to be lightweight and fast, and the other for interior shots and close-ups, to be equipped with functional modifications created by Stears. As Desmond Llewelyn’s legendary weapons-master Q would go on to explain to Sean Connery’s 007, the Snow Shadow Gray-painted DB5 was equipped with front and rear hydraulic over-rider rams on the bumpers, a Browning .30 caliber machine gun in each fender, wheel-hub mounted tire-slashers, a raising rear bullet-proof screen, an in-dash radar tracking scope, oil, caltrop and smoke screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and a passenger-seat ejection system. Although never used during the film, the car was also equipped with a telephone in the driver’s door to communicate with MI6 headquarters and a hidden compartment under the driver’s seat containing several weapons.
The smash success of Goldfinger was also a success for Aston Martin, which saw DB5 sales surge to fuel an unprecedented level of production. The producers at Eon also took notice of the enormous appeal and potential marketing opportunities. In preparation for Thunderball’s release, the company ordered two more DB5 saloons, receiving chassis nos. DB5/2008/R, the example on offer at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale, and DB5/2017/R. The two cars were fitted with all of Stears’ Goldfinger modifications and were shipped to the United States for promotional duties for Thunderball.
Following the tour, the two cars were no longer required as the next two Bond films debuted with different, more current automobiles in the hero roles and, accordingly, they were quietly offered for sale in 1969. The cars were soon purchased as a pair by well-known collector Anthony (now Lord) Bamford, whose British registration for chassis no. 2008/R remains on file. The Aston Martin build record lists Eon Productions as the original purchaser, with the important designation of being a “(Bond Car)” noted. Bamford then sold DB5/2008/R to B.H. Atchley, the owner of the Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The Aston Martin was featured as the museum’s centerpiece, remaining in a pristine state of display for 35 years, receiving regular start-ups for exercise. In 2006, RM Sotheby’s (previously RM Auctions) was privileged to offer this very Bond DB5 for public sale, in a largely unrestored state.
Since that time, a well-documented, no-expense spared restoration by Switzerland’s esteemed Roos Engineering was completed. Roos Engineering is one of 13 specialist facilities whom Aston Martin have appointed as official Heritage Specialists. Not only were the chassis and body completely refinished to proper standards, but all thirteen of the John Stears-designed Bond modifications were properly refurbished to function as originally built.
The Bond DB5 will be on view at Sotheby's New York from 28 June through 31 July.