Mechanisms with Jan Coomans: Bond cars
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About the author
JAN COOMANS — photographer, mechanical expert and high-speed enthusiast

Mechanics are Jan’s work and hobby at the same time. Whether he is building a fast supercooled computer or lapping the 21 km long Nurburgring in Germany at breakneck speed, mechanical quality is the primary concern. Because your life can depend on it.
 
 
Механизмы с Яном Коомансом: автомобили Джеймса Бонда

First things first:

I’m not a huge fan of Bond movies.

I do watch them, of course. Who doesn’t? And more often than not I do find them quite entertaining. I just find my disbelief insufficiently suspended by Bond films now that I’m slowly but certainly entering the «grown up» phase of life. They were more fun to watch when I was 12 and my perception of the laws of physics was somewhat less clear. Still, cars have always been an important part of the James Bond franchise and with the latest movie «Spectre» only days away from its premiere I figured they’re worth talking about.

Of course, as a self proclaimed car enthusiast, I do get terribly annoyed with how cars tend to be shown on screen. It’s a common psychological condition called «taking things too seriously». If I see a movie car chase between a Ferrari 458 and an ice cream van, I expect the Italian sports car to drive off into the distance and the car chase to end immediately. But it never does. Movie car chases regularly feature cars which have absolutely no chance of «chasing» the hero’s car for more than 3 seconds in the real world. Yet somehow the scene goes on for five irritating minutes. Often with engine sounds from a completely different car.

And their gearboxes appear to have 16 forward gears which are somehow still unable to make the scenery go by the window at more than 90 kilometres per hour. Even the best directors in the world don’t seem to be capable of directing a car chase with realistic continuity, so as far as my stress level goes, I’m probably better of watching movies with kayak chase scenes instead. But I digress.

If there is one Bond car to rule them all, it must be a silver coloured Aston Martin DB5. It first starred in the 1964 film «Goldfinger» and the actual car used in the movie actually sold for nearly five million dollars a couple of years ago. Actually there were two but the other one was stolen in the 90s and never recovered. The DB5 has been in six Bond movies so far and that number is still likely to increase as the franchise tries to shoe-horn some of its tradition in between all the product placement going on. Of course Aston Martin does pay to be in these movies, like everyone else, but it’s safe to assume that they don’t need to pay nearly as much as other brands would. An exclusive British sports car suits James Bond a lot better than a big black German sedan would.

Spectre will be the 11th Bond movie to have an Aston Martin in it, but things are a little different this time around. Aston has created a DB10 specifically for the movie, you can’t buy one as it doesn’t exist. The car was literally unveiled at the press launch of the movie by its director Sam Mendes and producer Barbara Broccoli. There’s no sign of any DB10 coming soon as it’s purely a concept car for now. Expect to see some styling features appear on future Astons perhaps but that’s about it. Personally I don’t see the point of using a concept car because Bond movies are supposed to be contemporary. Watching two cars which do not and will not exist world chase each other through the streets of Rome strikes me as a little bit awkward.

Yes, there will another car in Spectre which doesn’t exist. There will also be a Jaguar C-X75 because the bad guy needs a car too. The fact that its name doesn’t roll off the tongue too well reflects the fact that it’s also purely a concept car. But this Jag actually looks pretty interesting. It’s awfully beautiful for a start. The styling is very F-type except even prettier. Much prettier. The C-X75 isn’t just a pretty face though as it also has 850 horsepower from a small turbocharged and supercharged engine plus a bunch of electric motors. Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? The bad news is that Jaguar killed the C-X75 project in 2012. As they say in South Park, «You bastards!»

It’s worth pointing out though, that in the James Bond universe it’s usually only the bad guys who drive Jaguars anyway. Remember that car chase from «Die another Day»? James in an Aston Martin Vanquish being chased on a frozen lake by a generic bad guy in a Jaguar XKR. Those were the good days where they were driving cars that actually existed I suppose! In «Casino Royale» and «Quantum of Solace» the baddies drove a Jaguar XJ8. Only in «Skyfall» was the head of British Intelligence chauffeured by James Bond in a Jaguar XJ. But then she did die later in the movie (oops, spoiler) so obviously it wasn’t a good sign.

But I like seeing British cars in a British themed movie, it just makes sense. Anyone remember the times when BMW was heavily sponsoring Bond movies? In «Goldeneye» there was a small cameo for a BMW Z3. There was nothing good about it except for the fact that it had less than 2 minutes on screen. The BMW Z8 in «The world is not enough» was a rather cool and exclusive car, so that’s good, but then in the movie it got cut in half almost immediately. Ouch.

The most painful thing, however, was seeing James Bond take delivery of a BMW 750iL in «Tomorrow never dies». I don’t care that it could be driven remotely via a modified phone or that it had sporty wheels on it. It’s a boat! What does Bond need all that space on the back seat for? Well, okay, there’s probably one or two things I can think of so that’s a bad example. But for a guy who’s used to driving Aston Martins and making stylish entrances, a BMW 750iL seems wildly out of character. It’s a car which actually would struggle to chase an ice cream van on a twisty road. Perhaps that’s why they decided not to have a real car chase in this movie and instead jumped the car off a roof and crashed it into a nearby building instead. On a positive note, the movie was very realistic in its portrayal of the car’s navigation system as a pushy woman with a German accent.

I suppose Moore must also have felt a bit short changed to get a Lotus after Sean Connery got an Aston. My impression of the Lotus Esprit has always been that it looked futuristic in an old fashioned sort of way. Even back in the 1970s when it was launched it probably looked like a science fiction writer designed it in the 1920s. If I had a large enough living room I wouldn’t mind putting an Esprit in it though, for decorative purposes, as that’s all it’s really good for.

Some Bond cars have really interesting stories however. The movie «You only live Twice» is the only one where James Bond doesn’t actually drive any cars at all. But in the movie he is rescued from some baddies by a Japanese woman driving a Toyota 2000 GT. Sean Connery was playing Bond at the time and he didn’t fit in the car as he was too tall. Toyota didn’t have a convertible version of the 2000 GT, but it only took them two weeks to cut off the roof and send 2 convertible cars to the set.

There are also three Bond movies that feature some AvtoVAZ cars. As you would expect of a Russian car in a Bond movie, nothing good ever happens to them, but what can you do. Some were cut in half by lasers, others were destroyed in a tank chase scene, but one VAZ-2121 was actually driven by Bond himself and survived.

The very first car driven in a Bond movie was actually a Bentley. Though not quite the kind you see incorrectly parked throughout Moscow in the present. A real Bentley from the 1930s when they were still quintessentially British. Well, when I say «real» ... the Bentley «Mark IV» which he drove never existed. There did exist a Bentley Mark VI and the mark IV appears to have been either an invention or mistake by author Ian Fleming and is confusing people to this day.

On that note, I’m off to get myself a vodka martini. You can guess the rest surely.

 

 

 

Ян Кооманс для раздела «Механизмы», опубликовано: 19 октября 2015
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