As a young child and huge James Bond fan I road-tested my gadget-laden toy Corgi Aston Martin DB5 to destruction.
Now, as a somewhat older child and with just as much glee, I’ve just found myself road-testing the real thing and – unlike 007 or the younger me – managed to return it safely without a mark on it.
Indeed my DB5 was fitted with almost all of the gadgets that generations of children – of all ages – have grown to love and fantasise about since it became the undoubted star of the 007 movie ‘Goldfinger’, alongside Sean Connery as the suave but deadly secret agent in the classic 1964 James Bond movie.
And I am now one of a very small and exclusive group of people in the world to have been given the chance to drive the car created in collaboration with EON Productions, makers of the James Bond films, without actually having to buy one…
From 1964 to 2020: Daily Mail’s Ray Massey (right) had the chance to live-out his childhood dream of becoming James Bond for the day, taking to the wheel of one of Aston Martin’s £3.3m Goldfinger continuation cars equipped with the gadgets from the iconic Sean Connery film (right)
Looking and feeling as smug as any wannabe super-agent, I was at the wheel of the very first Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation car, of which just 25 are being built for sale to well-heeled customers who can stretch to the £3.3million price tag.
That’s around 790 times more than the cost of the original DB5 when it was launched at the dawn of the Swinging Sixties, just ahead of its appearance in the 1964 Bond movie.
Dubbed ‘the most famous car in the world’, fewer than 900 of these original DB5s were built between 1963 and 1965 priced from £4,175.
After Goldfinger, the DB5 featured in six subsequent 007 films – Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre, and is set to make another stunning appearance in the forthcoming No Time to Die in November.
In fact, a DB5 built for the 1965 007 movie Thunderball sold for a record £5.2million at auction in August 2019.
Behind the wheel of the incredibly special DB5, I could not help but think back to the hours of childhood joy spent activating the many gadgets on my Corgi 007 version complete with all the trimmings, of which more than 2.5million have been sold.
Mint original versions today really are worth their weight in gold – and probably much more – provided you’ve kept the box and still have the little blue passenger holding a gun to 007.
How many of those have been lost down the back of countless sofas and elsewhere over the decades as tiny hands pressed the toy version’s ejector seat mechanism? Then in 2018 Lego launched a 1,290-piece DB5 costing £129.99.
Ray said he was cast back to his hours of childhood joy spent activating the many gadgets on his Corgi 007 DB5
Corgi sold more than 2.5 million of the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 Goldinger toy cars
Mint original versions like this one are worth their weight in gold – and probably much more – provided you’ve kept the box and still have the little blue passenger holding a gun to 007
Over the years I’ve also been lucky enough to meet many of the actors who have appeared in the 007 movies – including Bond women Maryam d’Abo from The Living Daylights, Michelle Yeoh from Tomorrow Never Dies, Cigar Girl Maria Grazia Cucinotta from The World is Not Enough , former Moneypenny Samantha Bond from Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, and even 007 producer Barbara Broccoli herself.
I’ve even had my head crushed in a vice-like grip by Dave Bautista who played villain Mr Hinx from Spectre while current Moneypenny Naomie Harris looked on.
I’ve also driven some of the stunt cars made especially for the movies too – including the gun and missile laden Aston Martin Vanquish from ‘Die Another Day.
But nothing compares to this – the real deal…
A direct line to Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Ray Massey test drove the iconic Aston Martin from Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory to Stoke Park golf and country club in Stoke Poges, near Slough in Berkshire, where key scenes of the ‘Goldfinger’ film were shot
Why the Goldfinger DB5 is a £3.3million Aston Martin masterpiece
This is not a movie stunt car nor a replica but a genuine continuation production car of the DB5 – reborn from where it left off some 55 years after the last new DB5 left 107-year-old Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory, now the base for its Heritage Division.
And it has the added twist of the MI6 Q-Branch Goldfinger gadgets specially recreated by Aston Martin engineers and Oscar-winning special effects guru Chris Corbould who has worked on more than a dozen Bond films.
Each car takes 4,500 hours to hand- build in the in the original Silver Birch paint – under strict social distancing and safety measures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Machine guns aside, other features on the reborn DB5 include: smoke to disguise your movement from near the exhaust pipe (thanks to a steam condenser); oil (or in this case water) which sprays out from two flip down rear tail lights; a bullet proof-shield rising elegantly from the boot; front bumpers which extend forward as battering rams; and a secret ‘weapons’ or storage tray under the seat.
The 25 Aston Martins being built are not movie or stunt cars, nor are they replicas. Instead, they are genuine continuation production cars of the DB5 – reborn from where it left off some 55 years
Among the full quota of gadgets is the machine guns that appear from out behind the indicator lights. These are, of course, fake
Trailers for the new ‘No Time to Die’ Bond film show another DB5 with machine guns featuring in the film – though in the latest movie they appear from behind the headlights rather than the indicators
All the control switches for the gadgets are inside the car, some of them in this secret panel. Owners will also get a remote fob to control them from outside the car to wow their friends and family
Want to change your identify or nationality? The number-plates revolve on a Toblerone-style mechanism to suit your location. For legal reasons these had to be disabled for my exclusive test-drive. (Did someone whisper ‘speed cameras’?)
