Aston Martin was not the only thing that made James Bond cool, but it helped. The car has played a key role in the franchise even though it’s not in every film or book, having appeared in at least 11 of the 24 released features.
The Aston Martin’s legacy has forever been intertwined with Bond’s, but before the super spy first got behind the wheel, it had a fairly rough ride.
Aston Martin was first founded by Lionel Martin and Richard Bamford in 1913, but didn’t start rolling out models until the following year—when World War I was just beginning. Naturally, production was halted briefly, but when it resumed, Martin and Bamford continued with their brand’s central goal: speed over luxury.
Martin was inspired by a stretch of road in Hertfordshire, England, that had become a favourite racing spot known as Aston Hillclimb. Hence, the racing spot’s name crept into the car’s name. One can tell from this that speed was always the goal with Aston Martin.
But Martin and Bamford’s car couldn’t escape wartime miseries. Racing cars were luxuries that England couldn’t afford during World War II, and the company changed hands several times.
In 1947, tractor manufacturer David Brown bought the company. Wanting to make his own mark, Brown added his initials, DB, to all models. Perhaps more importantly, it was also the same time the cars were fitted with V8 engines. By the time the DB5 was in production, so was a film called Goldfinger.
It’s hard to understate Goldfinger’s impact. The car’s use in the film is taken from the 1959 Ian Fleming novel of the same name. The fact that DB5 was adorned with gadgets that no regular driver could legally or practically equip at that time made the car highly sought-after worldwide.
Brown’s transfer of ownership in the 1970s spelled the company’s first bad season not brought on by war, during which the Nimrod (an unfortunate name that proved apt) disappointed at 24 Hours of Le Mans, France, the oldest active sports car race in the world. Worse, Roger Moore’s Bond didn’t appear fond of them.
By the early 1980s, global sales of the Aston Martin had been reduced to three cars a week. Then, two major events happened that reconfirmed Aston Martin’s status as a luxury racing vehicle. First, the car received a Royal Warrant of Appointment by Prince Charles of Wales in 1982, a status still enjoyed to this day. Second, Bond came back. Then co-owner Victor Gauntlett of Pace Petroleum negotiated for the return of the Aston Martin Vantage in 1986’s The Living Daylights. He was even offered Joe Don Baker’s KGB agent role.
It’s worth noting that the Aston Martin is not the only means of conveyance Bond’s seen driving. Recently under Daniel Craig’s tenure, it has once again received better attention as a Bond car. However, attributing it to be a Bond car all throughout the history of the franchise is flawed. That, in no way, makes Aston Martin any less cool.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer