The biggest problem with the Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation is always going to be one of discipline. The stoplight that stays red too long, the pedestrian who steps out without looking, the bully in the SUV that cuts you off—how long could you resist the temptation to deploy the twin .303-caliber machine-guns? Similarly, could you stave off the urge to deploy a smoke screen, or even an oil slick, in the face of a determined tailgater? What about the ability to instantly switch license plates before (or after) committing a moving traffic violation? “Me, officer? No, it must have been that other Silver Birch DB5.”
Unlikely as it seems, we are suffering from a confusing surfeit of James Bond-inspired DB5 replicas. Back in February, we told you about the carbon-fiber-bodied stunt version that was created for the latest outing in the long-running franchise, the delayed No Time To Die. Despite looking almost identical and also being produced by Aston Martin, the DB5 Goldfinger is very different. It’s also way cooler—because of gadgets.
Speaking of gadgets, it has pretty much a full set. The heritage Aston Martin Works division has followed up its official limited-run recreations of the DB4 GT and DB4 GT Zagato with a similarly perfect replica of the iconic DB5 that was created for the third official James Bond film, 1964’s Goldfinger. This was the first time that Britain’s least-secret secret agent, then played by Sean Connery, got to drive an Aston Martin. Thanks to the vivid imagination of production designer Ken Adam, it was also the first time 007 drove a car packed with a variety of lethal weaponry and defenses, something that immediately became a hallmark for the long-running franchise.
The DB5 in Bond’s arsenal for Goldfinger included twin Browning machine-guns that deployed from behind the front turn signals, rotating license plates, front and rear bumper rams, a bulletproof metal screen that rose up behind the rear window, dispensers for smokescreens and oil slicks, radar, and what seemed at the time like an impossible futuristic idea: an in-car telephone headset. The secret agent’s ride also had rotary tire slashers that seemed to somehow deploy from within its wire wheels and even, most famously, a passenger-side ejector seat that Connery uses to rid himself of a gun-wielding thug with exceptionally poor reactions.
Recreating most of these features for regular use proved a serious technical challenge, as the gadgets used on the cars used for filming were theatrical props. Chris Corbould, the Oscar-winning special-effects designer who has now worked on 15 Bond films, led a team to create replicas of the original alterations. Aston then worked out how to package them within what is, beneath the modifications and gizmos, an exact copy of an early DB5.
Some changes had to be made. The original replica machine-guns fired pyrotechnic blanks, which would have required reloading and which also sound exactly like real automatic gunfire—a characteristic that may have caused owners some legal difficulties. The Continuation’s barrels simulate fire with a mechanized recoil action and ultra-bright LEDs, but their loudspeaker soundtrack (taken straight from Goldfinger) is much more subdued than an actual Browning .303 would be. The oil slick is actually water, and the tire slashers come in a presentation case and can’t be fitted to the car, due to a corporate desire not to abet actual murder. And although the red button within the flip-open gear shifter is present, there isn’t an ejector seat on the passenger side, not even an under-seat cattle prod. (The asymmetric sunroof aperture is still present, though.) The gadgets can be operated by a control panel between the seats or, to better appreciate them when the car is stationary, through a remote control pack.
Another small issue is the one indicated by the proviso that has been scrupulously added to every official release about the Goldfinger Continuation: “Please note, this car is not road legal.” The fact that we drove the prototype on a route made up of some of England’s more picturesque public highways indicates there is some wriggle room in that restriction. Two companies in Britain are already offering to officially register Aston’s earlier Continuation models for street use in Europe. But unless you can find and exploit some serious motor-vehicle-department loopholes, it seems unlikely you will be able to enjoy this particular DB5 in the United States on anything other than your expansive private estate.
And that would seem to largely miss the point. Because while the gadgets are fun to play with, the core appeal of the Goldfinger is definitely the box-fresh DB5 that gets to haul them all around. This isn’t a restomod; beyond changes to accommodate the toys, nothing has been changed. So, the 4.0-liter straight-six engine breathes noisily through triple carburetors, the feeble ventilation system bringing the enticing smell of gasoline under gentle use. The steering is both unassisted and low geared, heavy around a parking lot but becoming almost too light at speed. And the chassis manages to be too hard and too soft, crashing over some apparently minor imperfections but delivering lurid body roll under even modest cornering loads. Which, you soon realize, are all the period-sized Avon Turbospeed tires are capable of handling. Small wonder Sean Connery had so much difficulty outrunning Goldfinger’s goons in their wimpy W120 Mercedes 180s.
None of this matters in the slightest. This is an entirely authentic DB5 driving experience. The flaws both add character and prove originality. They also serve to emphasize some of the DB5’s other strengths. The seating position is high and requires the driver to squeeze around the vast wooden-rimmed steering wheel, but there can be few better automotive views than the panorama through the wraparound windscreen and over the voluptuous curves of the hood, a full set of chrome-bezeled Smiths instruments in the foreground. Performance is plenty brisk thanks to 290 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque, the big six feeling impressively strong in its broad midrange and generating more than enough acceleration to easily outpace modern traffic. The five-speed manual gearbox is another highlight. Aston got ZF to dust off the original drawings to produce a new batch. But the gearchanges are now crisper and better-feeling than the vague shift actions common at the time.
Despite its devotion to speed, the DB5 is also a thoroughly nice way to travel not very quickly. Bond’s Aston comes from an era when cruising comfort and speed were prioritized over outright dynamic performance. At 60 mph with the electric windows lowered to dispel the heat being produced by the big engine, the cabin is remarkably calm, much more so than it would be in a modern alternative. This is one of those cars that delivers fun without breaking a single speed limit.
The accusation of having more money than sense is normally applied as an insult, yet the implied equation merely states that cash needs to outplay caution. You would have to be obscenely rich to even consider spending more than the $3.5 million Aston will charge for a DB5 Goldfinger Continuation. But for those who are sufficiently loaded and have scratched every other automotive whim, buying James Bond’s Aston Martin seems to us like an entirely justified thing to do.
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