The Secret Agent movies of the 1960s were the best. And they were the best because they were believable. Ian Fleming wrote the initial James Bond books and if his spy let his guard down and was punched in the mouth, it hurt. I think a couple of times in the early books he needed medical attention.
Same with Harry Palmer in the movie “The Ipcress File,” TVs “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” agents Napoleon Solo and Ilyia Kuryakin in their feature-length film, “The Spy in the Green Hat,” and on and on. They, and the others, featured three things: cool guys who were spies (believable), beautiful cars to escape the bad guys (believable) and gorgeous women to keep the heroes happy (well, maybe).
We all have our favourite Bond guys. Most people will say Sean Connery was the best James Bond. Daniel Craig is okay, but his action sequences are completely unrealistic. I never warmed to Roger Moore because he co-starred with Tony Curtis in a wonderful British action-comedy series called “The Persuaders!,” but quit when he got wind that the Bond role might come open. I can’t blame him, but “The Persuaders!” was wonderful stuff.
My favourite Bond was the best Bond, of course, who starred in the best Bond movie (it faithfully followed the book) that had the best villain and the best-co-star. Everything about that book, and that motion picture, was perfect.
The actor, of course, was George Lazenby, the film was “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The villain was Ernst Stavro Blofeld as portrayed by Telly Savalas and Lazenby’s co-star was the wonderful Diana Rigg. They even had a car race on ice in this movie. I mean, how can you beat that?
The movie is more than 50 years old, but spoiler alert just in case: Bond and his beloved get married and leave on their wedding trip, only to be attacked by Blofeld on a road in Portugal during which Mrs. Bond is shot dead. Curses.
Rigg, whose book/screen name was Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (a.k.a. Tracy) drove a 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 in a car chase in the Swiss Alps, where many of the spectacular stunt scenes were filmed.
Which brings us to the best Bond cars, which is the reason for this column. Leading lifestyle automotive brand, Hagerty, has compiled a list of the best Bond cars.
Hagerty starts off with a Sunbeam Alpine that Sean Connery drove in the first Bond movie, “Dr. No.” Now, the Alpine is no Aston Martin and, to be honest, the only really fond memory I have of that picture is Ursula Andress. However, it’s there.
My feelings about the car are somewhat negative. When I worked on the Packet & Times in Orillia, I had a friend, Paul Smith, who owned one. For some inexplicable reason, he removed the hardtop from the car in the middle of February and took another friend, Mike Donnelly, and I for a ride around town.
Three things: One, in those days, we still had winter in southern Ontario, and it was freezing; two, three big guys in a two-seater sports car made things a little uncomfortable; and three, you could feel every bump on every road we drove over. (I wonder if Connery noticed any bumps when he drove an Alpine on the roads of Jamaica making the movie?)
Anyway, I got pneumonia as the result of that ride-around-town, so my judgment might very well be coloured. But with respect, I don’t think the Sunbeam Alpine (which can be purchased for an average of $11,000) was worthy of being driven by Royal Naval Reserve Commander James Bond, Agent 007 in the British Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a. MI6).
Other cars selected by Hagerty, in their words:
1965 Aston Martin DB5 in various Bond films: Aston Martin is forever linked to 007 but for a true car enthusiast it is this timeless ride that is the true star of the show. Today the 1965 DB5’s average value is $929,000 (U.S.), a cost undoubtedly attributed to the car’s stardom found on the big screen.
1999 BMW Z8 in “The World Is Not Enough”: This sleek ride produced some controversy within the franchise following its introduction when compared to Bond’s classic Aston Martin. But if it is not going to be an Aston Martin, the Z8 is definitely the perfect fit for a man with a licence to kill. Today, the car’s average value is $200,000.
1965 Mercedes-Benz 250 SE in “Octopussy”: Mercedes-Benz is another one of those iconic luxury brands you expect a man like Bond to be seen driving. Most notably, you’ll remember the 250 SE for helping Bond avoid World War III thanks to the car’s axle being the same width as the train tracks. Today, the car’s average value is $44,200.
1976 Lotus Esprit S1 in “The Spy Who Loved Me”: Not all iconic rides speed down the open road or break the bank, the unique S1 nicknamed the “Wet Nellie” is most recognizable from when 007 drove off the dock and the car produced fins. While you can’t purchase this exact, submarine-style car, the Lotus Esprit S1 average value is $28,400.
Now, Daniel Craig says the latest Bond film, “No Time to Die,” to be released in October, will be his last. Hollywood insiders say Regé-Jean Page (ex-Netflix drama “Bridgerton”) is in line to take over. The star isn’t all that should change. It’s time for new wheels, too. I can hear it now: “My name is Bond. James Bond. Bring me my vehicle, a Ford F-150. Ruby red. I’ll be at the casino.”
Norris McDonald is a retired Star editor who continues to write for Wheels under contract. He reviews the weekend’s auto racing every Monday at wheels.ca