My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

By Sean Hollister on at

I grew up with James Bond. That’s not really an exaggeration. I remember proudly telling my babysitter I’d been watching the films for years. My favourite parts: the chase scenes. So when I took a trip to London last month and discovered Bond in Motion, a museum exhibit filled with actual Bond vehicles, I drooled a bit. And then I started snapping pictures.

If you’re a Bond fan, you should really go check it out yourself. There’s nothing quite like being an arm’s length away from your favourite films. By the time you get there, it might even have some vehicles from SPECTRE, the new Bond film coming this fall.

But if you can’t make it to London quite yet—or if you need some more convincing—perhaps a few of my favourite pictures will do the trick.

Goldfinger’s 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The first car you see when you enter the gallery, and the oldest, too. Used in Goldfinger (1964), but the vehicle was built decades earlier.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The car itself was a huge plot point in the movie: its powerful V12 engine, designed to carry the Phantom III’s immense 7,700 lb weight, let Goldfinger use it to smuggle tonnes of gold disguised as parts of the car’s chassis.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

That’s license plate AU1, not AUI. Au is the symbol for gold on the periodic table. Here’s a clip from the movie featuring the car. More info at JamesBondLifestyle.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Aston Martin DB5

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Bond car that started it all. Well, kind of. In the books, Bond drove a Bentley, and Sean Connery drives an Alpine Sunbeam in the first film. But when it comes to a movie car bristling with amazing gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (1964) started the trend.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Except this Aston Martin DB5 isn’t the original car from Goldfinger, either. That one was stolen from an airport hangar in 1997—a mystery to this day. This is the one used in Goldeneye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

While pop-out machine guns and a rear bullet shield made it to the silver screen, other gadgets didn’t. Did you know the DB5 was supposed to have bladed bumpers and a search light?

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The timeless car keeps showing up in Bond films too, for better or for worse. Here’s one of the exquisitly-detailed 3D-printed miniature versions that were used in Skyfall.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Back to the real car. These beauties can be worth $1.5 million even if they aren’t associated with a Bond film, which makes it all the more tragic when they get destroyed. The other Goldfinger car—used at promotional events to show off the gadgets—regularly changes hands for several million at auction.

Fun fact: before Goldfinger, the original James Bond DB5 was dark red—not grey. Not that you’d be able to tell in the black-and-white TV episode where it first appeared.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Lotus Esprit S1

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Yes, the greatest moment in car gadget history: the Lotus Esprit that transformed into a submarine. From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

So many amazing stories surround this car. Like how Lotus pulled off a marketing coup by seducing the film execs with its raw beauty. Or how Lotus needed to provide their own driver because the car had too much grip to slide.

Or how a blue collar worker paid a couple of quid for a storage unit—sight unseen—and found the working Bond submarine inside. Or how Elon Musk (yes that Elon Musk) bought it at auction and promised to make it transform for real.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

It doesn’t look like this Lotus sub is the same one Musk bought, though. According to JamesBondLifestyle, this is the one that totally wrecks a helicopter with an underwater missile. You’ll also find a Lotus Esprit in For Your Eyes Only (1981).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Little Nellie

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

This isn’t a prop. It’s not a miniature model suspended by wires for the film. The famous Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice (1967) is an actual working Wallis WA-116 gyrocopter—designed by British aviator Ken Wallis and flown by him in the film.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

While the machine guns, rockets, missiles, and flamethrowers might be fake, this tiny autogyro’s performance was not. It could fly at speeds up to 130 miles per hour and climb roughly 2.5 miles above the ground.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

In 2002, Wallis became one of the oldest pilots to set an aviation world record, at the age of 89, in one of the autogyros he built. He died just two years ago.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Some of the storyboards for Little Nellie’s sequences in the film.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Bell-Textron Jetpack, aka the Rocket Belt

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Okay, this one’s just a prop. But only because the London Film Museum hasn’t yet got its hands on the real one. No joke—this prop from Die Another Day (2002) is based on the actual working jetpack from 1965’s Thunderball. No cranes, no wires, just actual thrust from a mix of nitrogen and hydrogen peroxide.

