James Bond cars: the Pierce Brosnan era

Pierce Brosnan’s films redefined the automotive landscape of the James Bond series with 007 driving BMWs alongside classic Aston Martins.

After six long years without a new film, James Bond stormed back into action in Goldeneye. The Aston Martin DB5 was back for the first time since Thunderball, 30 years before. Yet, the 1995 film didn’t just introduce a new actor in the lead role – it also brought a new automotive brand into Bond’s world.

A three-film partnership with BMW signalled a broader shift in the film industry. This was less a creative decision, and more a strategic move driven by the evolving dynamics of finance in the movie business. However, Aston Martin were back in the fold with Brosnan’s fourth and final outing as 007. Die Another Day saw the brand reclaim its place as the quintessential vehicle for the world’s most famous spy.


“You know the name: You know the number”, declared promotional material for Pierce Brosnan’s debut as 007. James Bond had taken an extended break and was back with a new face and a new car brand. But BMW’s appearance in Goldeneye was rather overshadowed by another car to which that promotional slogan equally applied.

Aston Martin DB5

Bond’s first appearance following the titles is in his trusty Aston Martin driving along the winding roads above Monte Carlo, perhaps a nod to the winding mountain roads of Switzerland in Goldfinger.

It is here that he races Xenia Onatopp’s red Ferrari F355 GTS, much to the horror of Caroline, the terrified MI6 psychological evaluator in the passenger seat. Although the DB5 wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Ferrari in reality, Bond manages to acquit himself well as a driver. But the sequence suffers from over-elaborate choreography and Bond seems a bit too full of himself. Rather than debonair, his seduction of Caroline shows him to be both reckless and a sex pest – it seems horribly dated.

The DB5 sustained some minor damage while filming, much to the dismay of the owner who was on set. After filming several takes of Bond driving to the entrance of the casino, Pierce Brosnan smelled something burning. It turned out he hadn’t been fully disengaging the handbrake before pulling away.


Although the DB5 was involved in a major action sequence, Goldeneye official car was the BMW Z3 roadster. However, its screen time is extremely short because, according to director Martin Campbell, BMW signed their three-film deal late in the day. The car is first seen in Q’s lab with a range of gadgets, such as a radar, self destruct system and “all the usual refinements”. It also has Stinger missiles housed behind the headlights.

Later, after escaping the train, Bond and Natalya are in the Z3 driving along a dirt road in the Caribbean. The scene was shot in Puerto Rico, although I don’t recall the island being mentioned by name. Suddenly a light aircraft flies over them and unsteadily lands right in front of the car. It’s CIA man Jack Wade in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk borrowed from “a friend” at the DEA for Bond and Natalya to infiltrate Cuba. Wade drives off into the sunset, the last we see of the Z3 as it is soon lost in a cloud of dust.

Other vehicles

There are a couple of other road vehicles to mention here. The first is the Russian T-55 tank which Bond uses to cause absolute havoc on the streets of St Petersburg. The tank was from a museum and had its steel tracks replaced by rubber-shoed ones to avoid damaging the city streets. Again, the chase scene is overdone with its excesses undoing what could have been a great scene.

The other is Wade’s car in Russia. While awaiting Bond at St Petersburg airport Wade leans on a Mercedes. But any hope that Bond might travel in any kind of comfort is lost when it is apparent that his car is a barely functioning ZAZ-965 in powder blue. Wade straps Bond’s suitcase to the roof rack and drives him to meet Valentin Zukovsky.

Other vehicles include the Eurocopter Tiger stolen by Xenia Onatopp during its demonstration in Monaco; the armoured train; and the previously mentioned Cessna 172 Skyhawk. When the plane is hit by a surface-to-air missile while searching for Janus’s satellite dish in Cuba, Bond is forced to crash land. Although the end result is very different, the scene seems to lean heavily on You Only Live Twice.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Although the DB5 is back in Pierce Brosnan’s second film, this time its appearance is far more fleeting. After being recalled from Oxford where he is “brushing up on a little Danish”, Bond drives back to HQ in the DB5. All in all the car is on screen for a grand total of 18 seconds.

BMW 750iL

Q issues Bond with a BMW 750iL fitted with an assortment of gadgets in Hamburg. The car is a long-wheelbase version of the 750i and powered by a 5.4 litre V12 engine providing 346 BHP through a five-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a good car, but it just isn’t Bond. The 750i is aimed squarely at the executive market, not playboy secret agents.

Handily for 007 it has been tricked out by Q Branch, with gadgets such as unbreakable windows – as in bullet and sledgehammer proof – and the ability to drive it via remote control via a mobile phone. It also has missiles hidden in the sunroof and a security system that deters would-be thieves with tear gas and electric shocks. These are put to good use during an action-packed chase in a multi-storey car park with Brent Cross standing in for Hamburg.

Other vehicles

After M is given 48 hours to investigate the sinking of HMS Devonshire, she discusses the case with Bond, Robinson and Moneypenny as they cross London. They are in her 1987 Daimler DS420 Limousine escorted by police motorcycle outriders. The car was built on a modified Jaguar Mk 10/420G platform and used Jaguar’s 4.2 litre twin-cam inline six engine. Popular with chauffeur services, hoteliers, and undertakers, the Daimler DS420 is still in service by numerous European Royal Families, including the UK.

