With a new James Bond film finally about to hit the silver screen, we thought it would be a nice idea to dream up a cliched list of the cars he has driven over his cinematic history and then post links to where you can find them. We’re pretty sure this has never been done. We’ve certainly never done it. Nope. No way. Okay, so it’s been done before, but there’s a good reason for that – Bond is known for his cars just as much as his spy-based shenanigans. Think Bond, you think Lotus Esprit, Aston Martin DB5, Lotus Esprit again, Aston Martin Vantage, erm, and 2CV. This is why it’s so much fun to write articles about the cars he has driven. Who wouldn’t want to take to the B Roads feeling like Bond?
This article, however, is not about Bond’s cars. Instead, we’re looking at some of the cars the bad guys drove. And ultimately, why being a bad guy car is bad in every sense of the word. For ever Aston Martin, for every speeding Esprit, there has been an unfortunate Mercedes-Benz Ponton, ’57 Ford or… Lada, that has been on the receiving end of whatever Q Branch had dreamed up for that particular outing. And they weren’t all rubbish cars. The bad guys, it seems, had taste. To quote that collection of British actors in that Jaguar advert, it’s good to be bad. Unless you’re the car, in which case it’s bad. And normally involves exploding.
Dr. No – 1962
It was painful watching this 1939 LaSalle funeral coach get flung about, but not nearly as painful as it was watching it go over a cliff before exploding. Though there must have been some requirement to not destroy the LaSalle, as it actually turns into a 1949 Humber before making that last, fiery leap to its doom.
Goldfinger – 1964
We’re skipping From Russia With Love as the bad guys seemed to keep their fleet intact. In Goldfinger however, it was a very different story. You might expect us to talk about the Many Mercedes-Benz Ponton models that were wrecked in the pursuit of Bond’s DB5. But no. Instead, we can’t help but think about the ’64 Lincoln Continental. It did nothing wrong. It didn’t even get used in a chase. Instead, the bad guys shot a good guy who was sat in the back seat, then stuck him in the boot before feeding the car into the crusher. The car (without an engine if you look) that went in the crusher was in fact a ’63. But still. Ouch.
Thunderball – 1965
The Ford Skyliner was a very, very special car. The car you see here, which is (was?) a 1957 model, was one of the first cars to bring a folding metal hard top to the mass market. The Skyliner could be a stylish coupe through the week, and a topless bit of fun for the weekend. Not that this one got to enjoy any of that, because it belonged to the bad guys. As such, it was rather spectacularly blown to smithereens. Not by Bond though. While he was trying to make an escape in his Aston, it was in fact SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe who, from her missile-equipped motorbike, took out the unlucky Ford.
You Only Live Twice – 1967
The Japanese know who to make a sports car, and they know how to make sure the Bond producers are happy. This was most evident in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, for which Toyota happily lopped the lid off a couple of 2000GTs so Bond could fit in them. But that’s Bond’s car? What about the bad guys? Well, they had a beautiful 1966 Toyota Crown. A wonderful luxury four-door saloon that we’d all be glad to own. But not this one, seeing as a helicopter picked it up with a magnet and then dropped it in the sea. Bad times for the bad guys, there.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – 1969
Ah yes, the one where Bond falls in love and then gets married. You know, the one with George Lazenby. LAZENBY. Yes, he was a Bond. No, he only did the one film. Anyway, while there are some cracking cars to lust over in this film, like an Aston Martin DBS and a Mercury Cougar, they’re not our focus here. No, instead we’re looking at the W111 220S Mercedes-Benz ‘fintail’. A beautiful machine, but one that is apparently useless and somewhat ‘explody’ when used in an ice race.
The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977
Jumping forward three films (otherwise this list would be massive) we land on The Spy Who Loved Me. This film is of course famous for Roger Moore’s eyebrow and the Lotus Esprit/submarine. But what about the bad guys? Well, they had a brand new, full-spec Ford Taunus (or Cortina on home soil) at their disposal. But then Bond sprayed their screen with oil, and they landed in a house before, naturally, exploding. The heart-breaking thing here is that Ford supplied two cars. Both were destroyed. Humph.
For Your Eyes Only – 1981
A lot of bad guy cars had a rubbish time in this film, not least an entire fleet of 304 Peugeots. But the one that smarts is the W116 280SE that Bond, we kid you not, kicks off a cliff. That car did nothing wrong James, and you go and kick it off a cliff. James is definitely the bad guy in this context.
Licence to Kill – 1989
Leaping now to the Dalton era of Bond (who was ahead of his time and should be given more credit for his portrayal of Bond, but that’s for a different website) we have Licence to Kill. It was a bad time for the entire bad guy fleet in this film. Not least the Kenworth trucks. It looked good when Bond stole one, as it made the truck a hero. He even drove it – with trailer – on its side. But he also punted one into a wall and saw to it that another one was blown up with a rocket launcher.
Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997
Peirce ‘the worst Bond and we’ll die on that hill’ Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies was a veritable destruction derby for all things automotive. But while we will always shed a tear for a fallen W126 S Class Mercedes-Benz, it’s not our focus here. Instead, it’s an Opel Senator. Not a bad old executive cruiser, all things told. And, ironically, a very good Police car here in the UK. However, for the bad guys, it was a poor choice. They blew it up themselves and in the process – and this is what sucks – it took out a classic Volvo and what looked to be an E12 BMW 5 Series. Bad guys being bad for cars once again, the scamps.
Die Another Day – 2002
A lot of cars died on set the set of Die Another Day, which is fitting. There was the scene at the start with the Porsche getting shot up, and then the Lamborghini ending up stuck like a lawn dart into a paddy field (rumour has it, that was a real Diablo). But we have to focus on the missile-laden, but ultimately ill-fated Jaguar XKR. A true opponent for, and arguably better than Bond’s stupid ‘invisible’ Aston, it fought the good (bad?) fight before ending up unable to drive due to water ingress.
Quantum of Solace – 2008
The bad guys got themselves a couple of very, very nice Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 Ti models. Full leather, 19-inch rims, a glorious engine that makes a noise exciting enough to make grown men drop to their knees. An excellent, excellent pair of cars. Unless, of course, they were tasked with chasing Bond in his DBS around the narrow roads of Lake Garda. It did not go well for the bad guys. One hits the front of a truck so hard it tickled the truck’s rear lights, while the other one was sent off a cliff. James Bond is clearly not a car guy.
No Time To Die – 2021
Finally, and bringing us back up to date, we have No Time to Die, the final outing for Daniel Craig’s brooding, fairly angry version of Bond. Of course, we’ve not seen it because it’s not out yet. However, there are a few trailers and from those we can safely say that the bad guys are going to need to buy some new motors. Though the good news is, if you own a ’90s Maserati Quattroporte, a Range Rover Classic or, ahem, a Lancia Thesis, you’ll own a car representative of cinema history. And if you own a Range Rover SVR, well, you’ll be the ultimate bad guy!
Who wants to pay millions for an Aston, anyway? Remember, it’s good to be bad.