Licensed to Thrill: The Very Best James Bond Cars

From Connery to Craig and everyone in between, Bond cars have been as integral to the on-screen action as 007 himself, but what are the best James Bond cars? Let’s take a deep dive into the world of auto espionage, where horsepower meets high stakes, and automotive elegance is as crucial as a tailored tux.

Automotive History
26 August 2023

From the shadowy alleyways of Cold War Europe to the bustling streets of modern-day metropolises, James Bond’s petrol-infused pursuits have evolved from mere car chases to high-octane spectacles. Over the decades, these thrilling sequences have become an eagerly anticipated cinematic constant, adding adrenaline-pumping moments to the legacy of the world’s most famous spy. With all Bond cars, they come with a collection of gizmos and gadgets, and a smattering of sarcasm from the ever-stoic Q.

While fans of the Fast and Furious franchise may not concur, James Bond movies are horsepower heaven for car lovers, and it all stemmed from Ian Fleming’s love of cars. The writer of the original Bond books had the titular character first in a 1931 4.5-litre Bentley Blower in his 1953 book Casino Royale, while in Live & Let Die (1954) and Moonraker (1955), the 007 car of choice was a 1933 Bentley convertible coupé.

The James Bond car collection is a veritable who’s who of some of the world’s most iconic motors. While at the very mention of the cars of James Bond, Aston Martin immediately springs to mind, the super-cool secret agent’s drives over the years have ranged from sensational sports cars to the Citroën 2CV, believed to be Roger Moore’s favourite Bond car!

Promising more twists and turns than a high-speed car chase through the streets of Monte Carlo, buckle up as we journey through six decades of the best James Bond cars.

1976 Lotus Esprit S1

1976 Lotus Esprit Coupe (Credit: LEON NEAL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Bond: Roger Moore | Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The white two-litre, 130 mph+ Lotus was very much the anti-Aston. Trendy rather than classic with sharp, angular lines rather than smooth, graceful curves, it remains one of the iconic rides in the James Bond car collection. Like a rocket on the road, ‘Wet Nellie’ – as it was affectionately nicknamed – transformed into a submarine to escape a helicopter gunship, complete with rudders, fins, a propeller and a periscope. It’s believed the original car from the film was bought by Elon Musk in 2013 for over £600,000.

2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish

Aston Martin V12 Vanquish (Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Bond: Pierce Brosnan | Film: Die Another Day (2002)

Jaw-droppingly beautiful, the James Bond Aston Martin V12 Vanquish may be the most preposterously over-modified Bond car in the history of the franchise! M really went overboard with the Aston’s invisibility cloak. That aside, the six-litre, 460 hp V12 was also armed with shotguns, machine guns and missiles. After three films featuring BMWs, Aston Martin delivered seven brand new Vanquishes to the set, for free!

1961 Sunbeam Alpine Series II

Sunbeam Alpine (Credit: Manfred Schmid via Getty Images)

Bond: Sean Connery | Film: Dr. No (1962)

The very first of the Bond cars, the 1.6-litre, 80 hp Lake Blue Sunbeam Alpine convertible wasn’t the fastest car in the James Bond car collection, nor was it equipped with underwater capabilities or an arsenal of laser-guided weaponry, but it is one of the prettiest cars ever to grace the silver screen. Filmed in Jamaica, the less than £1m budget didn’t stretch to a car – free cars from manufacturers in return for screen time didn’t appear until later in the 1960s – so the Alpine was borrowed from a local resident!

1999 BMW Z8

BMW Z8 (Credit: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bond: Pierce Brosnan | Film: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

A throwback to the stunning BMW 507 from the late 1950s, the retro-styled 400 hp, five-litre Z8 roadster had what has been described as ‘the go to match the show!’ Titanium plating and surface-to-air missiles couldn’t stop the 007 car from getting cut in half, but it remains one of the most memorable James Bond cars.

2006 Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBS from Casino Royale (Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Bond: Daniel Craig | Film: Casino Royale (2006)

The DBS has appeared in two films. The first – a 1969 model – was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, while the second was in Daniel Craig’s first outing, Casino Royale. One of the most beautiful of all the James Bond Aston Martin cars, the 5.9-litre, 192 mph supercars used in Casino Royale were prototypes, since the DBS didn’t enter production for another eighteen months. Famously equipped with a defibrillator after Bond was poisoned, the car set a Guinness World Record for the number of cannon rolls (7) during a high-speed pursuit.

1984 Renault 11

Renault 11 TXE (Credit: Matt Cardy via Getty Images)

Bond: Roger Moore | Film: A View To A Kill (1985)

In one of the most exciting car chases in movie history, Bond commandeers a Renault 11 TXE from a taxi driver and pursues May Day, played by the inimitable Grace Jones, around the streets of Paris. Without a missile or an ejector seat in sight, the simple sedate sedan isn’t one of the more memorable Bond cars, but it kept going and going, and going. After its roof was lopped off under a car park barrier and having its rear end amputated by oncoming traffic, Bond calmly parks it on the banks of the Seine and, in a way that only he can, jumps onto a moving barge.

Aston Martin DB5

The Aston Martin DB5 seen at Salon Prive, held at Blenheim Palace. (Credit: Martyn Lucy/Getty Images)

Bond: Sean Connery | Film: Goldfinger (1964)

Arguably the world’s most famous car has been in at least eight Bond films, but made its debut in Goldfinger. It was – and remains – the car by which all other James Bond cars are measured. The four-litre, 282 hp straight-six had revolving number plates, machine guns and an ejector seat, and is as glamorously cool as Bond himself. Launched in 1963 for just over £4,000, the Aston Martin DB5 marked the start of an on-screen relationship that has lasted six decades and is as synonymous with Bond as a martini, shaken, not stirred.

The Embodiment of Effortless Cool

007 logo (Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

As our high-speed journey through the electrifying world of Bond cars comes to a thrilling close, it’s clear these automotive marvels are far more than mere means of transport. They’ve earned their status as unforgettable icons, marrying style, performance, and innovation on a stage that only Bond could provide.

From the high-tech brilliance of Aston Martin to the adventurous spirit of Lotus, the James Bond car collection continues to captivate and thrill. They have truly become characters in their own right, integral to the high-stakes narratives and heart-stopping action sequences that make the Bond films so unforgettable.

The locations may change, but the legacy of the 007 car will remain as enduring and dynamic as the man himself. In the world of James Bond, the cars are indeed licensed to thrill.


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