Magazine article The Spectator

Spy Drive

Magazine article The Spectator

Spy Drive

Article excerpt

Motoring

Which car should the contemporary James Bond drive? Forget the sort of armour-plated, four-wheel-drive muscle-- monsters favoured by recent film-makers. The suave commander must drive a genuine production car. Should it be the world's fastest, the mighty 241mph McLaren Fl? Or the new and beautiful 800bhp TVR Speed Twelve, said to be - if they can find the right tyres - a contender for that awesome record? Or would he return to Aston Martin, the marque for which he did so much, and buy the forthcoming 170,000 (approximately) V12 Vanquish, Ford's technological showpiece?

His creator, Ian Fleming, had a forgivable penchant for fast tourers with big, powerful, lazy, never overstressed engines - the American, rather than European, approach to automotive engineering - and so Bond could be issued with the revived Jensen, the new S-V8 with its 4.6-litre Mustang Cobra lump. Or perhaps Bentley's 233,355 Continental T would make a better mobile launch platform for his gadgets and rocketry. Or would he prefer the rattlesnaking, corner-winning performance of the 199mph (silly to have neglected that extra Imph) Ferrari 550 Maranello, which would set back M's budget by a mere 152,345?

Bond's appeal is essentially that of the foxy gentleman - glamorous, stylish, dangerous, self-controlled, ruthless, charming, distinguished, and on our side. His own unreality is rendered the more acceptable as his appurtenances, cars particularly, are real. In the summer issue of the BBC's Top Gear magazine, Jeremy Clarkson rejoined the stable to test - not to their limits seven road cars capable of 200mph: the 214mph Bugatti EB110; the 208mph Lamborghini Diablo; the 201mph Ferrari F40; the 215mph Jaguar XJR15; the 200mph Ford GT40; the 217mph Jaguar XJ220; and, of course, the king of them all by a country mile, the fastest road car ever made, the McLaren Fl. Clarkson liked the Ferrari best because it was the nicest to drive and most usable.

But should sheer speed be that important? After all, Bond can get airborne if that's what he needs. His car should certainly be powerful but it also needs presence and style, as well as enough room for his armoury, his weekend bag, his fags and the girl at the end of the film. That brings us back to Aston territory, although the Bond of the formative 1960s and 1970s films could just as well have gone for a Jaguar E-type, the 7.2 litre Jensen FF with its pioneering ABS, all-round discs and high-performance four-wheel drive, or for any Bristol from the 407 onwards (the model into which they put exactly the sort of engine Fleming liked). …

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