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Bennett Winch SC Holdall

Original James Bond Aston Martin DB5 sold for $6.4m at RM Sotheby's Monterey Classic Car Auction

16 August, 2019

One of the original James Bond Aston Martin DB5 cars sold today for $5.8m ($6,387,500 incl premiums) at the RM Sotheby's Monterey Classic Car auction in California, setting a new auction record for a DB5.

Aston Martin DB5 James Bond RM Sotheby's Auction Monterey 2019 August 15

The Aston Martin on stage during the RM Sotheby's Monterey auction
Photo © Hagerty

The estimated sale price was $4mln - 6mln. The DB5 was presented as Lot 111 during RM Sotheby’s ‘An Evening with Aston Martin’ single-marque sale session on 15 August, in beautifully restored condition, with all 13 gadgets in fully functioning order.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys

One of the original James Bond Aston Martin DB5 cars for sale

This car with chassis DB5/2008/R is one of two examples directly purchased by Eon Productions for the launch of Thunderball and the third of four examples built per Q Branch specifications as featured in Goldfinger.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys side rear

'The most famous car in the world'

RM Auctions has offered the same car in 2006, when it sold for $2,090,000. In 2010, RM Auctions sold chassis no. DB5/1486/R, licence plate FMP 7B, which was one of the road cars used in Goldfinger, for £2,912,000.

The now offered chassis DB5/2008/R is one of only three surviving Bond cars. This particular car was commissioned by Eon Productions to be outfitted with full MI6 Q specifications as pictured in Goldfinger, with functional modifications created by special-effects expert John Stears. Chassis 2008/R was one of two built from new with Bond gadgetry, destined for North America as a promotional campaign for Thunderball, the fourth film in the James Bond series. Following the tour, chassis 2008/R would change hands only three times, including a 35-year period as the centerpiece of the Smokey Mountain Car Museum. A no-expense-spared restoration has since been completed by official Aston Martin heritage specialists Roos Engineering in Switzerland, with all Stears-designed Bond modifications refurbished to function as originally intended.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys bumper

Oil-slick and smoke-screen dispensers

The story of the Aston Martin DB5 chassis DB5/2008/R

No one could have predicted back in 1965 the fabulously successful multi-decade synergy that would develop when two men from the movie business visited Aston Martin’s Newport-Pagnell plant in late 1963. Ken Adam and John Stears, respectively a production designer and a special effects man, were on a mission from producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. They were to source a pair of the latest Aston Martins for use in Eon Productions’ third adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, Goldfinger.

In typical moviemaking fashion, the producers wanted two near-identical cars to fulfill various roles during filming. One would be required for stunt driving and chase sequences, and therefore needed to be lightweight and fast. The other, to be used for interior shots and close-ups, was to undergo several functional modifications created by Stears, the kind that would furnish James Bond with an unprecedented amount of gadgetry.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys machine gun

Fender-mounted Browning .30-caliber machine guns

Despite the filmmakers’ expectation that Aston Martin would happily give them two cars for promotional benefits, marque president David Brown insisted that the production company buy the cars outright. Eventually a compromise was reached in which two cars were loaned to Eon Productions for the duration of filming, after which they would be returned to Aston Martin.

Though John Stears’ revolutionary Oscar-winning work on the original Star Wars movie of 1977 was yet more than a decade away, his ingenuity was already evident in the modifications that he made for the special-effects Aston Martin. The first James Bond car was also the DB5 prototype and bore a special chassis number prefix denoting it as a development project, DP/216/1.

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 retractable rear bulletproof screen, an in-dash radar-tracking scope, oil-slick, caltrop, and smoke-screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and a passenger-seat ejection system.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys gadgets

All gadgets are meticulously restored to fully working order

Also equipped, although never used during the film, was a telephone in the driver’s door to communicate with MI6 headquarters, as well as a hidden compartment under the driver’s seat containing several weapons.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys roof ejector seat

Ejector seat system on the Aston Martin DB5

“Ejector seat?” Bond exclaimed with a smile. “You’re joking?!”

