Bulletproof: Driving James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, DBS, and DB10

What does James Bond drive? An Aston Martin, of course. That the first of Ian Fleming’s Bond books actually featured a Bentley is inconsequential, as is the fact that the 24-film franchise has had the spy in everything from an AMC Hornet to a Toyota 2000GT. James Bond drives an Aston Martin, and that’s that.
The torrid affair between the British institutions—which began in 1959 when Bond drove an Aston Martin DB3 in the book “Goldfinger” and was solidified five years later when the film version debuted with Sean Connery behind the wheel of a DB5—is fierier than ever. So on the eve of the release of “Spectre,” the latest film in the series, we decided to celebrate the inexorable bond between the man and his machines at Aston Martin’s headquarters in Gaydon, England. Laid out before us were the three most important Bond cars of all time: the 1965 Aston Martin DB5, the 2007 Aston Martin DBS, and the all-new, hauntingly sexy DB10, “Spectre’s” hero car and the first model Aston Martin has ever built exclusively for the series.
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We start our day by sliding into the ribbed black leather driver’s bucket of a DB5, which has starred in six Bond films. We rub our thumbnail along the top edge of the small teardrop-shaped shift knob hoping to find our favorite Q Branch extra: the red ejector-seat button. Alas, this isn’t an original Bond DB5 stunt car from the ’60s but one of the cars that starred in the last film, “Skyfall.” It has a thin black outline on its roof of where the passenger seat would eject, but otherwise, it’s a stock and beautifully maintained DB5, one now worth a few million dollars thanks to its association with 007.

We pull down the tinted Plexiglas sun visor, run one hand along the rim of the wood-grain steering wheel with small metal rivets on its backside, and move the choke from normal to start while turning the small silver key in the center-mounted ignition switch with the other. The inline-six cranks for a few seconds before backfiring through its carburetors, shooting smoke out of its twin tailpipes and fretfully coming to life.

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The DB5 started it all in ’64. Even after a slew of other Astons, it’s the one that makes us swoon like a Bond girl. It’s just so damn attractive, from its Silver Birch paint to its dapper interior.

We reset the choke and tap the bare-metal accelerator pedal a few times. The 282-hp Tadek Marek engine coughs chaotically through the exhaust. We can’t imagine Pussy Galore or Domino Derval being turned on by black soot and backfires, but the way the DB5 drives still charms. It’s slow and timid by modern standards, yes, but also nimble and solidly constructed. Its wraparound windshield and delicate A-pillars let us see every inch of the front end and help us get close to the edge of the road as we buzz through corners. Maybe too close since wadding up a multimillion-dollar Bond car would be almost as bad as drinking a martini that’s stirred instead of shaken. We put the DB5 away as soon as the tires start to protest against our driving style. Aggressive driving is best saved for a correspondingly aggressive, modern-era car such as the Aston Martin DBS.

“Bond hasn’t driven a true sports car from Aston Martin until now. The DB10 starring in “Spectre” is the first Aston tailor-made for Bond.”

It was fortuitous that when “Casino Royale” debuted with Daniel Craig playing a much more assertive, physical Bond that Aston Martin had just built the DBS, the most brutal road car it
had yet built. The DBS has starred in some of the franchise’s most adrenaline-soaked driving scenes—a dramatic, seven-roll crash in “Casino Royale” and the thrilling opening sequence of the follow-up film, “Quantum of Solace.”

Christopher Nelson

We squeeze into the one-piece carbon-fiber seat of a DBS used for stunts and pull the four-point Sabelt harness over our shoulders. Mounted behind us, where a pair of half-seats used to be, are a fire extinguisher and silver racing helmet with “Daniel Craig” emblazoned on its side. We push the bulky metal shifter into first and take off. The 510-hp V-12 sounds gravelly but is remarkably smooth, and red lights on the dash come on as we near redline and shift to second. We’ve loved this car on film, but it sounds even better in person.

