It took less than 13 minutes of screen time to earn James Bond's 1964 Aston Martin DB5 the title of "the most famous car in the world." On the 46 year anniversary of Goldfinger's American release, where is it now?
It was exactly 46 years ago today when Goldfinger was released across America. With every showing, a little bit more of the American public was introduced to James Bond's now famous 1964 Aston Martin DB5. The film was well received critically and at the box office. Goldfinger grossed over $51 million dollars, easily making back it's at the time astronomical budget of $3 million dollars. While the movie is arguably the best of the Bond franchise, the Aston Martin and its gadgets remain perhaps the most memorable thing about the movie. When Thunderball, the next movie in the Bond franchise, was produced the DB5 returned to the screen. Despite having less screen time in Thunderball, the DB5 still managed a memorable performance.
Equipped with bullet proof windows, revolving number plates (naturally), a variety of defense mechanisms and perhaps most famously, an ejector seat, it isn't surprising the car left an impression on the movie viewing audience. Even without the gadgets the Aston Martin DB5 was a beautiful car, but on the big screen, in the hands of the world's most famous spy, the Silver Birch DB5 was an absolute knockout. The DB5's first movie appearance immediately launched the car into permanent dream car status, and the Aston remains the subject of many a car lover's fantasy to this day. So where is it now?
The correct question to ask is actually where are they now? Aston Martin hesitantly gave EON productions, who produced both early Bond movies the DB5 appeared in, two 1964 Aston Martin DB5s to use for filming. Aston Martin had initially pointed the production company in the direction of a dealership in response to their request for cars. One of the two cars Aston Martin provided, chassis number DP216/1, started life as a pre production test mule for the DB5 model before appearing on the big screen. The other car, chassis number DB5/1486/R was standard DB5 (if there is such a thing) delivered to the production company in the same condition it would have been delivered to a customer.
DP216/1 was the DB5 that was actually outfitted with all of the gadgets that made Bond's DB5 so memorable. Known as the "Effects Car" all of the modifications required for filming were made to DP216/1. Interestingly enough, with no concept of the future pedigree the cars involvement with the Bond films would bring DP216/1 was converted back to a standard DB5 and sold when EON Productions returned the car to Aston Martin. The car's famous gadgets were reinstalled at a later date and DP216/1 did promotional appearances for decades. In 1997, the Effects Car was stolen from an airport hangar in Florida where it was stored. No one has seen the car since it was stolen and after an exhaustive search it is now generally accepted that the Effects Car may be lost forever. The Insurance Company's payout for the car in the late 90s was rumored to be around four million dollars.
DB5/1486/R was used for filming driving shots and was not originally outfitted with any of James Bond's signature gadgets. Now referred to as the "Road Car", DB5/1486/R was strictly used for road scenes which did not require any special effects. Aston Martin held on to the road car until 1969 when the Road Car was sold to broadcaster Jerry Lee for $12,000. At some point after the movies were filmed the Road Car was fitted with all of the special effects and features seen on screen. Jerry Lee owned the car until October of 2010 when the DB5 was sold for $4.1 million dollars. The road car's new owner, Harry Yeaggy currently displays the car in his private Ohio car museum. You can see the sale in the Youtube video below.
Two other Aston Martins are frequently referred to as James Bond's DB5 even though they never appeared in the movies. Chassis number 2008/R and 2017/R were bought and outfitted with the movie gadgets by EON Productions for American promotional appearances around the time of Thunderball's release. One of the press cars, 2008/R, was sold for $2.09 million dollars in 2006 at auction to an anonymous purchaser. The car has been seen publicly a few times since its sale and subsequent restoration. The other press car, 2017/R, currently resides in the Dutch National Motoring Museum where it is currently on display.
Although one of the movie cars is likely gone forever and the other has been out of the public eye since the 1960s, James Bond's DB5 remains "the most popular car in the world". Other Silver Birch DB5s have had small roles in several later James Bond films, neither of which have compared to the originals. Thankfully, the original DB5s have been preserved forever in the two classic films in which they were featured. For most of us, watching these old Bond films are the closest we will ever get to piloting one of Bond's DB5 (or any DB5) down the road. Even so, the dream of piloting an old silver DB5 through the English countryside for an epic game of golf or through the Swiss hills in pursuit of smugglers is enough to keep the Bond DB5s in the dreams of car lovers for generations to come.