Proclaiming it “the most famous car in the world,” RM Sotheby’s has announced that the 1965 Aston Martin DB5, the James Bond movie car complete with 13 functioning modifications as seen in Goldfinger and Thunderball, will highlight the auction company’s “An Evening With Aston Martin” sale this summer in Monterey, California. The car is one of two built with the John Stears-designed 007 gadgets and used on the North American promotional tour for Thunderball, RM Sotheby’s said, adding that the car has been “beautifully restored” and that its 13 “Bond modifications” function, including “a Browning .30 caliber machine gun in each fender, wheel-hub mounted tire-slashers, smoke screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and more.” “Function” may not include actual shooting of live ammo or slashing of tires. “No one could have predicted the fabulously successful multi-decade synergy that would develop when production designer Ken Adam and special-effects man John Stears visited Aston Martin’s Newport-Pagnell plant in late 1963,” RM Sotheby’s says in its news release. “The two men were on a mission to source a pair of the latest Aston Martin models for use in Eon Productions’ third adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, again about the MI6 superspy with a license to kill, James Bond. The film was called Goldfinger.“Two near-identical cars were built and loaned to Eon Productions for filming, with each fulfilling various roles; one for stunt driving and chase sequences and therefore needing to be lightweight and fast, and the other for interior shots and close-ups, to be equipped with functional modifications created by Stears.
“As Desmond Llewelyn’s legendary weapons-master Q would go on to explain to Sean Connery’s 007, the Snow Shadow Gray-painted DB5 was equipped with front and rear hydraulic over-rider rams on the bumpers, a Browning .30 caliber machine gun in each fender, wheel-hub mounted tire-slashers, a raising rear bullet-proof screen, an in-dash radar tracking scope, oil, caltrop and smoke screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and a passenger-seat ejection system. “Although never used during the film, the car was also equipped with a telephone in the driver’s door to communicate with MI6 headquarters and a hidden compartment under the driver’s seat containing several weapons. “The smash success of Goldfinger was also a success for Aston Martin,” RM Sotheby’s added, “DB5 sales surged to fuel an unprecedented level of production. “The producers at Eon also took notice of the enormous appeal and potential marketing opportunities. In preparation for Thunderball’s release, the company ordered two more DB5 saloons, receiving chassis nos. DB5/2008/R, the example on offer at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale, and DB5/2017/R. The two cars were fitted with all of Stears’ Goldfinger modifications and were shipped to the United States for promotional duties for Thunderball.” RM Sotheby’s said it contacted Sean Connery, famed 007 actor, through his son, Stephane, and came back with this comment: “These DB5s are amazing – I remember the Furka Pass tire shredding as well as the promotional events with these cars – they have become increasingly iconic since Goldfinger and Thunderball, in fact I bought a very fine DB5 myself relatively recently.”
After movie-tour duty, the cars were offered for sale in 1969 and were purchased as a pair by British car collector Anthony Bamford. He sold DB5/2008/R to B.H. Atchley, the owner of the Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where the car was featured for 35 years, and also receiving regular start-ups for exercise. RM Sotheby’s handled the sale of that car in original condition in 2006 and since then it has undergone restoration at Roos Engineering in Switzerland. Roos is one of 13 facilities recognized as “Heritage Specialists” by Aston Martin. “No other car in history has played a more important leading role on film and in pop culture than the Aston Martin DB5,” RM Sotheby’s car specialist Barney Ruprecht is quoted in the announcement. “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.” The auction house notes that the first Stears-modified car has been lost since 1997, narrowing the number of surviving examples to just three. “The car on offer is one of only two built from new with all Bond gadgetry, and chassis no. 2008/R stands apart with its extremely minimal chain of ownership, having had just three private owners over 50 years, including a 35-year period of museum exhibition,” RM Sotheby’s said, adding it expects the car to sell at auction for $4 million to $6 million.