By Anthony Crawford, CarAdvice.com.au • 04/08/2015
If you’re a James Bond fan then you might want to check out the world’s largest collection of Bond vehicles under one roof, smack bang in the middle of London’s exclusive Covent Garden.
It’s been more than 50 years since producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman first brought author Ian Fleming’s fictitious spy James Bond to the big screen, in the 007 movie Dr. No.
The first chase sequence in that film featured a blue Series 11 Alpine Roadster, and from that moment on almost every Bond film has featured a thrilling vehicle chase, usually in an ultra-exotic yet-to-be-released car, motorbike, boat, gyrocopter, or even a jetpack.
The good thing is there are no replicas – every exhibit is original, as seen on screen.
Even ‘Little Nellie’ is there – the autogyro from the 1967 instalment You Only Live Twice, complete with its full arsenal of weapons including front-mounted machine guns, rear-mounted flamethrowers, air-to-air missiles and of course, the suitcase that it came out of.
There were actually two of these gyrocopters built for the movie, one flown by the machine’s designer, autogyro world record holder Ken Wallis in the airborne action scenes, while the other was used for close ups with Bond actor, Sean Connery.
All the weapons were authentic and fully operational.
First released in 2002, Die Another Day featured Pierce Brosnan driving an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish armed with front-mounted rockets and bonnet-mounted machine guns. This is the only one of four heavily modified 6.0-litre Astons remaining and took the stunt team three months to build.
It sits alongside the villainous Zao’s equally formidable Jaguar XKR, which was loaded with a battery of missiles and an electric mini gun mounted behind the driver.
Besides the famous ejector seat-equipped DB5 that featured so heavily in the 1964 Bond movie Goldfinger, the film included a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom 111, driven by Goldfinger’s henchman, Oddjob.
The coachwork was apparently custom-made for Lord Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey and boasted a V12 engine, which, all up, tipped the scales at a hefty 3628 kilograms.
Who could forget the Lotus Esprit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me, as 007 drives it off a pier in Italy’s Sardinia in an attempt to escape the villainous Karl Stromberg. Little did the audience know that the iconic British sports car would transform into a submersible complete with a mine launcher and periscope.
In all, seven Esprit bodies – sans engine – were made for the film, one of which was fired from an air cannon to launch it underwater. US electric car maker Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, has since bought one such Lotus Esprit prop with plans to transform it into a real submersible car powered by a Tesla electric powerplant.
Far from an exotic, the cute little yellow Citroen 2CV from the movie For Your Eyes Only, is also on display – complete with bullet holes in the boot. The French car is seen crashing down a hillside, through olive groves, as Bond and Melina Havlock try to evade a pair of Peugeot sedans.
Actual boats include the super-agile Q-Boat from The World is Not Enough – launched from the MI6 offices on the Thames via a torpedo shoot and giving chase to a fast Sunseeker powerboat.
More than 15 boats were built for the production, including this custom-built version powered by a 300bhp V8 inboard.
In Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE boss Blofeld tries to escape his oil rig in the Bath-O-Sub, but fails when Bond manages to hoist it in the air and swing it back towards the rig.
The exhibition in housed in the The London Film Museum and is open seven days a week. Ticket prices are £14 for adults, £9.50 for children, or £38 for a family of four.
By Anthony Crawford, CarAdvice.com.au •