The Bell Rocket Belt was shown off at the 1964 World’s Fair, and here’s a clip of it flying around Disneyland two years later.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

1987 Aston Martin V8 Vantage (and cello)

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My favorite Bond car by a country mile. If you ask me, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is the real star of 1987’s The Living Daylights. It’s a glorious automobile outfitted with spiked tires, skis, and a rocket motor that all deploy at the push of a button to keep it driving through any obstacle imaginable. Plus hidden rockets before those were dime-a-dozen for Bond.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Go ahead and tell me this isn’t the best Bond chase scene ever.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

And by the way, those push-button studded tires are now a real thing.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The famous cello from The Living Daylights—a Bond vehicle in its own right.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and Jaguar XKR

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

If you ask me, 2002’s Die Another Day is when Bond vehicles jumped the shark. In the film, Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish has an invisibility cloak. And because one fully weaponszed vehicle wasn’t enough, the movie has two: the villain drives a Jaguar XKR equipped with heat-seeking missiles, mortars, and a freaking auto-tracking minigun turret mounted to the back.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

It doesn’t make the cars any less gorgeous, though. Shame Pierce Brosnan lost his in a garage fire earlier this year.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Just your standard-issue rockets and machine guns up front.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Auto-tracking shotguns which Bond famously uses to perforate the car’s manual.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Plenty of weaponry baked into the Jag, too.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

And the coolest part: the remote control box that the stunt team used to fire all those weapons. So. Many. Wonderful. Buttons.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

2006 Aston Martin DBS

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

What is this wreck? Why, it’s the Aston Martin DBS that was intentionally flipped a world-record 7 and 1/2 times in Casino Royale (2006). It bit the dust right at the beginning of what seemed to be a typical Bond chase scene.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Earlier in the film, the car’s on-board defibrillator helped Bond come back from certain death, but its screen time was rather short-lived. Oh, and the car wasn’t actually an Aston Martin DBS, but rather the earlier DB9 dressed up to look like the upcoming vehicle. The DBS wasn’t in production yet.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

This slightly more intact vehicle is the real deal, though—the battle-scarred Aston Martin DBS from the amazing opening scene in Quantum of Solace (2008).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

And this is only the damage that the filmmakers intended to cause. Another DBS was totaled when it took a swan dive into a nearby lake.

Incidentally, Daniel Craig’s stunt driver in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall is none other than Ben Collins—Top Gear’s famous Stig.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

1997 BMW 750iL

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

AKA the one Bond drove with a cell phone. In 1997. Before smartphones or were a thing. The car chase was a little short, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. The most amazing part: 20 years later, you can get a real BMW with a remote control keyfob that lets the car park itself.

Plus, I was amazed to find the Film Museum had an actual rental car form filled out with James Bond’s information. Bond rents the BMW from an Avis dealership, and—in a manner of speaking—returns it there as well!

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

BMW R1200C

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The 750iL wasn’t the only beamer in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond and femme fatale Wai Lin rode it together face-to-face while fending off foes, driving from rooftop to rooftop, and finally jumping over the blades of an enemy helicopter.

“A stunt man drove the BMW Cruiser R 1200 C at 60 mph to successfully make the 44-foot leap across the roof of the two buildings,” notes Bond Lifestyle.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

1999 BMW Z8

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Another remote-control BMW from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. It’s actually not a real BMW Z8—the real car wasn’t ready yet—but rather a Z8 shell on top of a kit car built by the filmmakers.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Again, the BMW didn’t get much screen time: just long enough for Bond to fire this laser-guided missile into an enemy helicopter before the car met its end.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

1983 Acrostar BD-5J

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Remember when Roger Moore dodged a missile by flying through a hangar in the world’s smallest jet? Yep, the Octopussy plane was also totally real. It weighs just 359 pounds and flies 300 miles per hour, and it went up for auction late last year.

The jet, designed in the 70s, has recently found new life as an inexpensive cruise missile simulator. As in, this plane is small enough to pretend to be a missile. Oh, and a man who pieced together his own BD-5 recently died crashing it.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Other items of interest

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Citroen 2CV from For Your Eyes Only (1981), complete with fake bullet holes. It takes tumble after tumble, but keeps on going!

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Tuk Tuk taxi from Octopussy (1983).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Renault 11 from A View to a Kill (1985). The front-wheel drive car gets cut in half, but Bond keeps on driving. The one I saw in the museum was actually re-formed from the two pieces.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Honda CRF250R motorcycles from Skyfall (2012).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

A one-third scale model of an AugustaWestland AW101 helicopter used in the battle sequence at the end of Skyfall.

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Q-Boat from The World is Not Enough (1999)

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Bathosub from Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Dive vehicles from The Spy Who Loved Me, designed by Ralph Osterhout if I’m not mistaken:

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The Mercury Cougar XR7 from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969):

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Bond’s WetBike from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

The crocodile suit from Octopussy (1983).

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

More storyboards

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

Personal effects

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

My Afternoon With James Bond's Amazing Spy Vehicles

All images used with permission of the London Film Museum. Additional Bond knowledge from Justin Westbrook.