Plus, having watched Skyfall recently, I was suitably ‘Bondified’ and settled down in my tuxedo with a shaken Martini.
It started well. This was because it became apparent that, although we were denied the presence of James May there was also NO JEREMY CLARKSON, Hooray!
Without that bouffant duo, our host was Richard Hammond, a man for whom the mid-life crisis is not a phase, but a way of life.
We were straight into the most iconic Bond car of them all, the Aston Martin DB5. With the most famous choice up first, I did fear for the rest of the hour. However, this was because we were being shown a chronological history, rather than solely focusing on the most famous example and then being subjected to filler for the rest of the time.
Hammond told us the tales of how the cars ended up on film and some were really quite interesting. They included how the producers of ‘Dr.No’ were so persistent that the bigwigs at Aston Martin agreed to loan them a car after initially insisting that the car would only be sold for its market price.
We heard about a London bus driver who became a stunt driver in ‘Live and Let Die’ and how Sean Connery was too big to fit into the Toyota 2000 GT used in ‘You Only Live Twice’, so the manufacturers agreed to re-design the car as a soft-top.
The most surprising fact about the Toyota wasn’t that it’s clearly a car for the smaller gentleman, but that they’re now so rare that they cost around half a million pounds. Given this, I did question the decision to allow Richard Hammond, of all people, to drive along a winding mountain road whilst looking at and talking to the camera.
Eyes straight ahead, Richard.
The highlight for me was when Hammond covered the Roger Moore years. Hammoned interviewed Sir Roger himself (along with previous directors and present day Bond Daniel Craig). It’s heartening to know that although the years have seemingly robbed the great man of his neck, they have not taken away his charm.
Sir Roger’s favourite car was a yellow Citroen 2CV, which was basically one less wheel away from Del Boy’s Reliant Robin. Hammond was surprised, saying the car is cheap and ‘costs you all of your dignity’. I should point out that he was wearing a really stupid jacket at the time he said this.
One of the most famous car sequences involving Roger Moore was the moment in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, when Bond (trying to escape the bad guys) drives a Lotus Espirit into the water only to have it transform into a submarine. Apparently the car only appeared in the film because a Lotus executive decided to drive to the studios one day and leave the car outside as a ‘hint’ to the producers.
Frankly, if that happened around my way there’d be a passive-aggressive note about parking left on the windscreen 5 minutes later.
The hint was successful and the car was included. For the famous underwater sequence, a toy model was used. The bubbles were the result of a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets. That stuff really can solve anything.
This being Top Gear, Hammond tried to recreate the sequence using a specially designed Lotus and (surprisingly, given who we’re dealing with) managed to do it without drowning, using a massive set of levers to steer the car underwater. In truth, it looked like he was rapidly sinking more than anything, but I think shouting for help would have spoiled the illusion – not to mention been very un-Bond like.
Back to the chronology and the Eighties were rather glossed over as they coincided with the Timothy Dalton films, which nobody needs reminding of.
The Pierce Brosnan years were, according to Hammond, ‘a let down’ in car terms, largely because they featured a lot of BMWs. As I loathe the twonks who drive BMWs, I wholeheartedly agree with this viewpoint.
This brought us up to date. Our current Bond has been driving Aston Martins both past and present; a neat way of ushering in a new, tough and sleek Bond whilst also paying homage to the past.
Hammond was clearly enthralled by the subject and he came across well. He veered close to the odd Clarkson-ism (hanging onto syllables in a put-on gravelly voice) but otherwise he was an enthusiastic and engaging presenter. The show itself was an entertaining tribute and anyone with an interest in classic cars and/or the Bond films, would have enjoyed it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grab some Alka-Seltzer, get in my VW Polo and head for the coast…