Automobiles of London
27 October 2010
1964 Aston Martin DB5
Sold for £2,912,000
- Chassis no. DB5/1486/R
282 bhp, 4.0-litre DOHC “Vantage” inline six-cylinder engine, triple SU HD8 carburettors, ZF five-speed manual gearbox, rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel twin-servo Girling disc brakes, independent front suspension, with double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers, rear suspension by live hypoid axle mounted on parallel trailing links, transversely located by Watt's linkage. Wheelbase: 104"
- The only known remaining of the two DB5s which appeared on-screen in Goldfinger and Thunderball
- Offered to the public for the first time from its original ex-factory owner
- Impressive original condition with all movie gadgets intact
- The ultimate icon of the Media Age
In its fifth year of continuous development, the celebrated DB4 had become slightly longer and taller, evolving into an exciting long distance grand touring machine. Aston Martin then upped the ante late in 1963 with the introduction of the ultra-desirable DB5 model. Upgrades involved a larger, 4.0-litre engine and triple SU carburettors as standard equipment, resulting in a nearly 20 percent increase in horsepower (factory rated at 282 bhp).
Therefore, it was no surprise when Eon Productions, the producers of the legendary James Bond film series, chose the new DB5 as the 007 conveyance, as it represented the epitome of British style and performance. The car had recently been displayed to great acclaim at the Earl’s Court Motor Show in London, and although other marques were briefly considered, the producers eventually returned to their first choice.
The celebrated Silver Birch DB5, and the purposefulness with which it was deployed, embodied perfectly the virtues of the Bond character first launched with the Ian Fleming novels from 1953: stunning elegance, international intrigue and the fluid command of visceral power.
Two DB5s were in fact used on-screen for the production of the timeless James Bond classics Goldfinger and Thunderball. One of those two cars has since disappeared without a trace; it was reported stolen in 1997 and is believed to have been destroyed. RM Auctions is proud to represent the other – and only known remaining – original 007 DB5 movie car. This will be the first time the car has ever been offered for sale, and it can indeed stake its claim as The Real James Bond Car.
THE MOST FAMOUS CAR IN THE WORLD
Such is the title of the book (by Dave Worrall, Solo Publishing, 1993) that chronicles the electrifying Aston Martin DB5 which roared into the popular consciousness with the release of the James Bond epic Goldfinger in 1964, the third instalment from the 007 series.
Eon retained the services of set designer Ken Adam (reprising his modernist/fantastical approach made famous in Dr. No) and special effects guru John Stears to conceptualise and realise the ultimate transportation weapon from the already formidable DB5; in the process, they made a star out of the car.
So from sketches from Ken Adam, John Stears (whose FX credits include flying cars from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Star Wars) went to work, re-engineering the DB5 to accommodate the plethora of hidden gadgetry for which the Bond DB5 has become so well-known. Revolving number plates, Browning machine guns, extending bumper overriders for ramming baddies, a smoke screen, an oil slick and nail spreaders, plus the infamous Martin-Baker fighter jet ejector seat, triggered by the little red button under the gear lever knob, are but some of the special features provided to the superspy by Q-Branch. Notably, Stears received two Oscars for Special Effects, one for his involvement in Thunderball and the second for his expertise on the blockbuster original Star Wars.
The result created a worldwide sensation, for the 007 character, for the film series and for Aston Martin. The cultural impact of these early Bond films cannot be overstated, as the franchise became the most successful in history, with the character very effectively revived now, well into the 21st century. Indelibly ingrained into the minds of countless 14-year-old boys, the Bond DB5 image was memorialised on innumerable posters and in successive iterations of Corgi toy versions – their most successful car model ever, which remains in production today. Many of those boys grew up dreaming about owning the real thing…
FMP 7B (DB5/1486/R) - THE REAL JAMES BOND CAR
As seen on screen wearing the UK registration BMT 216A, the DB5 on offer here was the “stand-in” car used in Goldfinger and retrospectively became identified as the Road Car, as the first Effects Car proved to be cumbersome to handle, laden with its heavy gadgets. Interestingly, FMP 7B was fitted with the more powerful Vantage engine (400/1469/V, although running on the standard triple SU-carburettor setup, same as the Effects Car). This is logical as the Road Car was to figure prominently in the fast driving sequences. Indeed, FMP 7B was given substantial screen time in Goldfinger, notably from the scenes at the Stoke Park Golf Club and, even more recognisably, when Bond is spying on Mr. Goldfinger from the picturesque Furka Pass in Switzerland.
As the Road Car in Goldfinger, FMP 7B was also fitted with a special exhaust system which eliminated the rear resonators, giving the car a distinctive throaty roar. This more dramatic sound was dubbed in for all scenes involving movement of the Effects Car as well.
After sharing the well-known opening scene of Thunderball with FMP 7B, Eon asked Aston Martin to fit the full complement of effects to the Road Car as well, which it carries to this day. According to Roger Stowers, the official Archivist of Aston Martin Lagonda, the gadgets in the factory-built car (FMP 7B) were designed for dependability, anticipating an afterlife as a promotional vehicle. He said that the car had to reliably repeat all the special film stunts over and over again. “In the film, the gadgets only had to work once!”
