The impeccable 1965 Aston Martin DB5 seen in the movie, “Skyfall,” actually has a seedy past.
No pure-breed DB5, it’s really quite a mongrel: It was originally dark green. Rust had eaten away parts of its rocker panels. And its original engine was yanked and replaced by an non-standard one.
Yet it must be now be considered as one of the most valuable DB5s in the world today.
Where did this newcomer to the Bond movie franchise come from? How it is related – or not – to previous DB5s seen in past James Bond movies such as “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball”? How did it get its big movie role? And is it truly a DB5 worthy of James Bond, the legendary secret agent 007?
Read on; here are the secrets of the “Skyfall” Aston Martin, revealed:
Fact # 001: The 1965 Aston Martin DB5 that would be selected to appear in “Skyfall” was “discovered” right in the factory where it was made, in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England, in the fall of 2010. It was there, awaiting a full factory-approved restoration. Its owner had just acquired it at an RM Auctions event in London, where ironically the original, gadget-laden 1964 DB5 that had debuted in “Goldfinger,” had also been sold – for an astonishing 2.9 million pounds (about $4.6 million then). By comparison, the green ’65 had been sold for “merely” 224,000 pounds (about $385,000). The now-historic photo at the top of this article, with the “Goldfinger” DB5 parked alongside what would become the “Skyfall” car, was a fateful coincidence caught on camera at the London auction by Don Rose.
Fact # 002: The Skyfall DB5 has a completely British pedigree. It’s a right-hand drive car that was manufactured, sold, re-sold and operated virtually its entire life in England. It passed through a rather unremarkable chain of owners until acquired a number of years ago by Mr. Rose, a valuation specialist at RM Auctions who has a special passion for James Bond and his cars. His DB5 had never led a pampered life; it was driven regularly; it was subjected to rainy, cold English weather which contributed to its rusty rocker panels; it was pushed to its performance limits – probably the reason its original engine was replaced with a more powerful unit able to run on unleaded fuel.
Fact # 003: To be prepped for its role in the movie, the original British Racing Green paint was stripped, and the car repainted Silver Birch – the color scheme preferred by Mr. Bond. The tan leather interior and green carpet needed to be black. But mechanically, this DB5 needed little. It was already a strong running car; in fact, it had – only a few months before it was sold – completed the entire 1000-mile Mille Miglia tribute rally in Italy.
Fact # 004: A quaint bit of Bond lore about this particular ’65 model – originally just a footnote in its history, but likely to become a major component in its value going forward: The car’s serial number actually ends in “007”. “As it happens,” said Mr. Rose, who sold it at the London event, “it is chassis number DB5/2007/R; it is the only DB5 with a ‘007’ chassis number.” The original Bond DB5, which figured prominently in “Goldfinger,” was a 1964 prototype with chassis number DP/216/1 – a prototype’s designation; that car has since disappeared after a reported “theft” in 1997. The second DB5 associated with “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball”, which sold for all those astonishing millions, is chassis number 1486/R.
Fact # 005: The Skyfall DB5 does not really have all those gadgets (i.e., oil sprayer, machine guns, killer axles, ejector seat, etc.) that the original DP/216/1 had – and 1486/R was subsequently outfitted with. The Skyfall star has only the fake trigger button for the ejector seat, and a painted-on outline for the ejector seat on the roof panel.
Fact # 006: Agent 007’s DB5 was not blown up in the movie. A facsimile was. There have been reports of the film-makers constructing a 1/3-size model of the DB5 and blowing it up (on the set at Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands in November 2011). Not true. The film-makers said they commissioned construction of three full-size plastic replicas of the Skyfall DB5; they were produced by a 3D printer that spit out exact reproductions of every part. One of the replicas was blown up. As an indication of the value of Bond film cars – even plastic replicas – that mangled prop was subsequently sold by Christie’s at auction for $100,000!
Fact # 007: Who owns the Skyfall DB5? Not Aston Martin; not the film studio; and not, certainly, Mr. Bond. “The Skyfall DB5 is privately owned,” Matthew Clarke, Aston Martin’s communications director for The Americas told me. “When we were approached for the movie and learnt of the requirement for a Goldfinger replica, we approached a customer who agreed to supply his DB5 for filming. However, said car was a completely different spec so Aston Martin Works repainted, re-trimmed and fitted (mock) features such as the ejector seat to make an exact match. Obviously that wasn’t a quick job so it was in our care for some time and that is perhaps where the notion of our ownership comes from.”
The unidentified owner is apparently not interested in selling it.
What might a real James Bond-driven DB5 be worth – especially the Skyfall car, should the owner decide to sell it? Normally, collectors ding a classic car’s value if it lacks original equipment such as the engine, interior, or paint. Throw those considerations out the window, in the case of the Skyfall DB5. Especially when its unique “007” chassis number is factored into the equation.
Mr. Rose said values of DB5s in general have been increasing at the rate of about 20 percent per year since the Goldfinger car’s auction in 2010. That car might be worth at least $7 million today, if it were to be auctioned, according to some estimates.
The owner of one of the DB5s used in promoting “Thunderball” – although that car never appeared in the film – offered it in a January 2013 classified ad in the DuPont Registry for $4.7 million. (Asking that price, and receiving it, are two different matters obviously.)
The Skyfall DB5 could be expected to approach, if not exceed, the value of the surviving Goldfinger DB5. That might make the 224,000 pounds/$385,000 that Mr. Rose received for it in 2010 seem like a paltry sum.
“I think about that,” he said. “I’m asked about that. But the way I have come to peace with it is, if I hadn’t have sold it, it wouldn’t have become the ‘Skyfall’ car.”
February 23, 2013