James Bond is lonely. It’s just 007 and his gadget-laden 1965 Aston Martin DB5 these days. He hasn’t had any company since his last passenger was ejected. His car phone can’t call anyone; for one thing, its inventor didn’t remember to include a dial. His radar-mapping system is frozen on some place in rural Sussex, and just emits beeps like a sonar signal from a submarine movie.
Even the fender-mounted machine guns seem to be out of bullets.
What’s an international man of mystery supposed to do these days for a bit of excitement?
Fortunately, Aston Martin has an answer: The 107-year-old British luxury carmaker is re-creating the Bond DB5 from the 1964 movie “Goldfinger,” starring Sean Connery, in painstaking detail. It is but one example — a really expensive one — of how auto manufacturers, including Land Rover, Jaguar and Porsche, have started reaching into their pasts to update some of their classic models and equipment.
A special run of 25 “Goldfinger Continuation” DB5s is being hand-built at the same facility in Newport Pagnell that produced all 898 originals between 1963 and 1965. The cars are finished in the same Silver Birch paint scheme, the interior leather is identical in color and texture, and the dashboard and gauges are as true to the original appearance as possible. Aston Martin even called upon the special-effects wizard from the Bond films, Chris Corbould, to supervise their re-creation.
“Aston Martin is fastidious about authenticity,” said Paul Spires, head of Aston Martin Works. “And we have gone to very considerable lengths to ensure the equipment in the Continuation cars is as faithful to that seen in the film as possible.”
He added: “Aston Martin has sourced the cockpit instrumentation from the modern successor to the same supplier who made the original instruments in the 1960s. They appear, essentially, identical.”
The movie car was equipped with a lethal array of nonstandard gadgets, to aid Bond in his crime fighting. These included oil-slick sprayers, smoke-screen foggers, a retractable bullet-resistant shield, a passenger ejection seat, a nail spreader, hidden machine guns in the fenders and telescoping battering rams.
“The main challenge has been to recreate the gadgets from the film world and transfer them into a consumer product,” Mr. Corbould said. “We have license in the film world to ‘cheat’ different aspects under controlled conditions. For instance, we might have four different cars to accommodate four different gadgets. We obviously don’t have that luxury on these DB5s, as all the gadgets have to work in the same car all the time.”
There are also concessions to the real world. There will be no ejection seat, as no “non-mischievous” use could be identified for it. Same with the nail dumper. The oil and smoke sprayers will emit simulated substances. And the machine guns won’t fire ammunition.
“That would not be compliant with a very great number of laws and/or safety regulations!” Mr. Spires said. “However, the guns do appear to ‘work’ and have light bursts to indicate them ‘firing’ along with authentic gunshot sound effects amplified through speakers — for a very impressive effect.”
Most other gadgets will be updated behind their dials and exteriors, to function in the modern world.
“The ‘radar’ screen uses modern-day satellite navigation mapping to show, as a blinking point of light in the center of the screen, the position of the car at any given time,” Mr. Spires said. “It mimics the functionality of the car’s screen in the film,” which had a static map of seven counties in southern England affixed to it.
“Work is still ongoing on the phone functionality, and we will provide more detail to owners in due course,” he added. Although the corded handset in the movie car appeared groundbreaking, the car phone had been invented in 1946. Unlike the DB5’s phone, actual car phones at the time could make actual calls.
The most noticeable difference between the Continuation cars and the originals is the price. A 1965 DB5’s base price was $12,850, although the Bond car’s options would have added considerably to that. The Continuation cars are all priced at $3.5 million.
Despite some tough sledding in the luxury car market of late, Aston Martin reports that all 25 are sold. All are being built, and are expected to be delivered to their owners in the coming months.
It was once said an Aston Martin “costs as much as a house.” If one is talking about central London, perhaps that is still true. In any case, the Continuations are a veritable bargain compared with the actual Bond DB5, which sold for $6,385,000 at auction in Monterey, Calif., in August.
Aston Martin’s Continuation cars may be the most ambitious of such auto projects to date. But Land Rover got the ball rolling four years ago with a project to refurbish a handful of its original Series I sport utility vehicles, which first appeared in 1948. Jaguar built “continuation XJSS” models, hand-building — like Aston Martin — replicas from original blueprints.
On a more practical note, Porsche is using the down time during the pandemic to address some needs of cars it has already built, with a new Porsche Classic Communication Management system. It’s a way to retrofit classic Porsches with modern infotainment features.
Porsche’s Classic Shop online offers two systems — one that replaces the skinny dashboard radio in classic Porsches with a unit that’s the same size and offers Bluetooth, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and other abilities that are compatible with a 3.5-inch screen the system adds to the dash display. For newer models, a seven-inch version adds touch-screen ability and some slots for peripherals like USB and SD cards. The retro look is retained with period-correct rubber knobs and plastic push buttons.
This system can retrofit Porsches from the 1960s through the 1990s.
Pricing is expected to be under $1,500 for even the top-line units. That’s cheaper than, say, replacing a burned-out original unit.