Monday, 3 June 2013

Bond in Motion - a review

Returning from a short holiday in Dorset, I decided to take a detour to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire to see Bond in Motion, an exhibition that has brought together an extensive collection of vehicles from the James Bond films. The exhibition was opened in 2012 to celebrate fifty years of the Bond films, but by popular demand has been extended into 2013. And long may it continue, for this display, just about the finest single collection of Bond vehicles and vehicle-related props in the world, deserves a permanent museum home as much as any cultural treasure.

Walking into the exhibition space through a gun-barrel-like tunnel (suitably accompanied by the James Bond theme), visitors are met by the Land Rover and motorcycle from the opening sequence of Skyfall. Bond is, of course, indelibly linked with Aston Martin, and visitors don't have to go very far before being seeing some of its cars. There's the damaged DBS from Quantum of Solace, an undamaged DBS from Casino Royale, and a Vanquish from Die Another Day. And if anyone is in any doubt that the vehicles on display are those seen on screen, Casino Royale's roll-damaged and record-breaking DBS should change their minds. This is a rare survival that superbly conveys the meticulous planning and expertise of the stunt team, and the dangers of their work.

Moving further into the exhibition, visitors are confronted by Bond's BMW 750il from Tomorrow Never Dies, which can be claimed with some justification to be the most boring Bond car of the series, but it's perhaps no more boring than the Renault 11 TXE (without its roof) from A View to a Kill, or the Citroen 2CV from For Your Eyes Only, which are also on display. After all, it's not what Bond drives that's important, it's how he drives it. Other highlights include Tracy's Mercury Cougar from the stock-car sequence in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and a showroom AMC Hornet from The Man With the Golden Gun.


Mercury Cougar
No exhibition of Bond vehicles could ignore the only car that rivals Goldfinger's Aston Martin DB5 for fame and affection: the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. The model on display is one of the submersible shells, which was recovered from a scrapyard in the Bahamas, and restored to its original state, complete with gadgets.

The lower-level of the two-floor exhibition features some of the more curious vehicles and props from the series, including Kara's cello case from The Living Daylights, the crocodile mini-sub from Octopussy, the parachute that saves, and conceals, Bond and Pussy Galore at the end of Goldfinger, and the Little Nellie autogyro from You Only Live Twice. Visitors end their visit with two vehicles from Goldfinger: the villain's Rolls-Royce Phantom III and, of course, the iconic Aston Martin DB5.

The crocodile sub
And if that isn't enough, visitors should look out for other Bond- and Fleming-related vehicles positioned around the museum, notably Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was designed by Ken Adam for Cubby Broccoli’s film of Fleming's stories, and a 4½ litre 'Blower' Bentley with an Amherst Villiers supercharger, which Bond drives in the novel Casino Royale.
A 4.5 litre Blower Bentley
Bond in Motion isn't without gaps – Bond's Sunbeam Alpine from Dr No, for instance, is absent – but this is a minor quibble set against the near comprehensive collection on display. Much credit must go to the curators for assembling the material, as well as the private collectors, Bond enthusiasts and in particular the Ian Fleming Foundation, who traced and restored some of the vehicles shown.

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