There is also the BMW R1200C bike that Bond and Wai Lin steal from outside the CMGN building in Saigon, after escaping Carver and his goons. BMW introduced the R1200C cruiser in 1997 featuring a potent 1,170cc flat-twin engine with 84 horsepower with five-speed transmission. The distinctive design included Telelever front suspension, Monolever rear suspension, and dual front disc brakes. With a unique fuel tank design and chrome-plated exhaust, the 1997 R1200C became something of an icon.

Initially Carver’s men pursue them in Range Rovers but after evading them by riding along narrow passageways and then onto the rooftops a Eurocopter AS355 joins the chase. At one point Bond jumps the bike from one rooftop to another, flying over the helicopter as he does so. As it was too dangerous to perform for real, stunt rider Jean-Pierre Goy jumped over a rotor-less helicopter body with the spinning blades added in post-production.

The World Is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan’s third Bond movie isn’t big on cars, but after Tomorrow Never Die’s BMW 750i the marque did provide a car worthy of 007. A scene was filmed in which Bond arrives at the funeral of Sir Robert King in the DB5, but it never made the final cut. However, the DB5 does appear in a thermal satellite image at the end of the film, when R is trying to locate Bond in Istanbul. It’s on screen for less than 2 seconds so blink and you really will miss it.


Released in 1999, The World Is Not Enough was the last film to involve BMW. However the sleek BMW Z8 roadster was worth the wait. It’s a shame the car didn’t have more screen time. Inspired by the iconic BMW 508 from the 1950s, the Z8 was equipped with a 4.9-litre V8 providing 400 BHP and 500 lb-ft of torque. Electronically limited to 155 mph (250 km/h), the Z8 could do 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds. But above all are its lines. While the Z3 almost had it, the Z8 had it in spades.

Q Branch equipped Bond’s car with various gadgets including titanium armour. That didn’t stop it from being sawn in half by a circular saw suspended from a helicopter though. But, as so often happens in Bond films, the car was a pre-production mock-up. BMW officially launched the Z8 in 2000.

The World Is Not Enough marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q, who died shortly after the film’s release in a car accident. Seen in this light it is a shame that R explains the car’s gadgets to Bond rather than Q. That said, it does seem like Q’s appearance was designed as a send-off anyway.

Other vehicles

There are two cars with small roles in the film worth mentioning. Davidov drives a VAZ-2121 to the airport with Bond hiding in the boot. And Valentin Zukovsky drives a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II. There are a number of other notable vehicles though.

First is the jet-powered Q Boat Bond uses to pursue Cigar Girl along the Thames in the pre-title sequence; and there are the hybrid paraglider/snowmobile Parahawks used to hunt down Bond on the ski slopes; Bond and Elektra arrive on the mountain top in a Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin; and the King Industries choppers used to clear forest with massive circular saws suspended beneath are Eurocopter AS355s.

Die Another Day

Pierce Brosnan’s last appearance as 007 is probably most remembered for its excesses. But one gadget in particular underlined how fantastical the film that marked the 40th anniversary of the series really was.

After three films with BMW providing 007’s wheels, Bond switched his allegiance to Ford. And that meant the return of Aston Martin, owned outright by Ford since 1991 and managed alongside Jaguar in its luxury Premier Automotive Group division.

Aston Martin V12 Vanquish

While the DB5 had returned to the series with Goldeneye, Die Another Day marked the first time Bond was behind the wheel of a current Aston since The Living Daylights 15 years before. Beneath its sleek exterior of Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish lay a 5.9-litre V12 engine delivering 460 horsepower. With a top speed of around 190 mph (305 km/h), the car could achieve 0-60 mph in around 4.5 seconds.

The car also boasts an arsenal of Q Branch-installed gadgets, including various armaments. In a 40th anniversary nod, it was also equipped with an ejector seat. But what really caught the ire of fans was the adaptive camouflage that renders the car virtually invisible. The car is put through its paces on the ice in the final act of the film and the ejector seat is put to good use, although probably not quite what Q envisioned.

Ford Fairlane

In Cuba Bond drives a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. It was the first mass-produced car to feature a retractable hardtop, which could be electrically folded and stowed away in the boot, transforming the car from a closed, sleek coupe to an open, stylish convertible.

The innovative retractable hardtop mechanism was a complex yet impressive addition that attracted attention when introduced. Count Lippe drove a similar car in Thunderball.

Other vehicles

With Ford involved in Die Another Day it’s little wonder to find they supplied more than just the Aston Martin “Vanish”. Jinx drove a Thunderbird with a coral coloured paint job that matched her bikini. And Zao was equipped with a metallic green Jaguar XKR convertible fitted out with a range of weaponry to match the Aston.

This high-performance grand tourer was equipped with a 4-litre supercharged V8 delivering 370 horsepower, propels the XKR through its paces with remarkable agility. The car can do 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds with a limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). A number of both XKRs and non-supercharged XK8s were used in filming, including modified stunt cars used for the chase sequence on the ice.

In the pre-title sequence there is a chase sequence in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. After taking control of an Osprey 5 hovercraft, Bond is pursued by a couple of Ospreys and a larger Griffon 2000TD commanded by Colonel Tan-Sun Moon. Moon has an impressive collection of sports cars but their use as set-dressing precludes them from more of a mention.

Later in the film Bond and Jinx enter North Korea using “Switchblade” single person gliders. Remarkably they are based on the real life Programmable High Altitude Single Soldier Transport (PHASST) manufactured by Kinetic Aerospace Inc. Talking of aircraft, Graves’ plane at the end of the film is an Antonov An-124 externally. Inside though it is an Ilyushin Il-76 – the latter has glass navigation windows in the nose. And although the model Antonov has such windows, prior to taking off the plane does not.

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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