Film director Sam Mendes was wrapping up a meeting at the studio of Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman in spring 2014, having settled on the car he planned to feature in his upcoming James Bond film, “Spectre.” On his way out, however, something caught his eye.
“What’s this?” Mendes asked, noticing a sketch of a car that, for all intents and purposes, didn’t actually exist.
Intrigued, Mendes asked whether it was possible to build the car solely for “Spectre,” which opens in the United States on Nov. 6. It was a tall order — doing so would mean creating the vehicle in less than six months. But this was Bond, and so Reichman and his team agreed, transforming the sketch into the Aston Martin DB10, the latest iteration in a longstanding Bond-Aston Martin union.
Like peanut butter and jelly, like Philadelphia and cheesesteaks, like Rob Gronkowski and whatever’s in the keg, James Bond and Aston Martin have long been intrinsically linked.
Since the Aston Martin DB5 first rolled onto the set of 1964’s “Goldfinger,” the British-based car company has become as much a part of the world’s best-known spy franchise as European accents and diabolical villains.
More than a prop, Bond’s car has been a bona fide sidekick, a four-wheeled associate that, over the years, has been modified to include tracking devices, machine guns, and ejector seats — all in the name of assisting its driver in an endless array of high-risk endeavors.
“It’s like going to your favorite pair of shoes, or your favorite suit, or for women, their favorite handbag,”
Reichman says. “You’ve got to carry a handbag, and James Bond has got to have an Aston Martin.”
The earliest instance of Bond’s penchant for the brand is believed to be Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel “Goldfinger,” the seventh book in the author’s Bond series. In it, Bond settles behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB Mark III as he goes about the business of tracking a suspected gold thief.
Five years later, an Aston Martin found its way into the film adaptation, and, in the years since, the cars have regularly appeared on-screen.
Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, even Timothy Dalton — all have gripped the wheel of an Aston Martin while taking their turn at Bond. (Roger Moore reportedly never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film, though according to a 2014 Autoblog post, he did slip into a Ford LTD in 1985’s “A View to a Kill.” Yep, a Ford LTD.)
Still, Murray Gillespie, an “007” film historian and collector, admits, “It’s hard to imagine Bond driving anything but an Aston Martin.”
To those familiar with the United Kingdom luxury brand, the Bond-Aston Martin union is a natural one. It stands to reason that Bond, the kind of fellow accustomed to a certain level of, er, hedonism, would find himself behind the wheel of one of the world’s hautest automobiles.
“An Aston Martin is certainly a status symbol in the UK, and overseas,” e-mailed James Chapman, a professor of film studies at the University of Leicester and widely considered a leading authority on all matters Bond.
“The classic Aston Martins were expensive — therefore indicating that one had money — but also elegant, therefore indicating taste and class.”
(They’re not exactly budget priced now: The smallish 2015 V-8 Vantage coupe boasts an MSRP of almost $124,000, according to Car and Driver, and that’s on the low side for the brand.)
As the film’s release approaches, interest in Bond’s vehicular arsenal hasn’t been limited to enthusiasts.
At the London Film Museum, a current exhibition titled “Bond in Motion” highlights various vehicles piloted by Bond through the years, including “the archetypal Bond car, the Aston Martin DB5.” The exhibition, which has been billed as the largest official collection of original Bond vehicles ever assembled in London, was recently extended because of its popularity.
Creating the vehicle in which James Bond will be tooling around can be a pressure-packed exercise — as Dave Calhoun noted in an article that appeared in Aston Martin magazine, they must be “attractive on the surface, but deadly beneath the bonnet.” In imagining the DB10 for “Spectre,” Reichman and his team set about making sure it reflected the man who’d be driving it.
“I wanted the car to have [Bond’s] gentlemanly but assertive nature,”
Reichman said. “It does have this shark-like feeling. It’s very predatory. It’s beautiful, but there’s something very menacing, as well.”
Indeed, the DB10 is a Bond-ian mix of elegance and performance. Armed with a V8 engine, it is capable of going 170 miles per hour and can go from zero to 60 in a little more than four seconds. And with only 10 copies of the car in existence — all made solely for “Spectre” — it has the distinction of being the first Aston Martin to appear in a Bond film while not being made available for public purchase.
For the most well-heeled Bond fans, Aston Martin announced recently that it will produce a special Bond-inspired model, called the DB9 GT Bond Edition. Only 150 of the cars will be made, and they will feature such niceties as embroidered gun-barrel decals and door-sill plates with the “007” logo.
The car, which has since sold out, didn’t come cheap — reportedly retailing for more than $230,000. Fans of 007 will surely appreciate the tie-in of another longstanding Bond staple: An Omega wristwatch comes complimentary with each vehicle.
Dugan Arnett can be reached at email@example.com.