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Bond in Motion: 007’s 10 best cars

About the author

Christian Blauvelt is deputy editor of BBC Culture.

  • Aston Martin DB5

    For James Bond a car is not just a tool for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s an expression of personal style. Whatever he drives is as important as his crisply tailored suits and shaken-not-stirred martinis in projecting his sense of sophistication. And for the producers of the 52-year-old film franchise, 007’s automobiles are markers of cool that inspire aspirational fantasies everywhere. To honour their place in movie history, the London Film Museum will open the exhibition Bond in Motion on 21 March, which first ran successfully for two years at the UK's National Motor Museum. It is the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles ever assembled.

    Though he has driven many cars in 23 films, Bond’s most famous automobile is undoubtedly the Aston Martin DB5. With a polished silver-birch finish gleaming over a sleek magnesium alloy body, the car was an instant sensation when it debuted in 1964’s Goldfinger, as much for its classic-meets-futuristic design as for its complement of gadgets – including, most famously, an ejector seat. A DB5 has appeared in five subsequent Bond films, though one of the original models that included the gadgets sold for £2.9m ($4.6m) to the car collector Harry Yeaggy. (Alamy)

  • Aston Martin DBS

    The film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service introduced a new Bond – George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery – and with him came a new car: the Aston Martin DBS. It retained the wire wheels, side air vents and stainless steel brightwork of its predecessor but introduced a sloping fastback rear. It was a significant change and one appropriate for a film series that also was shaking things up – at the end, committed bachelor Bond marries Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) and the DBS is their wedding car. Then she’s killed in its passenger seat by a hail of bullets from a drive-by shooting. If only the car had bulletproof glass! (Alamy)

  • Mercury Cougar

    Like Bond himself, his wife Tracy is no stranger to the idea of a car as a piece of functional art. Her boxy, red Mercury Cougar is not only pleasing to the eye – with a trademark ‘electric shaver’ grille – it more than holds its own when Bond turns up uninvited at a grand prix and drives it alongside racecars in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There’s a reason Motor Trend magazine named it Car of the Year in 1967. (London Film Museum/Eon Productions)

  • Ford Mustang Mach 1

    Bond pulls off one of his most dazzling automotive stunts while fleeing police in a Ford Mustang Mach 1 in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. He drives the left side of the car up a ramp and leans to the right and the car rises up on two wheels – all the better to slide through a narrow alley. The car is capable of more than just tricks, however. It is sturdy, muscular and built for speed, with an aerodynamic design and dual hood scoops. It represented a shift for Bond from the sleek reserve of the 1960s as represented by Aston Martin to a more aggressive approach for the ‘70s. (Alamy)

  • AMC Matador

    The Man With the Golden Gun’s supervillain Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) makes one of the great escapes in cinema when his getaway car, an AMC Matador coupe, transforms into a getaway plane. AMC designed a version of the Matador for the film that could fly but only for 500m (1,640ft), so a scale model was ultimately used in the production. (Alamy)

  • Lotus Esprit

    A graceful, glinting wedge of a car, the white Lotus Esprit used in The Spy Who Loved Me still looks like the automobile of the future. Dubbed Wet Nellie, it turned into a submarine, allowing 007 to have an extended underwater adventure. The Esprit’s tapered shape allowed its submarine variant to dive quite easily, but its four electric motors only permitted forward travel. (London Film Museum)

  • Aston Martin V8 Volante

    The Bond movies went back to their Aston Martin roots with the introduction of new 007 Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights. The V8 Vantage, introduced a decade before as ‘Britain’s first supercar’ due to its 170mph (270kph) top speed, appeared in convertible Volante form in the film. In fact the exact car that appeared on screen belonged to Aston Martin chairman Victor Gauntlett. Q Branch later “winterises” the car with a hardtop, side-extending outriggers, spiked tires, lasers and rocket propulsion. (Alamy)

  • BMW 750iL

    Should James Bond ever drive a German car? Nearly two decades after the beginning of BMW’s product placement arrangement with the Bond producers that spanned Pierce Brosnan’s 007 films, the debate still has not been settled. However, the BMW 750iL from Tomorrow Never Dies makes a great impression. It has the heavy armour and missile launchers a secret agent would want, but Bond is also able to drive it remotely using a modified Ericsson mobile phone – foreshadowing a smartphone long before it existed. (London Film Museum)

  • BMW Z8

    The 750iL was a modified sedan that could take a beating. The Z8 was a true sports car – it had an all aluminium chassis and body – with a slightly menacing mien that made it look like a weapon on wheels. It also featured several novel turn-of-the-millennium features like neon tail lights and turn indicators. Bond shows off its speed and precision in The World Is Not Enough –until an industrial saw suspended from a helicopter cuts it in half. If you had a cool $128,000 to drop in 1999, the Z8 could have been yours. (London Film Museum)

  • Land Rover Defender

    You’re chasing suspected terrorists through the crowded streets of Istanbul. What vehicle to drive? A Land Rover Defender, of course. In Skyfall, Bond’s ally Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) speeds through the city and even keeps pace with a moving train in the off-road utility vehicle. Its resolutely boxy shape chimes with Daniel Craig’s sculpted, back-to-basics Bond – the Land Rover Defender is about getting the job done, not how stylishly the mission is accomplished. (Alamy)

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