It is also important to note that the Effects Car, after its useful life as a film prop, was completely decommissioned of its gadgets, the items discarded, and the car subsequently sold by the Factory as a standard street automobile. Thus, FMP 7B is not just the only remaining example but also remarkably original, in that its specification had not changed since its appearance in Thunderball and virtually all its distinctive gadgets remain remarkably intact.
With the release of Goldfinger, it soon became apparent that the DB5 had created a sensation, and the movie cars were sent out on promotional duty, with FMP 7B making a display appearance at the New York World's Fair in 1965.
By the time Thunderball was released and screening continuously in virtually every town in 1966, Eon Productions commissioned the production of two additional replica Bond DB5s from Aston Martin, to be used for promotion. Now known as the Press Cars, they, along with the factory-owned film cars, were kept very busy with international appearances at theatrical openings and exhibitions.
By the end of the promotional tour, ticket sales for Thunderball had exceeded those of any other Bond film to date and still remain the high water mark for global ticket sales for the 007 series.
Of the two Press Cars produced for Eon Productions (neither of which appeared on screen), one was sold by RM Auctions at our Arizona sale in January 2006 for nearly $2.1M. The other resides in the Dutch National Motor Museum.
Today, FMP 7B remains in the possession of its first and only ex-factory owner, Jerry Lee of Philadelphia. Mr. Lee has enjoyed the car for over 40 years, treated it appropriately as a work of fine art, and stored it faithfully in a special, climate-controlled James Bond room of his home.
An unabashed enthusiast of new technologies and the latest gadgetry, Mr. Lee was of course captivated by the Bond films. Upon hearing of the sale in 1969 of the replica Press Cars, he contacted Aston Martin Lagonda to inquire as to the whereabouts of the real car. Informed that it too had retired from the promo circuit, indeed it was still owned by Aston Martin. With the assistance of AML North America general manager Rex Woodgate, Mr. Lee eventually acquired FMP 7B from the Factory, for the then-princely sum of $12,000 US. Mr. Lee travelled to London personally to collect FMP 7B, where he orchestrated one final promotional event in the UK, centred around an appearance at the Playboy Club in Curzon Street, surrounded by Playboy Bunnies and the blinding light of popping flashbulbs, followed by a party in the penthouse suite, which was renamed the “007 Room” just for the occasion.
Back in the USA, and after a brief series of promotional appearances for Rex Woodgate, Mr. Lee withdrew the car from further public exhibition. The car was subsequently shown publicly exactly three times over the ensuing 30+ years: once at the New York Motor Show in 1981 (making its second appearance there), secondly at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in February 1986, along with an appearance by Lois Maxwell, the original Miss Moneypenny, and lastly at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance circa 1992. Otherwise, and until 2010, the car has remained completely out of public view and is therefore the least exposed of the original or replica film cars.
FMP 7B TODAY
The Bond DB5 was found just where legend had it, safe and secure in the special, purpose-built room in Jerry Lee's home. Clean but unrestored, the car had seen virtually zero road use during Mr. Lee's custodianship. The odometer shows around 30,000 miles, mostly, one presumes, from its tour usage. It was repainted at some stage, while the original dark grey interior (never black, as many assume) remains in generally good condition, displaying a remarkably authentic and appealing original patina to match the mileage.
Since extraction from Mr. Lee's home, a careful recommissioning programme was performed by top technicians at the award-winning RM Auto Restoration shop. Mechanically, this included a head-off engine service, clutch work, a fully rebuilt braking system and finally new exhaust piping to the original configuration designed for its exciting exhaust note. The systems running the modified devices have been repaired and serviced as well, for more reliable and robust demonstration.
So today, we are happy to report, the car is once again in roadworthy condition with its factory-installed movie gadgets returned to working order. Driving the James Bond Aston Martin is both exhilarating and awe-inspiring – if only the Mona Lisa had wheels!
After more than 40 years as the original, first ex-factory owner of this important icon, Mr. Lee is selling the car to further the charitable work of The Jerry Lee Foundation, a multi-national initiative dedicated to solving social problems associated with poverty, with an emphasis on crime prevention. The Foundation supports programmes at the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University (UK), as well as in Australia, Norway and Washington, DC, and has established the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for which Mr. Lee received a Swedish knighthood in 2008.
Various items of memorabilia, including several collectible and autographed items, will be included with the sale of FMP 7B, as well as historical documents including a copy of the original Bill of Sale from Aston Martin, its authentication certificate from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and period photographs.
The offer of FMP 7B presents a unique opportunity to acquire what is unquestionably one of the most desirable products of our popular culture, one whose image is indelibly stamped on our psyches and with an allure that continues to this day. There may in fact be no object of greater fascination produced in the Media Age. The astute buyer of FMP 7B will not only attain The Most Famous Car In The World but also a singular piece of history that cannot be duplicated at any price.
Full details of the operating systems are available in the supplemental catalogue or online at www.rmauctions.com/bond. Special thanks to Dave Worrall and Mike Ashley.
Bill of Sale