Following the release of Skyfall, Bondmania is upon us once again. Adding to the hysteria is 2012’s marking of the 50th year of James Bond films, so The Man With The License To Kill is dominating the news agenda at the moment. Broadsheet journalists are climbing over themselves to discuss all things Bond: be it his conversion to premium lager-guzzling, or the possibility of Stringer Bell from The Wire playing him in the future. Only the Jimmy Savile scandal is getting more airtime. Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond (he’s not a real hamster) paid tribute to 007’s car history with 50 Years of Bond Cars: A Top Gear Special.
Hammond’s in a more qualified position than most when it comes to assessing some of the most iconic supercars the world has seen, given his role as Jeremy Clarkson’s sidekick on Top Gear. He cherry-picked the very best, and began in earnest with the archetypal Bond car: the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, which featured revolving number plates, an ejector seat and a tyre-shredder.
Viewers learnt of the bureaucratic struggles behind the scenes; Aston Martin were said to have demanded over £4,000 for use of their car in the film, before begrudgingly lending it to MGM. In a Bizarro world the car would have been a Jaguar. Gadgetising the car cost over £25,000, a hell of a lot of money in those days, and over five times the car’s value.
Interjected throughout the programme were interviews with two Bonds past and present, Daniel Craig and Roger Moore, as well as production assistants and, curiously, Top Gear’s former Stig Ben Collins, who worked on Skyfall as a stunt driver. Craig’s favourite car was the Toyota 2000GT, which appeared in You Only Live Twice, whilst Roger Moore plumped for the Citroën 2CV, irrefutably the least-Bond car to ever appear in the films, but an interesting choice nonetheless. It’s the only Bond car available on a budget.
Even the most reviled Bond car of all time was placed under the microscope for assessment: Die Another Day’s shark-jumping invisibility car. Considered far-fetched and a too sci-fi at the time, Hammond considered whether an invisible vehicle could actually exist, given technological advancements in the last decade. He drove a Ford Transit van fitted out with plasma screen panels and a camera, which projected the surrounding area onto it. It looked awful and didn’t really work, but I suppose it demonstrated that the illusion of invisibility could well be developed as a pointless car feature in the future somewhen.
Towards the end of the show Hammond took the legendary Lotus Espirit submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me out for a dip, and lo and behold, it worked!
The Aston Martin DBS which featured in Casino Royale, setting the world record number for the number of rolls in a stunt to boot, got a look in too. Disappointingly, Hammond made no attempt to smash this record. Boo. Presumably the producers were all too wary that he might’ve triggered muscle memories of his 2006 Vampire Dragster crash.