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Exciting as it is, the DBS in some ways hasn’t aged well, sort of like “License to Kill.” Its center stack is cluttered and dated, and some surfaces have been faded by the sun. And at 3,812 pounds, the DBS lacks the footwork to go with its brute force.

Bond hasn’t driven a true sports car from Aston Martin until now. The DB10 starring in “Spectre” is the first Aston tailor-made for Bond. It’s based on the current Vantage but is wider and lower and has a longer wheelbase.

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The DB10’s beautifully thin and elegant back end wraps around to two huge, aggressive rear haunches.

The exterior is instantly recognizable as an Aston Martin, but with all the fat sucked out of it. Carbon-fiber bodywork tapers in tightly around the doors before blossoming out above the foot-wide rear tires. Everything is black in the interior, and thick slabs of leather dress the seats, center console, floormats, and dash. Sitting in the heavily bolstered driver’s seat, we poke around and find a button for the rearward-facing flamethrowers, a thumbprint-encoded starter on the steering wheel, and a couple of other well-hidden Quartermaster contraptions we weren’t supposed to see.

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The multipurpose speedometer still isn’t as cool as Q branch’s interior add-ons.

We fire up the DB10’s 430-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 engine and cleanly slot the six-speed manual shifter into first gear before easing out the clutch pedal. The V-8 has lots of midrange punch and a gruff, top-end bark—we immediately prefer its brawling personality to that of the DB5’s boggy inline-six or the high-strung V-12 of the DBS. The steering is direct, its power delivery is predictable, and its chassis planted. It rattles, clangs, and bangs like the hurriedly built prototype that it is, but it drives like a fully developed sports car. We charge faster into turns, knowing we shouldn’t be so cocky in a car that’s one of 10 in existence, but the DB10 sticks no matter how hard we push.

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In addition to its big movie debut, the DB10 also serves as a preview of the styling, proportions, and purpose behind a brawny two-seat sports car to come from the brand. It’ll be built on a new Aston Martin platform but will use an engine developed by Mercedes-AMG, Gaydon’s new German cohort. Bond’s DB10 has a dummy boost gauge in the instrument panel, signaling the inevitability of a turbocharged V-6 or V-8. A six-speed manual should be standard—James Bond is a man who shifts his own gears.

Never before in the half-century-old relationship has Bond driven an Aston Martin that offers such a unique glimpse into where the brand is headed. It’s a sensational symbiosis that makes it easy to understand why no matter what car Britain’s most debonair secret agent gets behind the wheel of, he’ll always drive an Aston Martin.

007’s Aston Martins

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Aston Martin DB5 (1963-’65)

1. “Goldfinger” Year: 1964 Bond: Sean Connery Girl: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore Song: “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey Plot: An international smuggler plans to make the gold stored in Fort Knox radioactive, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

2. “Thunderball” Year: 1965 Bond: Sean Connery Girl: Claudine Auger as Domino Derval Song: “Thunderball” by Tom Jones Plot: An evil secret agent threatens to use two stolen nuclear warheads, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

3. “GoldenEye” Year: 1995 Bond: Pierce Brosnan Girl: Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova Song: “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner Plot: A rogue MI6 agent plans to fire an electromagnetic cannon that’s in outer space, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

4. “Tomorrow Never Dies” Year: 1997 Bond: Pierce Brosnan Girl: Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin Song: “Tomorrow Never Dies” by Sheryl Crow Plot: A media mogul tries to start a war between China and the U.K., and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

5. “Skyfall” Year: 2012 Bond: Daniel Craig Girl: Bérénice Marlohe as Severine Song: “Skyfall” by Adele Plot: A disgruntled MI6 agent wants to destroy the British intelligence agency, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

Aston Martin DBS (1967-’71)

6. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” Year: 1969 Bond: George Lazenby Girl: Diana Rigg as Tracy Bond Song: “We Have All The Time In The World” by Louis Armstrong Plot: An evil allergist hopes to start worldwide germ warfare, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage (1977-’89)

