It was Sean Connery’s impeccable “Bond, James Bond” in DR. NO that introduced an enthusiastic 1962 audience to a character who was to define the expression “licence to kill”. But it was a little Sunbeam Alpine series II convertible that set the pace for what has become possibly the most enduring, iconic symbol of the entire 50 years of the franchise: the James Bond car.
That Sunbeam – with its blue coat, white wheel rims and a chassis so small that 007 is forced to drive with his elbow hanging out of the window – may not have had the muscle of the imposter British Embassy Chevrolet Bel Air (the first car to ever appear in a Bond film), nor the grunt of the CIA Chevrolet Impala (which in fairness had only a cameo role). But when Bond looks in his mirror, realises there’s a LaSalle hearse on his tail, grits his teeth and stamps hard on the gas, the Sunbeam did what all subsequent 007 machines would set out to achieve: it raised the hairs on the back of your neck.
Since then, Bondmobiles have increased both in size and ambition, with their appearances hotly anticipated by generations of moviegoers, all eager to see what cleverness Q has rustled up this time (the gadgets, incidentally, first arrived in the following film, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, with the arrival of Q’s legendary “ordinary black leather case” that included a knife, sniper rifle and a teargas canister disguised as talcum powder). From the ejector seat in GOLDFINGER’s Aston Martin DB5 and the subaquatic skills of the THE SPY WHO LOVED ME’s Lotus Esprit S1, to the invisible Aston Martin Vanquish in DIE ANOTHER DAY, 007’s cars have remained as enduring as the agent himself, providing a celluloid cool factor that no amount of Savile Row suits and shaken martinis could ever muster. Now, thanks to the National Motor Museum, the cars are coming together in what promises to be the largest exhibition of its kind anywhere in the world.
To celebrate 50 years of Bond, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu has brought together 50 iconic 007 vehicles. That little Sunbeam Alpine is sadly missing in action somewhere in the world, but a whole fleet of cars will be on show, including not only such luminaries as Auric Goldfinger’s 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III, the trusty DB5, and the BMW 750iL from TOMORROW NEVER DIES, but also fan favourites such as the Parahawk paraglider/snowmobile hybrid from THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and the original cello case that Timothy Dalton skied down a mountain in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS.
To cap it all off, 2012 also marks the museum’s 40th anniversary, giving you access to an entire history of motoring, with over 250 cars covering everything from land speed record breakers to the latest F1 racing cars.
The exhibition, Bond In Motion, launches on January 16th. It opens to the public the following day and runs until December 2012, at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, New Forest. For more information call 01590 612345 or visit www.beaulieu.co.uk