Licence to thrill: Original James Bond car up for sale

JonathanMay 30, 2014

The car credited with inspiring James Bond author Ian Fleming to place 007 in an Aston Martin in the novel Goldfinger is to go under the hammer.

In Bond's early novels, he drove a Bentley, but as the written series progressed he eventually moved on to an Aston Martin – a transition that occurred after Fleming was wowed by the Aston Martin DB 2/4.

Now, the exact model that caught Fleming's eye is set to go up for auction, and is expected to fetch up to £250,000 when it goes under the hammer.

As with Bond's fictional variant of the car – the DB III – the 1955 model going up for sale features a number of special modifications, including reinforced steel bumpers, a heavy-duty anti-interference ignition system, driver's seat connections for two-way radio, and a homing device; something that precisely measures time and distance in relation to a pre-selected average speed.

At first, the current owner was not aware of the vehicle's storied past, but soon discovered the many unusual modifications while stripping the vehicle, and eventually noticed that the specifications of the DB III were an exact match of the ones mentioned in Fleming’s 1959 book, which was famously made into a 1964 film of the same name, which truly catapulted 007 and actor Sean Connery into the big time.

After conducting further research, the current owner learned the first owner of the car had been Philip Ingram Cunliffe-Lister, a contemporary of the Bond author and a friend of Fleming's neighbour, the Royal portrait painter Dennis Ramsay.

Cunliffe-Lister used to pay regular visits in his modified car to visit Ramsay and his wife Rose at Hope Bay Studio, the house next to Fleming in St Margaret’s Bay near Deal, Kent, and it is believed that the author must have shown interest in the vehicle, hence his knowledge of the many custom specifications, which all made it into his book.

It is not the only connection to Cunliffe-Lister that Fleming drew inspiration from, as he also used the Ramsays' house as the inspiration for Sir Hugo Drax's mansion in the 1955 novel Moonraker, while Cunliffe-Lister’s father Lord Swinton, who was head of MI5 during World War II, has often been suggested as the basis for the character M.

After years of abandonment in a shed, where it was left to gather dust and rust, the DB 2/4 was finally given a new lease of life by a father and son team who are now selling it in a Coys auction at Blenheim Palace on July 12th.

The story around the car and its discovery is "phenomenal", according to Chris Routledge, Coys managing partner, who revealed that the owner wishes to remain anonymous, yet is convinced that the car is the very one that inspired Fleming more than half a century ago.

"It might be coincidence, but there are too many coincidences, and the more I found out I thought 'I've got to run with this and carry on digging'," the owner explained.

"There never will be concrete evidence because everyone has died. The history of the car is like a family tree: You go off on historical tangents."

Though he also refused to reveal how much he paid for the car, or the cost of refurbishing the interior and exterior, he claimed the vehicle is "95 per cent original", save for the paintwork and leather.

It is expected to fetch offers of up to £250,000 when it goes up for auction, but such is the demand for Bond memorabilia that the eventual winning bid could be much higher.

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