7. “The Living Daylights” Year: 1987 Bond: Timothy Dalton Girl: Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy Song: “The Living Daylights” by A-ha Plot: An international arms dealer wants to start another world war, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

Aston Martin V12 Vanquish (2001-’05)

8. “Die Another Day” Year: 2002 Bond: Pierce Brosnan Girl: Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson Song: “Die Another Day” by Madonna Plot: A British millionaire plans to fire a high-powered laser situated in outer space, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

Aston Martin DBS (2008-’12)

9. “casino royale” Year: 2006 Bond: Daniel Craig Girl: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd Song: “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell Plot: A poker-playing villain is short-selling stocks to fund terrorism, and Bond is the only one who can stop him.

10. “Quantum of Solace” Year: 2008 Bond: Daniel Craig Girl: Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes Song: “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys Plot: An evil international organization is destabilizing governments and gobbling up environmental resources, and Bond is the only one who can stop them.

Aston Martin DB10 (2016)

11. “Spectre” Year: 2015 Bond: Daniel Craig Girl: Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann Song: “Writing’s on The Wall” by Sam Smith Plot: Bond uncovers the existence of an evil international organization, SPECTRE, and with the help of Madeleine Swann, an assassin’s daughter, gets closer and closer to the heart of SPECTRE only to discover he might have more to do with their sinister plots than he thinks—and he’s the only one who can stop them.

Photos courtesy Eon Productions and Sony Pictures

Q+A: Marek Reichman, Chief Creative Officer, Design Director at Aston Martin

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AM: Did development of the DB10 happen because of “Spectre”?

MR: Yes. The DB10, the movie car, came out of our relationship with [producer] Barbara Broccoli, [production company] Eon, and [director] Sam Mendes. They came to Gaydon to have a look at a potential car for “Spectre” in April of last year, before filming had started, before the script had been finished. I showed them some prototype-stage product for next-generation cars—that we’ll preview next year, in fact—and they loved them. On the wall next to them was a sketch of a future, smaller, more individual sports car, which was clearly more of a hedonistic “it’s all about me” car. Sam saw it and said, “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, that doesn’t exist. It’s only the sketch. That’s for the future, an even further development within our range, something specific and unique to sports cars, a true athlete.” He said, “I love it. Could we have that?” “Well,” I said, “it only exists in sketch form.” And he looked at me and said, “Well, we don’t need the car until September.” Which was less than six months. I said, “OK, we’ll go for it.” We agreed there and then that we would develop the car, make 10 cars, and provide the first car in September to start filming, and that’s it. That’s the birth of DB10.

AM: Wait, what prototypes did you show Broccoli and Mendes? The DB11?

MR: Potentially, yes.

AM: And they passed?

MR: Yeah, but part of the reason being that this, the DB10, is more focused to an individual whereas the next generation of product is our true classic, it’s a two-plus-two. Why didn’t they want to go with the DB11? I think partly because there was a desire to do something different. Not that the car wasn’t appropriate. They just wanted to design something from scratch for James Bond and make something iconic. The DB10 is only being done for the movie. It won’t be repeated. And that’s a piece of history.

AM: But the DB10 has to preview some coming Aston, right?

MR: It will influence future product, yes. Part of the joy of being able to do something so quickly with fewer constraints in terms of process development—it was all about getting the car to look as good as it can be in the fastest time possible. It becomes a great pre-kickoff prototype. It’s a sketch turned into three dimensions.

AM: Now that it’s in three dimensions, could it become, say, the next V8 Vantage?

MR: It could potentially influence the next V8 Vantage, but it would never be exactly the same, because we’ve said the DB10 is just for James Bond. Yes, it’s a great influencer. Our sports cars will become much more obviously true sports cars, and the next generation of DB9 will be more of a grand tourer, something that’s for that long journey. The next generation of Vantage is an incredibly dedicated sports car. We have new platforms we’re developing and new engines, so a lot of the technical side of Vantage will be completely different. But the visual language of DB10 will influence that much, much more. You see, the DB10 is a shark, it’s a predator, and that’s how we’ll start to separate the Vantage and DB lines.

