In the early 1950s, Ian Fleming, the former spy turned overnight publishing sensation, was living and writing in a cottage on the Kent coast a few hundred yards from Hope Bay Studios, the lonely outpost he re-imagined as the headquarters of Hugo Drax, the speculative investor and atomic maniac he’d dreamt up for his new book Moonraker. The building clearly captured Fleming’s fancy, but perhaps not so much as the Aston Martin DB 2/4 Mk I Vantage that routinely parked in the drive. Fleming had always been a fan of fast cars, but Bond had driven a stately Bentley in Casino Royale and From Russia With Love. It wasn’t the author saw the DB 2/4, which is now headed for the auction block, that Bond got a truly iconic ride.
The British roadster belonged to Honorable Squadron Leader Phillip Ingram Cunliffe-Lister, the son of Fleming’s former boss at mi6, who served as the inspiration for M. Chassis number LML-819 was silver, with a long nose, a rounded grill, and big round headlights that stared unblinking down country roads. But the car wasn’t just slick, it had several hidden features. The bumpers were reinforced steel and the interior contained concealed lockers as well as Halda Speedpilot, an early rally computer. Those features would make their way into Bond’s DB Mk 3 in Goldfinger.
The Aston Martin-Bond connection was reinforced by the movies that began rolling out in the early sixties. The DB Mk 5 Sean Connery drove in 1964’s Goldfinger sold for $4.6 million in 2010. That’s a lot to pay for a prop, but the spy’s rides have a uniquely iconic status. Brands compete to be associated cars become costars. The Cunliffe-Lister MK I Vantage will likely sell for closer to half a million dollar when it goes under the gavel at Coys of Kensington’s Blenheim Palace Sale next week because – despite overwhelming evidence – there are no documents that proving Fleming was inspired by the car, which has been lovingly restored by a Kent local who has chosen to remain anonymous.
The upside of the car’s lower price tag is that its new owner will likely feel more comfortable putting it back on the road. The car has a straight-six Lagonda engine and some serious get-up and go. Bond used it to bomb down the A2 and the A20 through Whitfield and Lenham Heath. Hopefully the car that the former spy’s eye will make that trip again.