Vodka martinis. Perfectly tailored suits. The Walther PPK pistol. There are countless examples of iconic imagery sprinkled throughout the James Bond saga, but perhaps none is more memorable than 007’s choice of transportation.
During his lengthy tenure at MI6, Mr. Bond and his adversaries have had the pleasure of driving a wide array of vehicles, ranging from stunning Aston Martins to weaponized submarines to combat aircraft. Some, though, have embraced the oftcampy nature of the British spy films, and it is those automotive oddities that we’d like to focus on here.
“Do you expect me to walk?”
“No Mr. Bond, I expect you to drive.”
No list of wacky Bond cars would be complete without the Lotus Esprit S1. Nicknamed “Wet Nellie,” the vehicle is a half-car, half-submarine, with the ability to transform into aquatic mode at the push of a button.
Its seaworthiness is only part of the equation, though, because the S1 can more than hold its own in a combat situation. In The Spy Who Loved Me, the sports coupe was fitted with a variety of weaponry, including a cement sprayer, surface-to-air missiles, underwater mines, torpedoes, and even a squid-style ink dispenser that can blind underwater pursuers.
After a long post-filming promotional tour, the vehicle was eventually purchased by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has owned the car since 2013.
The bright yellow Citroën 2VC makes an appearance on our list not because of its high-tech gadgets or cultured styling, but simply because it sticks out as an oddity among Bond cars. The 2VC in For Your Eyes Only wasn’t particularly fast — in fact it was augmented with the larger flat-4 engine from the Citroën GS for more power — but it did display some unique abilities in the 1981 spy film.
While attempting to evade a group of baddies through a Spanish olive farm, Roger Moore and Bond girl Carole Bouquet took advantage of the vehicle’s small size to nimbly weave through the trees and narrow countryside streets, despite being “out-horsepowered” by a group of Peugeot 504s.
In the early 1980s, Citroën launched a special-edition 2CV to coincide with For Your Eyes Only’s debut. Although it was equipped with the modestly-powered standard flat-2 engine, it was finished in the same bright yellow shown in the film, as well as “007” door markings and bullet hole stickers.
Aston Martin V12 Vanquish and Jaguar XKR – Die Another Day (2002)
The modern Aston Martin design language that we still see today made its Bond film debut in 2002’s Die Another Day. What’s so wacky about this classically handsome, V12-powered beast you ask? As they say, the devil is in the details.
Due to its active camouflage, the Vanquish was playfully nicknamed the “Vanish” by Q, making it one of the only 007 vehicles to rely more on stealth than brute force. When the cloaking device fails due to machine gun fire, though, the car displays its combative capabilities during an ice chase with two target-seeking shotguns, rockets, a passenger ejector seat, lasers, oddly convenient retractable tire spikes, and a reinforced chassis. Bond also rode a giant tsunami wave using a parachute and a makeshift surfboard shortly after, but, uh, let’s not talk about that.
Also from Die Another Day, this particular Jaguar XKR was actually driven by the diamond-studded henchman Zao, one of the film’s many villains.
Just like the gadget-laden Vanqiush it was pursuing, the green XKR was adorned with a multitude of lethal trinkets and toys, including a gatling gun, a thermal imager, mortar bombs, rockets, miniature missiles, and front ramming spikes. Wait, are we sure Q-Branch didn’t build this thing?
Unfortunately for Zao, his time behind the wheel of the British grand tourer was literally cut short as he was brutally crushed by a diamond chandelier during the movie’s climax. Ouch.
The Aston Martin DB5 is undoubtedly the most iconic vehicle in the 007 saga, as the British grand tourer has been featured in Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Casino Royale (2006), and Skyfall (2012). It’s had its fair share of bizarre accoutrements over the years though, which is why it makes an appearance here.
During the Sean Connery era, the classic Aston was so saturated with gizmos it bordered on hilarity. Goldfinger’s original script saw the car armed with nothing but a smoke screen, but after suggestions from the crew, it was eventually given a revolving license plate, an ejector seat, a caltrop dispenser, an oil slick device, wheel blades, a bullet screen, and even two rear-facing water cannons. As Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond, the DB5 was enhanced with machine guns and of course, a champagne cooler.
