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The Secondhand Bentleys of James Bond

Today, the world’s least secret agent is closely associated with Aston Martin, but it almost came by chance: In the books he initially drove old Bentleys.

The first James Bond book was “Casino Royale” from 1953, and here Bond actually drives a 23-year-old secondhand Bentley – a 1930’s “battleship grey” 4.5-litre “convertible coupé” with the compressor engine, which he bought only a few years old in 1933. Thus, he shows himself as an early romantic, as one must remember that the classic car hobby at that time in the Fifties was virtually non-existent. Although the Blower Bentley with its top speed of almost 200 km/h would still be among the fastest on the road in 1953, it was at that time undoubtedly an old car. So I suppose the author Ian Fleming put the cynical killer behind the wheel of the old Bentley to lend him an added touch of gentleman.

Here the author himself is behind the wheel of the car he assigned to his character in the first books.

Up through the first books, James Bond kept his old Bentley, and in “Moonraker” (from 1955) he actually bought another when his old one was damaged during a car chase. Which by the way leaves me dreaming of a filmic version – aren’t there far too few car chases with pre-war Bentleys in the movies? Either way, Mr. Bond’s new Bentley was a 1953 Mark IV, again with an open body. There is mention of Bond’s Bentleys in the following books as well, and today I think most readers (or viewers) would understand the choice: A man needs a hobby to relax with after he has finished his killings (or whatever your job happens to be).

A very minor part.

But that’s of course just my current day interpretation of those early books. But back then, apparently a reader found it unworthy for the super agent to drive such dated cars: At any rate the story goes that said reader wrote to Ian Fleming directly suggesting him to provide Bond with a proper car – and the reader himself supposedly proposed an Aston Martin DB Mark III.

Fleming must have given it some thought as in the 1959 book “Goldfinger” he puts Bond behind the wheel of an Aston Martin for the first time. As the DB Mark III arrived in 1957, it was at the time of publication still a completely current car. It would however be another five years before the first film adaptation of the short stories, and both “Dr. No” and “From Russia with Love” were devoid of any Aston Martin presence.

Undoubtedly the Aston Martin DB Mark III is an elegant car, but does it perhaps still fall just a little short of the international playboy image?

But then in “Goldfinger” from 1965, it finally came to be that the British agent received his real company car. At that time, the DB Mark III had long since ceased production, and the choice therefore fell on the current model, the DB5. It was a good choice and the rest is a living legend: The image of the Gentleman agent (in the shape of Sean Connery, the world’s most true Bond!) in a sharp suit stood next to his equally sharp Aston speaks more than a thousand words.

Since then, the story has come full circle as Bond, even after various affairs with newer Astons (and flirts with other inferior marques), went back to driving an old car. In fact, it was even the same DB5 model as in those early movies. And with this, it’s suddenly clear for everyone to see that he is not just a cold killer, but also a warm-hearted car enthusiast like all ViaRETRO readers. He merely has a slightly different job than most.

Whatever the case, my main conclusion must be that there is no shame to driving old and secondhand cars. But the again, we all knew that…


One Response

  1. yrhmblhst

    Im a bit puzzled…Mr Ebberfield [correctly] understands that Sean Connery is the ‘true Bond’ , yet considers imitation vehicles like h****a… such paradoxical views seen irreconcilable ! [ :) ]

    and yes, it is also irreconcilable that Bond would drive anything other than a British car!


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