Of all of the countless movie cars over the years, perhaps no other has become as famous as 007's Aston Martin DB5.
It probably seems that we have skipped a lot of cars in this series, and the reason for this is simply that we have already covered so many iconic screen cars in other series. Thankfully, the most iconic of all Bond cars was not among them, and thus we will discuss it now. The DB5 is not only the most famous of the Bond cars, but it was also one of the most important cars in the history of Aston Martin, having raised the company’s profile like no other model. The James Bond we've come to know in film is broadly similar to the Bond of Ian Fleming’s books.
Certain actors or directors have emphasized some qualities more than others, but the character’s general behaviors and tastes have carried over. Interestingly, the one area where this is decidedly untrue is in that of his taste in automobiles. The Bond of Fleming’s books was a Bentley man, and only once drove an Aston Martin. But this isn’t really so important, the cars are aimed at roughly similar audiences. Although Fleming made mention of Bond’s car early and at great length in the very first novel (Casino Royale), it took until the third movie (Goldfinger) for the DB5 to be introduced or for cars to play a particularly prominent role at all.
The Aston Martin DB5 had a fairly short production run, from 1963 to 1965, with just 1,023 units produced. But to be fair, the DB4, the DB5 and the DB6 are all basically evolutions of the same idea. The DB4 was a radical departure from the DB Mark III it replaced, and the DBS that replaced the DB6 was a much larger and heavier vehicle than the previous DB cars. Although there were some styling changes in the evolution from DB4 to DB5, the big advantage of the new car was a bigger and more powerful engine, enlarged from 3.7 liters to 4.0 liters. The inline-six engine now produced 282 horsepower, a bump from the 240 of the DB4.
This increase in power was well timed, as 1964 saw the introduction of the Ferrari 275 GTB, a car which instantly became the DB5’s most direct competitor. Power and performance figures for the two cars were fairly comparable, but the Aston also offered a larger and more luxurious interior. The 275 is still today recognized as one of the Ferrari greats, but Aston sold more units of the DB5 and in a shorter period of time. The car proved so good that Aston didn’t even change the engine when it was evolved into the DB6, but rather made primarily aerodynamic improvements to the design.
With the help of all of that Bond movie marketing, Aston Martin would end up selling nearly double the number of DB6 units as it had of the DB5, leaving Ferrari in the dust. But it was obviously much more than just marketing which made the DB5 a hit. The simple elegance of the design is undeniable. It is everything that was right about European grand touring cars in the Sixties. It was more practical than the competition as well. In addition to being bigger, the large six-cylinder engine was better at producing easily usable power than the Italians and their high-strung small-displacement V12s.
The DB5 was made for touring instead of racing, which made it the perfect choice for Bond, appearing in six films to date. It would have been seven, but scenes from The World is Not Enough ended up on the cutting room floor. The DB5 is not just the most iconic Bond car, but the most famous movie car of all time.