Much to the chagrin of classic cars lovers everywhere, the DB5 was destroyed by gunfire in Skyfall, but just as sure that “James Bond will return,” so too will that legendary vehicle.
Self-driving cars are all the rage nowadays, but remote-controlled cars are more ideal for the secret agent profession. This has never been more apparent than in Tomorrow Never Dies, where Brosnan’s Bond piloted the vehicle around a parking garage via his cell phone, dispensing of his enemies with a roof-mounted rocket launcher, a tear gas emitter, and a caltrop dispenser behind the rear bumper.
The stretched Bimmer was equally as formidable when sitting completely still. The 750iL’s security system repelled thugs via electric shock when they got to close, and its reinforced body was able to repel sledgehammer blows and bullets with ease. Unfortunately for MI6’s insurance agent, the car did not survive its fall from the parking garage roof into the Avis rental store below.
The AMC Matador earns a spot on our list for one reason — it’s a carplane. Driven and flown by the villain Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun, the Matador underwent its aerial transformation by entering a special garage in Bangkok, which automatically attached the wing, rudder, and engine assembly atop the 1970’s midsize car. To keep the pilot informed, the gauges automatically flip from automobile to airplane mode at the touch of a button.
What’s better than a car that can fly? How about an Aston Martin that can ski?
1987’s The Living Daylights saw Bond and Aston Martin reunited for the first time since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it did so with much fanfare. The V8 Vantage Volante featured in the film came prepped for a snowy chase, because at the flip of a switch, a winterized outrigger appeared from the car’s sides. With the aid of a rocket booster, the Czech police attempting to apprehend Bond didn’t stand a chance, especially after he used his high-tech hubcap laser to split one of the cars in half. Yes, you read that right. The car also boasted missiles, tire spikes, a headup display, and a self-destruct mechanism.
“Q’s not going to like this.”
Before it met its untimely end at the hands of a tree-chopping helicopter, the heavily-modified BMW Z8 from The World Is Not Enough was one of the highlights of the 1999 blockbuster. Like the 750iL from Tomorrow Never Dies, the sporty BMW shown here featured remote control capability, as well as surface-to-air missile launchers, titanium armor, and a trick targeting display. “All in all, rather stocked,” one might say, though Q seemingly prefers the term “fully loaded.”
The World Is Not Enough was also the last Bond film to feature a BMW vehicle as 007’s primary choice of transportation. In Die Another Day, which came out three years later in 2002, Aston Martin was recommissioned into MI6 service with the V12 Vanquish.
Ed note: Most of us haven’t seen Spectre yet, so not to worry, there will be no movie spoilers discussed here.
The Aston Martin DB10 is outrageous not in a comedic or campy sense, but in the sense that it was built specifically to star in a James Bond motion picture. It also happens to be one of the most striking Astons ever created, as the flowing, streamlined body takes hints from the One-77 supercar to present a truly unique silhouette and commanding aura.
Underneath the vehicle’s sleek shell lies the basic architecture of the V8 Vantage — including the 4.7-liter, 420-horsepower power plant — but the DB10 features a slightly longer wheelbase and a wider track. Ten cars were built for Spectre in total, but unfortunately none of them will be sold to customers. What flavor of gadgetry lurks beneath the body armor? You’ll have to see the film to find out.
Russian T-54/55 tank – GoldenEye (1995)
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a car persay, but the Russian T-54/55 tank 007 drove through St. Petersburg in GoldenEye deserves a mention solely for its destructive capability. Whether it’s smashing through brick walls, drifting around corners, using a Pegasus statue as a hood ornament, or firing 100mm shells at armored trains, this Russian powerhouse is one of the most intimidating Bond vehicles ever.
This one isn’t a car at all, but the weaponized Q-Boat is just too awesome to leave out. Toward the beginning of The World Is Not Enough, 007 finds himself in the middle of an attack on MI6, which leads him on a truly epic chase over the Thames river in London. Bond appropriately steals the agile Q-Boat — much to the dismay of Q himself — and pursues his assailant over waterways, city streets, and even a few cafes before the chase appropriately concludes on a hot air balloon. Even more impressive than the sequence itself is that Bond manages to make it through all while keeping his tie in the perfect position. Super spy, indeed.