Tyre shredders emerging from the wheel hubs proved tricky (lawyers again), so a boxed display set are provided with the car.
All the gadgets are controlled using interior switches, though there is also a remote control box to allows to show off the car’s gadgets from outside the vehicle.
Included in the features is the legendary bulletproof rear shield, which appears from the rear panel of the car to protect the back window
The rotating numberplates can also be activated using a switch inside. They are on a Toblerone-style mechanism so you can display the iconic ‘BMT 216A’ registration as well as ‘AML 1’ and ‘4711-EA-62’ for when you’re driving overseas
The front numberplate has the same swiveling system. This would be ideal for evading speed cameras at home and abroad – if the DB5 Goldfinger continuation cars were road legal, which they aren’t
A smoke screen feature, used to disguise your movement from near the exhaust pipe (thanks to a steam condenser) is another gadget you can show off
What’s a £3.3million Bond car like to drive?
My mission was to test the car, but hopefully not to destruction: ’Do look after it’, was the pleading cry from Aston bosses, just as you’d expect to hear from MI6’s care-worn quartermaster Q when handing over another prized piece of cutting edge kit.
‘Do you expect me to walk?’ I ventured? ‘No, Mr Massey, we expect you to drive,’ should have been their reply.
Sadly, coronavirus self-distancing rules meant I had to drive solo – there was not even room for Pussy Galore. But I was still in double-O heaven.
I put it through its paces on a varied 60 mile route of country lanes, towns and villages and dual carriageways from Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory to Stoke Park golf and country club in Stoke Poges, near Slough in Berkshire, where key scenes of the Goldfinger film were shot, as well as the later gangster movie Layer Cake starring Daniel Craig in his his pre-Bond days.
The plot of the Goldfinger movie (which differs in parts from the original Ian Fleming book) centres on evil genius Auric Goldinger’s cunning plan to make a killing on the gold markets by destroying the US Federal Gold Reserves in Fort Knox with a ‘dirty’ nuclear device, rendering them worthless and ramping up the value of his own personal reserves.
I was well-equipped for the assignment.
The wonderfully reborn classic was taken on a 60-mile route of country lanes, towns and villages and dual carriageways
Crammed into the cabin, Ray said he wondered how taller, longer-legged Connery coped? The dashboard resembles the cockpit of a fighter plane – but with extra gadgets to play with
This may be a car reborn into the 21st century (You Only Live Twice?) but it is still using technology from nearly 60 years ago. And it feels it too. How would a driver weaned on modern cars and cosetted with all their safety and hi-tech driver aids find it?
While you can rocket ahead with a speed that surprises drivers of even the sportiest of modern cars, Special Agent Massey says you have to plan your braking well in advance
In the movie, Bond and Goldfinger, aided by his lethally bowler-hatted caddy Oddjob, play a round with a wager for a real gold bar: ‘strict rules of golf’ but with a sprinkling of ungentlemanly cheating under the surface etiquette.
All right, I didn’t have a Walther PPK tucked into a shoulder holster. But I had brought my golf clubs and even a genuine bit of gold bullion – albeit miniscule – to re-enact the famous golf match as well as the drive.
Ironically, my tiny sliver of gold was a memento of a real-life top secret gold-bullion run I carried out a few years ago driving £3.3million of gold bullion bars in the back of a Porsche Panamera from a smelting works ‘somewhere in London’, over Tower Bridge, to a vault belonging to dealers Baird & Co deep in the heart of the Hatton Garden jewellery quarter – just as Tom Cruise was filming Mission Impossible in the capital.
My original haul – part of a £10million 3-car convoy – would have bought me the Aston. My tiny souvenir probably wouldn’t stretch to one of the door handles.
So what’s it like to drive? I don’t want to get my own licence revoked. But this Aston does have a licence to thrill.
I stepped into the low slung cabin and nestled in to one of the two softly furnished seats that force you into a lie-back into an almost reclining driving position.
I wonder how taller, longer-legged Connery coped? The dashboard resembles the cockpit of a fighter plane – but with extra gadgets to play with.
Sat-nav may not have existed back then, but press a secret button and a screen on the centre console rises up to reveal beneath it a radar screen and illuminated map, beeping with the location of my target and destination.
In an era decades before smart-phones, there’s a radio phone with pick up receiver handle built into the driver’s door.
And then there’s the red ejector seat-button secreted in the flip-top gear-stick. It’s the one 007 presses to get rid of the gun-toting baddy sitting in the passenger seat alongside him – popping out the roof and rocketing him through the open gap.
