While Goldfinger is often considered iconic for many reasons, one of the elements that helps to keep it in the public eye is the first appearance of the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5. Here we take a look at those gadgets.
Although Ian Fleming had put 007 behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB Mark III in his 1959 novel, the film makers only decided on Aston Martin after considering and rejecting the E-type Jaguar, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
In the book the car did have a number of option extras, although not as outlandish as in the film. These included front and rear reinforced bumpers for ramming cars, a homer and a concealed gun compartment.
Deciding to stick to the same marque as Fleming had in the book, production designer Ken Adam and special effects wizard John Stears went to see Aston Martin boss David Brown. There they tried to persuade Brown to give two Aston Martins, one to be used in the driving shots and one top be tricked out with gadgets.
Although initially reluctant, Brown came round and eventually gave them two cars for filming, including the prototype DB5.
Ken Adam was tasked with thinking of gadgets for the car, which would be tricked out over a six week period by John Stears. Some of the ideas that made it into the film were suggested by other members of production as the gadgets grew ever more outlandish, while some, although designed by Adam, were never used on screen.
Bond is issued with two homers by Q, one that fits in the heel of Bond’s shoe, the other magnetic version which Bond later attaches to Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce, enabling him to pinpoint the car on a hidden screen in the DB5.
Bond’s DB Mark III in the book was fitted with a similar device, although rather than display the target on a map, it produced an audible signal to indicate the distance, but not direction, of the car being tailed. While GPS is everyday technology in the 21st century, Bond’s homer was science fiction when the film was released.
Although not appearing in the film (although they are on the Corgi DB5), Ken Adam designed front extending bumpers.
Adam says the idea came top him as he drove an E-Type Jaguar at the time, which had no front bumper and was therefore being continually damaged by other cars. However, it may also have been inspired by the reinforced bumpers on the DB Mark III from Fleming’s novel.
In hot pursuit of the Mustang driven by the girl (Tilly Masterson) who has just taken a shot at Goldfinger, Bond pulls up alongside her and uses the tyre slashers to shred her front and rear tyres (as well as the bodywork in between).
These were conceived by Ken Adam, inspired by the scythed chariots from Ben Hur.
When Bond attempts to disarm Tilly Masterson near Goldfinger’s factory, guards are alerted when her rifle trips an alarm wire. The pair make their escape in the DB5, followed by two Mercedes cars; the first of these skids off the read and into a tree after being blinded by the smoke cloud billowing from the back of the Aston Martin.
Q: “Now open the top, and inside are your defence mechanism controls… smoke screen, oil slick, rear bullet-proof screen, and left and right front-wing machine guns.”
In the initial Goldfinger script the DB5 was equipped with just a smokescreen. However, over time various crew members came up with ever more exotic suggestions, and although installed on one of the cars, not all were actually used in the film.
With the other Mercedes still in hot pursuit, Bond flips the switch to activate the oil slick, which shoots out from the rear. As the Mercedes rounds the corner it skids on the oil and over the cliff.
Initially the car was to drop a cluster of nails into the path of any pursuing vehicle. However, it was felt that this would be too easy for the public to copy and instead the car was fitted with the oil slick.
When Bond and Tilly come to a dead end with the first Mercedes giving chase again, Bond flips the switch to raise the bulletproof screen for additional protection. As Tilly runs for the woods, Oddjob pulls up in a third car and, taking his bowler in his hands, throws the deadly hat at the girl, breaking her neck.
Revolving number plates
Demonstrated by Q in his lab, the revolving number plates are not actually used on the mission.
Q: “Revolving number plates, naturally… Valid all countries.”
Guy Hamilton came up with the idea, afterwards saying: “I was getting a lot of parking tickets at the time and I thought it would be absolutely marvellous to collect a parking ticket and then juggle the number plate, drive off and not be worried”.
Following Tilly’s death, Bond is captured by Goldfinger’s heavies and forced at gunpoint to drive his car in convoy with the two Mercedes. Bond suddenly makes a break for it and, flipping up the top of his gear knob, presses the red button to eject his minder through the top of the car and make his escape.
Bond: “Ejector seat? You’re joking!”
Q: “I never joke about my work, 007”.
The ejector seat was suggested by Guy Hamilton’s stepson and, according to Ken Adam, the device installed in the car was from a jet fighter and fully functional, although a mock up using compressed air was used during filming.
As Bond makes his escape he is suddenly blinded by lights. Pressing a switch, the front machine guns emerge from behind the lights and start firing, but to no effect and at the last minute turns the wheel to crash into a brick wall. The lights are the reflection of the DB5’s own headlights produced by a giant mirror.
Said to be the first major product placement in a film, Aston Martin saw sales jump by almost 50 percent following the release of Goldfinger, fully justifying Brown’s decision and forever linking 007 and Aston Martin in the public consciousness.
However, although the DB5 was a firm favourite with audiences, it was only in Goldeneye that the car was re-introduced after being last seen in the pre-title sequence of Thunderball, although a number of newer model Aston Martins appeared afterwards. Since then the DB5 has appeared in a number of films with varying degrees of gadgetry, most recently (but somewhat illogically) in Skyfall.
While Bond 24 will feature a current model Aston Martin, it is also possible we will see the return of the DB5 once more; only time will tell.