“I never joke about my work, 007,” retorted Q, deadly serious.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys ejector seat knob

Ejector seat button

The smash success of Goldfinger was also a success for Aston Martin, which received free promotion around the world and saw DB5 sales surge to fuel an unprecedented level of production. The producers at Eon 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 featured example) and DB5/2017/R. The two cars were shipped to the United States for media duties for Thunderball. One was dispatched to the East Coast, and the other to the West. The latter DB5 even appeared at Laguna Seca as a pace car driven by Jackie Stewart.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys gadgets switches

Center-console defense-mechanism controls

Both cars were fitted with all of Adam’s Goldfinger modifications, but this time the gadgets were installed by Aston Martin and intended to be more durable than those on DP/216, whose gadgetry was comparatively very primitive, as they were never designed to function for more than one take thanks to careful editing! This car’s gadgets, on the other hand, were designed and built to function repeatedly on command, as they do today.

After completion of Thunderball, the two cars were largely mothballed as yet two more Bond films followed with different automobiles in the hero roles. Accordingly, the production company’s parent financier, the Swiss-based Danjaq S.A., quietly offered the two cars for sale in 1969, and they were soon bought as a pair by the well-known British collector Anthony (now Lord) Bamford. He quickly sold 2017/R but retained possession of 2008/R until 1970, and the British registration for the car in his name remains on file.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys bullet screen

Rising rear bulletproof screen

The Aston Martin build record lists Eon Productions as the original purchaser along with the important designation of this being a “Bond Car.” Under Bamford’s ownership the saloon returned to the factory for service, and it received a host of freshening and mechanical measures, all of which are documented on the build record.

Bamford then sold DB5/2008/R to B.H. Atchley, the owner of the Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The unique Aston Martin was soon featured as the museum’s centerpiece in a rather unusual display, as the car was encased in a large wire-mesh cage that was bolted to the floor, ensuring it would never be idly touched or pawed by starstruck visitors. The DB5 remained in this pristine state of display for 35 years, receiving regular start-ups for exercise during this time.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys radar screen

Radar-tracking GPS system

In 2006, RM Auctions was privileged to offer this Bond DB5 for public sale and it sold for $2.1mln. While some of the Bond contraptions were restored into functioning order prior to the 2006 offering, a majority of the car remained otherwise unrestored. Since that time a no-expense-spared restoration by the esteemed Roos Engineering in Switzerland was completed, as documented by numerous invoices and photographs. Roos Engineering is also one of 13 facilities whom Aston Martin have appointed as official Heritage Specialists who have the highest order of depth, expertise, and experience with the marque. Not only were the chassis and body completely refinished to proper standards, but all 13 of the Ken Adam–designed modifications were properly refurbished to function as originally built. Following completion of the four-year restoration, the Aston Martin was the subject of a feature article on the Bond DB5 cars that was printed in the October 2012 issue of Motor.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys gadgets knife rifle

The gadgets that are hidden in a tray under the seat

Being the third of just four Goldfinger-specification DB5 examples built, this Aston Martin is automatically endowed with a high degree of rarity.

In 2013, here at Bond Lifestyle we reported that the same car was offered for sale for $4.7 million by Richard Stewart Williams Ltd, but it is unclear if the car sold.

It should be noted that the first John Stears–modified car has been lost since 1997, narrowing the number of surviving examples to just three cars. Of these survivors, one car (chassis no. 1486/R, which was sold by RM Auctions in 2010 for £2,912,000) was originally unmodified, as it was used for driving sequences and only had gadgets added later. Most important, this car was built with all gadgetry from new, elevating its status and importance. In addition to this distinction, DB5/2008/R has benefited from an extremely minimal chain of ownership: just three private owners over 50 years, including a 35-year period of museum exhibition.

Sean Connery about the DB5
Reached through his son, Stephane Connery, ahead of the sale, Sean Connery said, “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.”

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Thunderball auction RM Sothebys head on

Built for Eon Productions, fitted with gadgetry from new, documented with “Bond Car” designation on the Aston Martin build record, Anthony Bamford’s 1969 registration, and restoration invoices and photos, this James Bond Aston Martin is a fabulously rare example of what author Dave Worrall termed “The Most Famous Car in the World,” as he titled his 1993 book on the subject.

Watch the RM Sotheby's video of the DB5:

All photos © RM Sotheby's

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