As Bond says in the movie when shown the device by‘Q: ‘Ejector seat, you’re joking’.
Q never jokes about his work. But sadly, health and safety jitters mean the reborn Goldfinger Astons can give only a nod to the real thing, with a removable roof panel in the spot through which an ejected passenger would otherwise fly.
But as my thumb flicked up the gear-stick top and hovered tantalisingly over the red button, it did give me a delicious moment of vindictive pleasure. So, just who would YOU like to eject, given the chance?
Out on the road, Ray Massey’s tooled-up DB5 attracted a lot of envious looks and was treated largely with respect. Apart from one BMW driver in particular…
Given the opportunity, Ray would have happily invited the BMW driver into the passenger seat and hit the red button to fire them out of roof
The car Ray drove was road legal because, technically, it is classed as an engineering prototype and therefore allowed onto the highway
I slotted my key on my specially created 007 key-ring into the ignition and turned it on to fire up the powerful 290bhp 4.0-litre naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine linked to a slick five-speed manual gearbox with a slim long-throw gear-stick housing that hidden ejector seat button.
That rumbling roar of the motor mingling with the evocatively intoxicating aroma of petroleum spirit and exhaust fumes. How the PC-brigade will throw up their hands in horror. How Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will weep at this willful disobeying of his orders to ban internal combustion engines by 2040 or earlier. But then, Bond is renowned for getting into trouble with his political masters.
Will it fit in 007’s garage?
Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation Car
Price: £3.3million each
Limited customer run: 25
Price new in 1964: £4,175
Engine: 4.0-litre DOHC naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder
Gears: five-speed manual
0-60mph: 7.1 seconds
Top speed: 148mph
Time to build each car: 4,500 hours
Foot down on clutch, slim gear-stick slotted into first, hard down on the accelerator, up swiftly through the gears, and I’m away.
Swiftly picking up speed, I managed just a few hundred yards of tarmac before I was involuntarily humming those distinctively stirring ‘dung-diddle-dung dung’ notes of the evocative James Bond theme written by Monty Norman but orchestrated brilliantly by the 007 theme-tune meister, the late John Barry.
And I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing for a few hundred yards more.
Then it was onto my in-car karaoke version of Shirley Bassey belting out the ‘Goldfinger’ theme about ‘the man with the Midas touch’.
Well, why not. As comedian Billy Connolly wisely observed: who, when left alone in a room with a tea-cosy wouldn’t put it on their head?
And I would challenge anyone in the same privileged position as me: just how far into the drive do you really think YOU would last?
This may be a car reborn into the 21st century (You Only Live Twice, perhaps?) but it is still using technology from nearly 60 years ago. And it feels it too. How would a driver weaned on modern cars and cosetted with all their safety and hi-tech driver aids find it?
Dare one say, sounding a bit too much like Bond author Ian Fleming, you have to be firm, a bit rough even, and manhandle it – otherwise it will master you.
This is driving in the raw. Any driver weaned only on modern cars and cossetted with all their safety and hi-tech driver aids will find it a bit of a dinosaur. A blunt instrument. A bit like Bond.
Straight line acceleration is awesome with a 0-to-60mph sprint in 7.1 seconds up to a top speed, where legal, of 148mph.
But as any trained assassin knows, anticipation and good reflexes are paramount. So while you can rocket ahead with a speed that surprises drivers of even the sportiest of modern cars, you have to plan your braking well in advance.
Slow everything down. Give yourself time to think. Without the aid of power-steering, you really do have an energetic work-out heaving that heavy steering wheel around tight bends and roundabouts.
Out on the road, my tooled-up DB5 attracted a lot of envious looks and was treated largely with respect – save for one dangerous BMW driver who just HAD to attempt to cut me up. If only those machine guns had been real. If only.
On arrival at Stoke Park, Ray was greeted with a welcoming dry martini cocktail – shaken not stirred, of course
But always the consummate professional, Massey never drinks on the job, ordering his Bond cocktail without alcohol
Ending the day with a dry martini. Shaken, not stirred…and non-alcoholic
The car I drove was road legal because, technically, it is classed as an engineering prototype and therefore allowed onto the highway.
Customer cars will not be allowed on public roads, so will be confined initially to private land. However well-heeled owners can choose independently apply to have their vehicle modified and made so.
On arrival at Stoke Park I was greeted with a welcoming cocktail – shaken not stirred – and I can assure you, non-alcoholic.
Then, as in the Goldfinger movies, it was onto the golf course to hit a few balls and sink a few putts. Strict rules of golf, naturally.
Standing on the tee-box I hit a belter of a tee-shot with my trusty but ancient wooden driver. It soared long, straight and far down the fairway.
And I’m happy to report, it was my second great drive of the day.
Enough time to take to the tee: Ray Massey even had the opportunity to hit a few drives and putts at the Stoke Park golf course