x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Licence to kill not included

Emirates insider An iconic James Bond car sold for a sky-high price at auction this week, so can you still be 007 on a budget?

Roger Moore climbs into the white 1976 Lotus Esprit which fetched Dh609,350 at a London sale.
Roger Moore climbs into the white 1976 Lotus Esprit which fetched Dh609,350 at a London sale.

Like any red-blooded and completely insecure male, I've spent the past 30 years of my life aspiring to be a cold, sadomasochistic hitman with a lousy sense of humour, prehistoric attitude towards women and a generally loathsome outlook. Be it the James Bond from the books (thuggish, chain-smoker, but kind of cool) or the movies (bit too suave, questionable dress sense in the 1980s, completely preposterous plots) it's what we've bizarrely become conditioned to admire.

Sadly, I've only managed to pick up a few of the man's traits: a 40-a-day smoking habit aside, I do have a penchant for Savile Row suits (that make me more corpulent industrialist than suave super spy) and short-sleeved shirts, of which, it may surprise you to know, Sir Ian Fleming's creation was something of a pioneer. The odd entanglement with oddly named women in exotic climes certainly helped the cause back in the day, but the lack of a licence to kill, a real sense of style, and any world-saving missions to perform have dampened even that side. So, what can the washed up Bond wannabe do now?

Thankfully, the Bond franchise exists to feed our midlife crises. Product placement in the movies is so overt it's overwhelming. You, too, can become Bond just by watching the adverts - sorry, films. Everyone knows now that Bond drives an Aston Martin, sports an Omega and wears Tom Ford suits. (Except if you read the books, where it's a Bentley, Rolex and Savile Row. Still, who reads books anymore?).

Fortunately, Daniel Craig, who may actually be the worst perpetrator (the Rolex-Omega scene from Casino Royale makes even the hardened ad managers who brokered that deal wince) is rendered less complicit in the oversell by his sheer thuggishness than Pierce Brosnan, who, let's face it, stepped out of a mid-market men's catalogue, not a special forces unit, for his turn as the spy. Considering the 007 women tend to have short lifespans, the ultimate Bond accessory would have to be the car. And the most iconic of all has just been sold in London for £111,500 (Dh609,350).

No, not the ejector seat Aston Martin, but the white Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine in the The Spy Who Loved Me. There's a problem with forking out that much cash to emulate your icon, though, and not just because it doesn't really turn into a submarine. It's that you're paying Dh609,350 not to be Bond, but to be Roger Moore, he of the double entendre, Grecian 2000 and, of course, Moonraker. Not so appealing now, is it?

Also, in these credit-crunched times, the Lotus is probably off the wish list for most of us, but can you really be Bond on a budget? Well, you could always go for the Pierce Brosnan look. The BMW 750il from Tomorrow Never Dies can be had for peanuts these days - what with the "10-year rule" coming into force - and is probably the cheapest "hero car" in the franchise. Paired with a Hugo Boss suit from eBay, you'd look the part. But do bear in mind, it's beyond the ken of even the best Sharjah mechanic to add an aftermarket remote control system so you can drive down the Corniche while still in your office. Machine guns and missile launchers shouldn't be too much of a problem, though.

BMW actually had quite a long flirtation with Mr Bond (and Mr Brosnan). There's also the Z8, from The World is Not Enough, a more mythical car than any of the other Bond-mobiles. We've seen the Z8 in films and reviewed them, but no one has actually ever seen a real one. Go on, ask. If you're a wilful outsider and really wanted to flirt with being Timothy Dalton (but why on earth would you? - he even cooked a quiche in one of the films) one car briefly driven by Bond in The Living Daylights, an Audi 200 Avant Quattro, stands the test of time far better than the movie. Still, nothing says Bond like an Aston Martin, Fleming's love of Bentleys be damned.

To be Daniel Craig you'll need an Aston Martin DBS V12 - we'll gloss over that Ford Focus Zetec - which will set you back more than Dh1,000,000. But to be Sean Connery, the grand-daddy of Bonds, the venerable DB5 will cost you at least Dh550,000 these days, for a good example. But then you get to live in an idealised version of the 1960s, a magical time of hotels, jets, beaches and concrete architecture. Kind of like Dubai, without the traffic. The downside is you might get mistaken for that arrogant Australian male model George Lazenby, who drove a similar car (a DBS, yours for a bargain Dh220,000 and up) in his single outing, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He also wore a kilt, and the less said about that the better. Dalton also ditched his Audi for a V8 Vantage Volante in Daylights, which, for my money - at least Dh300,000 - must be the coolest Aston out there.

The problem with the Aston, though, is that everyone will know that you bought that car because you really, truly, loathe being a real estate broker or merchant banker (in which case you'll probably be handing the keys back anyway). Let's break it gently. James Bond is a fictional character. Come on, an ex-Navy man on a UK government salary with a supercar and a flat in Chelsea? These days, that's more Bruce Wayne than British civil service. For real secret agents, maybe that Ford Focus isn't too wide of the mark after all.

Here's a final sobering thought for would-be Bonds. My local garage has a DB9 sitting in it from the floods last year. "The crazy owner thought he was James Bond!" says the exuberant mechanic, Rick. "He drove it at speed through a deep puddle!". Repair bill for that bit of bravado? Dh120,000 for a new engine, and counting. Silly Bond wannabe - he'd have been much better off with the submersible Lotus. motoring@thenational.ae