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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 From ‘Thunderball’ Rumbles to a Record $6.4 Million at Auction

Equipped with all of agent 007’s gadgets, the star car crossed the block for $6.4 million.

James Bond's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball. Photo by Simon Clay, courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

During RM Sotheby’s three-day auction in Monterey, Calif., held August 15 through 17, six auto enthusiasts engaged in a four-and-a-half-minute-long bidding brawl over a classic Aston Martin from the mid-1960s, a car that long ago earned the nickname “the most famous car in the world.” The night’s docket was dedicated exclusively to the revered British marque, and almost three dozen exceptional vehicles—spanning six motoring decades—rolled across the block. The undisputed star was the aforementioned 1965 Aston Martin DB5 “Bond Car,” a superlative piece of automotive and cinematic history. It sold for $6.4 million, which exceeded the presale high estimate by some $400,000 and established a new record price for a DB5.

James Bond's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball.

James Bond’s 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball.  Photo by Simon Clay, courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

As one of two DB5s that Eon Productions purchased from Aston Martin to promote the 1965 film Thunderball, this rare saloon features all 13 of the special gadgets that Q had first equipped in James Bond’s DB5 in Goldfinger. Unlike the two cars used in the filming of that previous movie—vehicles that were outfitted with those special-effects enhancements by the production studio—this particular car features gadgets that were installed by Aston Martin. Furthermore, those gadgets were built to last—a notable distinction since the Goldfinger cars were saddled with special effects equipment that was designed to function for only a single take.

James Bond's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball.

A smoke screen and other defensive gadgets are de rigueur on this DB5.  Photo by Simon Clay, courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

Of even greater significance, the car was comprehensively restored in 2012 at Switzerland’s Roos Engineering, an Aston Works heritage partner. Predictably, that restoration included the refurbishment of all 13 special-effects modifications, which makes this car the only vintage DB5 with all fully functioning special agent accoutrements. Just how cool is that?  Let’s just say RM Sotheby’s deemed it significant enough to create a four-minute YouTube video about the car.

“This is an unbelievably rare chance to play secret agent in a car that offers incredible performance and style in its own right,” said Barney Ruprecht, an RM Sotheby’s car specialist, prior to the auction. “The whole ethos of this car is the gadgets—being able to flip the center console up and see the GPS start flashing. You can fire the guns and put your bullet shield up. Sean Connery used these things. This is not just a dream; it’s totally reality.”

James Bond's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball.

A coupe any covert operative would covet.  Photo by Simon Clay, courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

According to Ruprecht, the Browning .30 caliber machine guns that extend from the car’s front and rear fenders are the gadgets that most consistently amaze all admirers, but other noteworthy Q-conceived devices include smoke screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and—at least in theory—a passenger-side ejection seat.

James Bond's 1965 Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball.

Tradecraft at the touch of a button or flip of a switch.  Photo by Simon Clay, courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

That the car established a new auction record and sold for as much as it did doesn’t surprise Ruprecht. He points to Aston Martin’s current production of a limited-edition Goldfinger DB5 continuation model—one that the automaker is building through a partnership with Eon Productions and includes the renowned baker’s dozen of MI6 gadgets. It’s proof, Ruprecht says, that the car is as in-demand as it’s ever been.

As for the original that RM Sotheby’s recently sold, Ruprecht only has one wish. “I hope someone drives the wheels off of it,” he says. “That’s my hope. If it was my car, I would legitimately drive it every day if I could.”

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