Q+A: Alexander Witt, Second Unit Director on “Spectre”

James Bond Cars Alexander Witt

AM: What was your main role in the production of “Spectre”?

AW: To direct the action of the movie. I’d get together with [director] Sam Mendes and Gary Powell, the stunt coordinator, and talk about a stunt we were going to do and how we were going to do it before Gary would start testing the DB10 to make sure it was up to do the stunt.

AM: Give us an example of how that worked.

AW: There, specifically, was one jump in the movie, which is a pretty long jump that’s about 5 or 6 feet high, and the car [the Aston Martin DB10] is going pretty fast, so we needed to make sure it wouldn’t break in two after the jump. If there was something about the car Gary didn’t like, he’d bring it back to Aston Martin and they’d reinforce parts. Once satisfied, we’d prepare two to three cars for that specific jump in case something went wrong.

AM: Did anything go wrong?

AW: Yes, we broke a few wheelshafts, but Aston Martin fixed them immediately. The cars performed very well. That’s why we test the cars, so that when we do the stunt, we’re 100 percent sure things will work the way we want.

AM: You must’ve run into a few issues, no?

AW: The roads in Rome are cobblestone and are very slippery even when they’re not wet. When we got a little rain, we couldn’t do anything until it was completely dry. And sometimes the city said, “No, you can’t do the stunt.” Like in Rome, there was a street called the Four Fountains because it has statues on each corner, and the city had spent 7 million euros to restore them. We had wanted to do a stunt there, but they said, “If you hit one of the statues, it’s going to be a lot of money.”

AM: Tell us about the main chase in “Spectre.”

AW: The chase starts at a mansion just outside Rome where SPECTRE is having a big meeting. The main villain [played by Christoph Waltz] recognizes Bond, so Bond has to escape. The chase with the Jaguar C-X75 starts and then goes through the whole of Rome. Sam didn’t want to do a “tourist chase” and show a monument on every corner. You see the Vatican, but otherwise it’s just the streets of Rome. The speed with which we went down those little, narrow streets in Rome with those cars—it’s not easy. There’s a nice drive alongside the Tiber River in Rome, where the cars go up on a wall and stay up on the wall, and then come down near the end of the chase.

AM: How does “Spectre” compare to the latest films in the Bond franchise?

AW: It has a little more action than the last movie but is still about the characters. The older Bonds were more about gadgets and other things, but this is
more character-driven.

AM: How do you feel about DB10 being the newest Bond car?

AW: I think the DB10 is very significant. The Aston Martin is part of Bond, and technology is getting better and better. The DB5 is a great car to watch and all that, but if we had to jump the DB5 now, I don’t know if it would survive.

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1965 Aston Martin DB5 Specifications

Price When New: $4,695
Engine: 4.0L DOHC 12-valve I-6/ 282 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: N/A
L x W x H: 179.9 x 66.0 x 52.0 in
Wheelbase: 98.0 in
Weight: 3,236 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.1 sec
Top Speed: 142 mph

2007 Aston Martin DBS Specifications

Price When New: $265,000
Engine: 5.9L DOHC 48-valve V-12/510 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 20 lb-ft @ 5,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 11/17 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 185.9 x 75.0 x 50.4 in
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
Weight: 3,812 lb
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
Top Speed: 191 mph

2016 Aston Martin DB10 concept Specifications

Price When New: The world is not enough
Engine: 4.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8/ 430 hp @ 7,300 rpm, 361 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 13/19 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 173.6 x 76.1 x 49.2 in
Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Weight: 3,400 lb
0-60 MPH: 4.8 sec (est)
Top Speed: 190 mph (est)

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