Continuation cars, are they a good thing? This week has seen Aston Martin resume production of their 'new' DB5. Unlike their previous track only DB4 from 2017, this is a road car. Just not for the road.
Fifty-five years ago, in 1965, the last original Aston Martin DB5 rolled out of the factory in Newport Pagnell. The intervening years has seen the design of the DB5 become synonymous with James Bond. Goldfinger, released in 1964, featured his car fitted with the 'Q' upgrades of revolving number plates, machines guns and even an ejector seat.
Following the release, there was a Corgi Toys version that cemented both the car and the features into many a young child psyche.
It is little wonder then that the 25 continuation build slots, announced in 2018, did not hang around too long. At last, officially sanctioned versions of the iconic film car, replete with all the 007 trickery, would be out in the wild. Almost.
Whilst the DB5 is a road car, these examples will not be road legal and at £2.75m plus taxes each, these may as well be delivered wrapped in a Corgi box to their new owners. It will be the ultimate boys toy, that is for sure.
The attention to detail is meticulous, the desirability present in every panel and curve. With a build time of 4,500 hours, you can see why. They are being born in the same factory that the original line came from. That in itself is another reason to lust after these cars. Aston Martin Works is a beacon of industry skill and craft from the old-world. The magic of the 007 Q branch gadgets comes from Chris Corbould, special effects supervisor on more than a dozen Bond films.
They come in the form of a rear smoke screen delivery system, simulated front machine guns and revolving number plates on the outside. Inside has a simulated screen tracker, drivers door telephone and under-seat hidden weapons tray. It really is going to be an authentic reproduction of the 'original' car from the film. But can it really be classed as a continuation car?
The original film car was modified for the cinematic Bond release by special effects guru, John Stears
. The Silver Birch DB5 subsequently became as famous as Sean Connery for the role it played in the Bond series. While there were two film cars, Sean Connery only ever drove one. That car, DP/2161/1, registered in the UK with registration BMT 216A, belonged to Aston Martin. It subsequently had the films effects removed and was sold into private ownership in 1968. A year later, it had the gadgets re-fitted to benefit the heritage it had once had. It left the UK and eventually ended up in Florida where it was insured for $3.2m. In 1997, under mysterious circumstances, the car was stolen and has never been found, suspected to have been destroyed.
The second car, affectionately known as the 'Gadget' car does still exist. This car had been used in both Goldfinger and Thunderball as the special effects car. In 1968, it too had all modifications removed and was sold to a USA based collector for $12,000. The owner, Jerry Lee, had displayed it at a few car shows but when it suffered damage at one, he refused to show it anymore. Then, in 1977, Aston Martin USA persuaded him to allow them to re-fit the gadgets and display it at the New York auto show. The success of this was followed by its last showing in 1981 before Jerry Lee kept it at his home.
It didn't break cover and be seen in public until it was sold in 2010 by RM Auctions to Harry Yeaggy for $10m. The Cincinatti classic collector still owns that car and fortunately for us, proudly displays the car often.
Will we mere mortals get to see these new toys coming from the hallowed hands at Newport Pagnell? Time will tell. It is testament to the original Italian design penned by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera in Italy that these beautiful works of art still turn heads today. The first customer cars are due to be delivered to their extremely lucky owners in the second half of 2020.
Are continuation cars direct from the manufacturer are a good thing then? I think so, yes. It retains the skill and craft, keeps people employed and delivers a revenue stream that, given recent events globally, is a good thing.
We just wish that, as with toys from our youth, every now and again, we could get to play with them too.