When Aston Martin Works revealed the 'continuation' DB4 GT last year it admitted that it wouldn't be the last time it created a new version of one of its greatest hits. The DB4 Zagato followed, available only as part of a matching set with the DBS Zagato. Then the company said it was planning to create a recreation of the gadget-filled DB5 that featured in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger and many of us wondered if it was really serious.
Now we have the answer: very. Development work on replicas of the many features that Sean Connery's 007 used to hold off the pursuers who chase him in a pack of W121 Mercs in the film is well underway. Deliveries of the 25 cars will begin next year, with Aston Martin Works boss Paul Spires saying that the majority of that allocation have already been reserved, despite a price that begins at £2.75m before taxes.
As with previous Continuation models, the Goldfinger DB5 won't be road legal in any major market. There are obviously potential ways to get around that in some places; Aston admits that some of the DB4 GTs have been used in historic rallying. But this is still a huge amount to pay for a car that might not be able to get further than the end of your driveway, however long it is. Small wonder Works is putting such emphasis on making sure it is as close to the original as possible. Spires was happy when comparisons were made to the famous Corgi model version: "as people get older so the toys get bigger."
That's why Oscar-winning special effects whizz Chris Corbould has been brought in to supervise the development of three of the Goldfinger DB5's systems: the front 'machine-guns', the oil spray system and the smokescreen. PH got invited along to AM Works in Newport Pagnell for a demonstration of how work is progressing with a selection of gadgets alongside the original DB5 which is being used for development work.
Corbould has worked on almost every Bond film since The Spy Who Loved Me - he sat out Octopussy - and admits that he is also involved with the forthcoming 25th outing for what is now Cinema's longest-running franchise. He holds a Guinness World Record for the largest film stunt explosion ever created - in Spectre - and his other career highlights include an Oscar for the special effects on Inception. He admits it took him "about a second and a half" to take up Aston's offer to work on the replica DB5.
The original film car's many gadgets almost all came from the mind of production designer Ken Adam, with some original sketches showing both the ones we're familiar with plus a few that didn't make the cut - Adam wanted to use blades integrated into the bumpers and there was also a picture of a hand grenade hidden in the top of a cocktail shaker. The plan is for the Goldfinger DB5 to feature pretty much everything that was on the original film car: machine guns, an oil spray, a smokescreen, rotating number plates, a deployable rear bulletproof screen, battering rams and a simulated version of the radar tracking screen. And the famous ejector seat? The plan is to offer what's being described as a "teaser" system; most likely something that gives a substantial jolt. There are certain health and safety implications to actually launching somebody out of the car...
Corbould is supervising development of the machine guns, oil spray and smokescreen, all of which were demonstrated in prototype form at Newport Pagnell. He admits that creating effects that can be used again and again is very different to the normal film industry way of doing things. "If we were doing an oil slick in a film then we could fill the boot with equipment and put out about 50 litres in a couple of seconds," he says, "here it needs to fit into a much smaller space, and needs to work again and again."
The psuedo machine-guns promise to be a packaging nightmare, as they have to fit inside the front wings. These use an electrical actuator to both move the barrel through the fold-down indicator and to simulate recoil from firing. The flashing comes from an ultra-bright bulb rather than actual pyrotechnics, but it looked surprisingly convincing up close. Sounds will come from hidden loudspeakers.
The smoke screen uses a pair of commercial smoke makers, which work by passing glycol solution over a heating element - they are pretty much scaled up vape machines - with Corbould saying there will probably also be a fan to help better disperse the cloud if the car is stationary at the time. The oil-sprayers deploy through the rear lights, but will use water rather than real oil. "It would be a nightmare to clean up," Spires admits.
There will be a central electronic command system for the various devices, leading to the possibility that there will be an external controller to allow owners to play with them while outside the car. While, presumably, wearing a tuxedo and/or stroking a white cat.
The official connection between Aston and EON Films over the project is also an interesting one, as is the parallel between the limited-to-25 production run and the forthcoming 25th iteration of the Bond franchise. We'd be surprised if a DB5 didn't make an appearance in Bond's next adventure given the presence of one in the last two flicks, likely in conjunction with something considerably more futuristic. "There was a huge debate about whether we should blow the DB5 up or not [in Skyfall]" Corbould admits, although it had been restored to rude health by the time Spectre was made.
It's hard not to see the DB5 Goldfinger as being a ridiculous toy for those with more money than sense. But its equally hard not to see the appeal of what is basically a lifesized version of everyone's favourite Corgi toy.