If you’re in Los Angeles and looking to check out some cool movie memorabilia that will leave you both shaken and stirred, head over to the Petersen Auto Museum, which is currently hosting Bond in Motion, a comprehensive exhibit featuring the vehicles from the James Bond franchise.
When you first enter the exhibit, it’s a bit overwhelming (in a good way), as every era of Bond is represented here. I was like a kid in a candy store, and didn’t know which vehicle to inspect first. The well-curated exhibit takes you through six decades of high-flying action, encompassing everything from Dr. No to No Time To Die. Having been a Bond fan since my youth, it was truly spectacular to see all of the iconic cars, planes, boats, helicopters, gliders, jet packs, skis, etc. of this franchise up close and in person.
Bond’s vehicles are often his secret weapon in pivotal action sequences, as Q has equipped them with clever gadgets and hidden devices that often get 007 out of tight spots. The 1964 Aston Martin from Goldfinger is the first vehicle you pass, and wow does it look beautiful parked beneath a classic shot of Sir Sean Connery leaning up against the car, radiating both class and sex appeal.
The exhibit celebrates the 60th anniversary of the 007 films and was produced in collaboration with EON Productions and The Ian Fleming Foundation, which was founded in 1992 with the intention of showcasing the worldwide cultural phenomena that is the James Bond franchise.
“The foundation came about when the three of us, Dr. Michael VanBlaricum, John Cork, and myself, purchased the “Neptune” submarine from the Intrepid museum in New York,” explains archivist Doug Redenius. “We reached out to the Fleming family in the UK to procure the use of Ian’s name and decided we’d start using discarded Bond vehicles to raise money for charity.”
The foundation has procured over 35 iconic vehicles used in the making of the Bond films, and they have lovingly restored and preserved these silver screen legends, some of which almost ended up in the junkyard. After all, these vehicles require lots of care.
One car that has certainly had an interesting journey is the Ford Mustang from Diamonds are Forever, which is the last car from the Connery era.
“It went to a California dealership after filming and was sold off as a new car,” recalls Redenius. “After several owners, it was parked in an outside storage lot for a few years, whereupon it was purchased by a fellow in Texas who started the restoration process but decided to buy an American Motors AMX. He then put the car up for sale and the Ian Fleming Foundation bought it, saving it from further deterioration with plans to someday restore it back to its former glory.”
As a child of the ’70s, my own entry point into the Bond franchise was the Roger Moore era, and I gravitated towards the Submarine Car from The Spy Who Loved Me, which looked awesome on the big screen and did not disappoint in person. It is a Lotus Esprit S1 — nicknamed Wet Nellie — and its on-screen conversion into a submarine was achieved by building seven versions, each showing a different stage of the transformation. Redenius actually managed to track down one of these amazing artifacts.
“I found the Lotus submarine car in a junkyard in the Bahamas,” he explains. “It was left behind after the production on The Spy Who Loved Me wrapped filming. The yard owner put the car out by the road as sort of a tourist stop to promote his business. We had the original builders of the car restore it and it went immediately on nationwide display during the American Autoshow season.”
Elsewhere, the Aston Martin V8 with skis from Timothy Dalton‘s epic Bond flick The Living Daylights was really cool to see at the exhibit, and the same goes for the modified Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day starring Pierce Brosnan.
Meanwhile, the exhilarating era of Daniel Craig‘s James Bond is perhaps best represented by another lovely Aston Martin, though this one is completely trashed. Not only is it missing a door, but it’s covered in bullet holes, scrapes, scratches, and various dents, reminding both Bond fans and car enthusiasts alike just how much of a beating 007’s vehicles take in these films. The damage is a testament to the stuntmen who for decades have helped bring this spy franchise to life, as well as the kind of good old-fashioned movie magic that allows us to believe everything we’re seeing with the help of both practical and visual effects.
Bond in Motion is a must-see for any and all 007 fans, so if you find yourself in Los Angeles with some time on your hands, be sure to check it out at the Petersen Auto Museum in the Mullin Grand Salon before October 30, when all these vehicles hit the road on another adventure.