An Aston Martin DB5 that was bought for the James Bond film Thunderball and which comes fully equipped with the secret agent’s signature gadgets will be sold at auction later this year.
The 1965 DB5, chassis DB5/2008/R, is one of two models bought by Eon Productions for the launch of Thunderball and the third of four built to Q-branch-spec as in Goldfinger.
It’s therefore a very special, world-famous, highly sought-after example of an already desirable car – dubbed ‘The most famous car in the world’ in a 1993 book – and it comes with an appropriately high price tag.
In fact, it could well become the most expensive piece of Bond-related memorabilia ever when it is sold by RM Sotheby’s in Monterey in August: the auction house has slapped a $4-6m (£3.2-4.7m) estimate on it, and if it reaches that target it will surpass the £2.9m paid for a Bond DB5 in 2010.
The Bond DB5’s story started in 1963, when special effects guru John Stears and production designer Ken Adam went to Newport Pagnell anticipating that Aston Martin would give them two cars for Goldfinger, due to the promotional benefits.
Instead, David Brown insisted they be bought outright – but fortunately a compromise was struck whereby two cars were loaned for the filming, then returned to Aston Martin.
The first of these was also the DB5 prototype, with a special chassis number prefix – DP/216/1 – that denoted it was a development project.
Goldfinger’s success both as a film but also as a marketing tool for the DB5 meant that ahead of Thunderball’s release, two more cars were ordered: the car for sale in Monterey plus its sister, DB5/2017/R.
Both were equipped with the full complement of 007 gadgets, but more robust ones than those fitted to the Goldfinger prototype car; those had never been intended to last for more than a few takes, whereas this car’s were built to function repeatedly, on demand.
So, what does it have inside it? Well, all 13 of the Bond modifications are present and in full working order.
In practice, that means it has front and rear hydraulic over-rider rams on the bumpers and a Browning .30-calibre machine gun in each bumper, plus wheel-hub-mounted tyre slashers.
You also get a retractable rear bulletproof screen and an in-dash radar-tracking scope, oil-slick, caltrop and smoke-screen dispensers, those famous revolving numberplates, and a passenger-seat ejection system.
And although they were never used in the film, it also has a hidden compartment beneath the driver’s seat that contains weapons and a phone in the driver’s door for contacting MI6 HQ.
After its promotional activities, this car and DB5/2017/R were mothballed before being sold, as a pair, in 1969 to well-known UK collector Lord Bamford, who soon sold 2017/R, but kept this one until the following year.
Its next custodian was BH Atchley, who owns Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and he duly put the DB5 on display in a large wire-mesh cage, bolted to the floor. It remained there for 35 years, regularly started and exercised.
RM Auctions sold it in 2006, at which point not all of 007’s gadgets were operational. The car has since undergone a no-expense-spared restoration by Roos Engineering in Switzerland, which is documented comprehensively in its accompanying paperwork.
It will be the lead lot at RM Sotheby’s single-marque ‘An evening with Aston Martin’ sale on 15 August, which is set to feature more than 30 Astons.
“No other car in history has played a more important leading role on film and in pop culture than the Aston Martin DB5,” said Barney Ruprecht, Car Specialist at RM Sotheby’s.
“The DB5 is the iconic cornerstone of a marketing relationship that still exists to this day – with the model’s collectible status rooted largely in its 007 fame – and we look forward to exciting car and film enthusiasts alike in the lead up to the auction.
“This is an unbelievably rare chance to play secret agent in a car that offers incredible performance and style in its own right and we’re honoured to offer the Bond DB5 alongside our partners at Aston Martin.”