On 16 January 1962, filming began on the first film adaptation of Ian Fleming's now-legendary James Bond series of novels, Dr No. Today, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of that event, the Hon Ralph Montagu cut the ribbon across the gangway leading to the National Motor Museum's new flagship exhibition dedicated to the British secret agent with the licence to kill.
The Beaulieu museum also celebrates a landmark birthday in 2012, albeit a mere spring chicken to the Bond franchise at 40-years young.
Bond in Motion showcases an amazing 50 vehicles – all of them genuine – that have starred in the making of the 22 films to date, from the From Russia With Love Fairey Huntress cabin cruiser to a gaggle of Aston DBSs from the latest Quantum of Solace (above), and was put together in association with EON Productions.
Cynics might argue that the exhibition stretches the 'vehicle' label a touch – after all, that 50 includes a parachute (Goldfinger), a burial-at-sea bed (You Only Live Twice), a crocodile mini-sub (above, Octopussy) and a model passenger plane from Casino Royale – but put that to one side and this is still a hugely impressive set.
"This exhibition is the largest of its kind staged anywhere in the world," said Lord Montagu's son Ralph. "It includes some of the best-loved vehicles from the James Bond films." Those include the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 and Rolls-Royce Phantom III (top), the Spy Who Loved Me Lotus Esprit submarine (above), the Octopussy Tuk-Tuk, the Living Daylights Aston Martin V8 (below) and the Man with the Golden Gun AMC Hornet.
There are boats, motorbikes, planes, an autogyro and even a cello-case sled (Living Daylights), while fans of more recent films are also well catered for with the likes of the Tomorrow Never Dies BMW 750iL (below) and the Die Another Day Jaguar XKR (below) and Ford Thunderbird.
There were no former Bonds on hand for the official opening, but we did get a Bond Girl in the shape of Swedish beauty Britt Ekland (below, Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun). "Being a Bond Girl is one of the great vocations," she smiled. "And it's fabulous to see so many Aston Martins!"
Other former stars turning up for the launch included Colin Salmon (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day). "It's phenomenal to think that it has been 50 years," said Salmon, who played Charles Robinson. "These vehicles are an art form really, and they'll still be here long after we're gone. Seeing that BMW from Tomorrow Never Dies was lovely - it really brought back memories."
The exhibition opens to the public this Tuesday, 17 January, and will run until the end of the year. Entry is included in the general admission price for the museum, which is open every day except Christmas Day, from 10am-5pm.
For further details, visit the website. There follows a selection of images from the exhibition:
Renault 11, A View to a Kill
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II, A View to a Kill, and Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II, The World is Not Enough
AMC Hornet, The Man with the Golden Gun (Live And Let Die Glastron GT-150 boat behind)
Honda ATC, Diamonds are Forever
Ford Mustang Mach I, Diamonds are Forever