Twitch in Bondage: Licensed to Drive

The James Bond films are nothing if not prone to expectations and formulas. Going into the cinema you expect to be thrilled, to see some spectacular action, some beautiful women, a halfway interesting villain, some funny gadgets, a cool car, and that's just for starters. The gadgets made a hesitant and plausible entry in From Russia With Love, giving Bond a small yet impressively tricked-out suitcase. But in the next film the scriptwriters gave him a tricked-out car which included some downright impossible options. It started a tradition: Bond and his opponents often needed a set of wheels which was up to their needs. It didn't always take the center-stage as much as the Aston Martin did in Goldfinger, and sometimes it paid to deliberately cross the tradition, but that just proved that any car became something magical once James was behind its controls, for no matter how brief a time.

Take the car in the stunt shown above this article: it is the AMC Hornet used for the famous "corkscrew" jump in The Man With the Golden Gun. That is pure magic right there! Sadly, it doesn't make the list below because while everybody talks about that jump, nobody talks about the car. Unlike the ones below: here is a list of some of the most eye-catching cars featured in 50 years of James Bond. Read on!


twitch-bondage-cars-1.jpegGoldfinger: The Aston Martin DB5

In the first James Bond movie that can truly be called iconic and cartoonish, the gadget department (headed by "Q") gave Bond a car which is quite possibly still his most famous one: an Aston Martin DB5. On top of being quite the looker this vehicle actually had more gadgets built in it than were used in the film. Some of its tricks were deemed too easily applicable in real life so while spurting oil at other cars was allowed, the producers decided that dropping nails from its bumpers wasn't. Thankfully the special effects department gave the car a few impossible tricks as well, like the extendable axles (for Ben Hur-ring the car next to you) and the ejector seat.

The car was a huge, huge hit with audiences worldwide and despite it falling into the hands of Bond's enemies, it survived, even making several cameos in the next films. A legend and tradition were born ...


twitch-bondage-cars-2.jpgThe Man With The Golden Gun: The AMC Matador Coupe

As said in the introduction, James Bond can drive a mean AMC Hornet when necessary. Still, he loses that particular chase in the film. Why? Because his opponent drives an AMC Matador Coupe with one hell of a sunroof.

If the corkscrew was the most talked-about stunt in the film, the flying Matador was the most talked-about gadget. People may not remember exactly what brand or make the car was, but they sure remember what it did. Bond's evil enemy Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) has a new top bolted on his AMC in seconds, changes his dashboard with a touch on a button and flies off to his secret hide-out, as easy as, well... Count Dracula would!


twitch-bondage-cars-3.jpegThe Spy Who Loved Me: The Lotus Esprit

Raise your hand if you owned this car as a toy (raise your other hand if you lost all of its rockets).

Without a doubt my single most favorite Bond car is the Lotus Esprit S1 in The Spy Who Loved Me. The film itself upped the ante for all Bond traditions, making everything louder, bolder, more spectacular. So what did they do with the car? They made it a submarine. One that does battle with a helicopter, no less.

As with the Aston Martin before it, the Lotus Esprit was a combination of special effects and a surprising amount of practical gadgetry. Implausible though it may seem, they actually transformed a real Lotus Esprit into a submarine vehicle for the film. They couldn't get it water-proof though on the available budget, so black windows were used to mask that the driver was wearing a scuba outfit instead of a tuxedo.

Lotus claims that in the decade after the film was released, they got at least one request a month from millionaires wanting an Esprit that could drive underwater.


twitch-bondage-cars-4.jpegFor Your Eyes Only: The Citroen 2CV

Like the Aston Martin before it, the Lotus Esprit brand stayed with Bond for a while. He even upgraded to the Turbo version, a speed-demon with which he could easily win the big car chase early on in For Your Eyes Only. Unfortunately for Bond it gets blown up (in one of the best car-related sadistic jokes in all of the Bond films) before the chase even starts!

So Bond is forced to drive one of the tiniest piece-of-shit mass produced vehicles ever created: the Citroen 2CV, affectionately known in several European countries as the "Ugly Duckling." The chase which follows is nothing short of awesome, Bond having to improvise as seldom seen in other films as his little yellow car has no speed, no power and no mass to push other cars around with.

Fun fact: this is anime legend Hayao Miyazaki's favorite car. It features prominently in another hilly European chase in his Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and his anecdotes of his own car troubles with it are lough-out-loud funny. Fun fact two: one of my teachers in high school owned one and it couldn't start uphill or when a strong wind was blowing against it.

Bad-mobile or not, with Bond behind the wheel it became a magic car. Several of the strangely charismatic little vehicles were destroyed for the shooting of the scene, but one which survived was proudly shown by Citroen in their famous Paris Champs-Élysées shop window. Riddled with bulletholes, muddy and with a headlight missing, it almost looked like ... a regular Citroen 2CV.


twitch-bondage-cars-5.jpegThe World Is Not Enough: The BMW Z8

And then things got remarkably non-charismatic on the car front. For the last 30 years the Bond films haven't lacked for stunts but Bond never drove a car really worth mentioning after having seen any of the recent titles. For a few films Bond started dating German car brand BMW, starting with the hugely successful BMW Z3 in Goldeneye, but while that car was hyped by "Q" in the film as having all sorts of gadgets, Bond hardly used any of them.

The rest of the Beemers were pretty "meh," to be honest, until The World Is Not Enough went into production and it became known that Bond would be driving a BMW Z8, the commercial version of the splendid-looking concept BMW Z7. What happened next, though, wasn't too funny for either the Bond franchise or BMW. Management at BMW was doubting whether or not to actually produce the Z8 and wanted to opt out of the product-placement deal, while the Bond producers wanted to hold them to the letter of the contract. In the end BMW did actually manufacture the car in a limited edition of a few thousand, but not in time for the shooting of the film. What they were able to deliver was a copy of the bodywork though, so Bond can be seen happily driving in a replica that as a car owed more to Chevy than to BMW. It's only in the film for about two or three minutes and its most famous scene involved a replica of the replica being sawn in half. Still, this was the first many people got to see of the BMW Z8 and Beemer fans were really excited about it at the time ...


After that, not much is worth mentioning. Bond went back to Aston Martin but the gadgets became too impossible just as the stunts became too computerized. A seamlessly invisible car? Puh-lease ...

The last two Bond films weren't at all about cars. Yes, one got crashed in a spectacular way but it never got the time to become a true Bond vehicle. Will Skyfall change that pattern? I hope not. I love the weird over-the-top Bond vehicles of the early decades but they belong to the comic-book version of Bond, where he is more a science-fiction hero than a spy. I love the new, more serious Bond as seen in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and would hate to see that new image diminished by introducing a car which becomes a time machine.

Still, please pull that Citroen 2CV trick again and have him drive another everyman's car to bits and destruction. I'd love to see that.

Any suggestions which car you would like to see used and abused by Bond? HAVE YOUR SAY!
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  • James Dennis

    The Renault 11 in A View To A Kill fits the 'everyman car driven to bits' - it even gets cut in half! Front wheel drive, it carries on regardless. Awesome.

  • Mr. Cavin

    I'd like to see that spy in a Lada Niva, speaking of time machines. Maybe in the desert? During a car chase in and around the Dakar Rally? Nice clever write up! Bad-mobile made me snort.

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