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The sleek, white Lotus Esprit speeds up a winding road in the rugged Sardinian countryside when a lumbering lorry blocks its path. The black motorcycle that has been trailing the lorry for a mile closes in, ready for the kill. But just as the villain shoots his missile, James Bond daringly weaves the car between the first lorry and an another, incoming one, escaping unscathed – while keeping his perfect poise. Later, when a car full of gun-toting villains and a pesky helicopter join the chase, he gives them the slip by launching the Lotus into the sea – without so much as a flinch -as the car conveniently turns into a high-tech submarine.
Thrilling car chases like this one from The Spy Who Loved Me are a crucial part of the James Bond mystique. The London Film Museum explores 007’s relationship with motors in a fabulous new exhibition, Bond in Motion, which brings together the largest official collection of James Bond’s vehicles. On display at the Covent Garden venue will be more than 100 pieces, from a 1/3 scale model of the Agusta Westland helicopter used in Skyfall to a vast range of props and artwork – but at the heart of it all will be James Bond’s most iconic drives.
Taking pride of place at the exhibition will obviously be the stunning Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me but also the Aston Martin DB5 driven by Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye (the original one from Goldfinger sold to a collector for £2.6 million in 2010) and another Aston Martin, the DBS V12, that was crashed to sensational effect in Casino Royale as Bond swerved to avoid hitting a prone, tied-up Vesper Lynd. The car, driven by stuntman Adam Kirley, rolled seven times on the grass at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, where the scene was filmed, setting a new world record.
But Bond is known for using whatever (preferably stylish) vehicle will do the job, whether it is a dune buggy or a Venetian gondola, and the exhibition duly acknowledges this. Among the displays is Little Nellie, the missile-equipped gyrocopter from You Only Live Twice, the tuk tuk taxi from Octopussy and the Glastron Speedboat used by Bond in one of the most exhilarating chases – and one of the most dangerous stunts – in cinematic history. In Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s 007 escapes from a crocodile farm in Louisiana and, while pursued by the thugs working for the villain of the day, Dr Kananga, jumps over Highway 39. “For a boat jump of that kind you couldn’t afford to be off the mark,” stuntman Jerry Comeaux told the London Film Museum. “I had to hit the ramp perfectly. One inch out and it would have been disaster. I didn’t have time to be scared.”
Obviously, no 007 film would be complete without a super villain so Bond in Motion also features those all-important black hats’ vehicles, including, above all, the stunning Rolls Royce Phantom III which 007’s arch-enemy, Goldfinger, uses to smuggle gold in the 1964 film of the same name.
Bond in Motion opens on 21 March at the London Film Museum at 45 Wellington Street, London W2C. For more details, visit www.londonfilmmuseum.com
Sean Connery drives an Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger: Ilpo Musto/REX
Naomie Harris and the Aston Martin DBS V12: Jonathan Hordle/REX