My Car Quest

June 20, 2024

Where The Cars are the Stars

by Wallace Wyss –

Can you imagine Magnum PI being filmed without a red Ferrari? Even though, as MOTORT1 website pointed out recently, it was rather illogical that a p.i. should drive so noticeable a car, in Miami Vice they started out with a Daytona Spyder but here it made more sense there as the heroes wanted to look like players in the gangster community. The MOTOR1 article said, since Tom Selleck, who played Magnum, was 6’4″ it was originally thought a Porsche 928 would do but Porsche refused to alter the seat to fit so Ferrari won and got a huge boomlet in publicity.

Magnum P.I. Ferrari 308

The Ferrari used by Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. sitting in the vault at the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles – Photo by Mike Gulett

James Bond drives an Aston Martin. It wasn’t always that way, in an early book he drove a prewar Bentley. But when one reader complained the car was too old, Ian Fleming, says MOTOR1, changed to a postwar Aston, at first a DB3 and in the movies a DB5. They are even bringing back the machine gun firing Aston for the newest Bond film and miracle of miracles Aston is actually re-introducing some DB5’s, for public sale though I can’t see how machine guns will be legal.

Car & Driver reports “While the replicas won’t be street legal in most parts of the world, the company says it has already sold the vast majority of the limited-to-25 run, despite an “ex-works” price of about $3.4 million at current exchange rates.”

“For the Goldfinger cars, the list of additional equipment includes a smokescreen, revolving license plates, battering rams, and a removable passenger-seat roof panel for the infamous ejector seat. It also gets non-lethal replicas of the twin Browning machine guns that deploy through the film car’s front turn signals, an oil-spray system that actually fires water, and a simulated tire slasher. Functions can be operated from within the car—which is mechanically almost identical to an original DB5—or via a remote control to enable owners to better see them in action.”

According to an Aston Martin spokesperson, there are only a couple still up for grabs.

Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger

New Aston Martin DB5 Assembly – Photo by Max Earey/Aston Martin

The MOTOR1 article also mentioned Steve McQueen and Bullitt. I think it was fortunate for Ford that the taciturn detective picked a Mustang because decades later Ford found the residual good will toward Mustang would sell cars and I think they are on their third re-iteration of the Bullitt Mustang. I even went to an auto show where McQueen’s son, Chad, and his very gracious mum (who McQueen had divorced), were there as Ford introduced a Bullitt production car.

Bullitt Mustang

Bullitt Mustang Replica – Photo by Richard Bartholomew

There’s been other cars in movies that are hardly mentioned but I think subliminally the use of a Rolls Royce SCIII Mulliner-Park Ward drophead in Blow Up has always been kind of a spur to Bentley Continental or Rolls sales. Sad that both Rolls and Bentley, now separated firms, are too conservative to come out with a Blow Up model as Ford came out the Bullitt Mustang and Aston their retro Bond models.

Being a car buff and a fan of action movies, I really feel it’s frosting on the cake when a movie comes out featuring a car I like. You wonder if some car maker might have gotten a bigger boost in sales had they tried to get their cars in films, say like Iso or Bizzarrini? They were in small obscure movies but never hitched their wagons to a star (literally).

Ya think with the increase in electric cars, some movie maker will try to make the electric car the vehicle for the star but I think the varoom-varoom of an internal combustion engine has to be there. Even that TV show with the annoying talking Firebird, I mean who wants a smart ass car pointing out the hero’s mistakes? Fortunately for Pontiac Burt Reynolds made some films that made the Trans-Am a star. Alas there is no Pontiac left to capitalize on bringing back a Trans-Am like the one that starred on the silver screen.

It doesn’t always have a long range glow. Wasn’t James Bond driving a Lotus in at least one film? But no one refers to wanting a James Bond Lotus. I think, looking back, what was good about the Bullitt car was that it had no hubcaps or whitewalls. It was more of a car that had the no-nonsense personality of its owner on it. And in the firm Bullitt, Steve McQueen didn’t baby it. In one scene he skids into the camera and the late Carey Loftin, stunt man who doubled for McQueen, told me he had to take over the fast driving from that point on.

Chevrolet benefited from having a Corvette be the vehicle for a TV show in which two freebooters drove across the country. Chevrolet has not made a Route 66 model but they owe it to that series for keeping the flame burning for Corvette.

Aston DB5 and Sean Connery

Sean Connery and Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 – Copyright Everett Collection

Now one reason why movie producers are not totally behind any tie-in with a star is the James Dean effect. While Dean didn’t drive his Porsche in a movie, he raced one in real life and was killed in 1955 on the way to a race, having insisted he drive his racing Porsche 550 on the street on the way to Salinas, CA for a race. Ironically the publicity made him a bigger star for his three films, two of which had their debut posthumously. But Porsche widely never came out with James Dean Memorial model or anything of the sort.

I’m waiting for that Bond movie to be released, it has been postponed because of the pandemic (it can hardly be a blockbuster if no one is going to theaters). To me the car better have some good screen time.

I only drove an Aston Martin once when two brothers who were barn finders bought a DB5 and incredibly parked it in my driveway intending to pick up in a few days. Naturally I tried it out. That was probably before CDs so I couldn’t listen to the James Bond movie theme album while I drove but hey it was in my head.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss authored a novel, Ferrari Hunters, in which the hero, like John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee, drives a Rolls Royce pickup, in this case a Silver Cloud.


Hollywood sign

Where The Cars are the Stars
Article Name
Where The Cars are the Stars
Being a car buff and a fan of action movies, I really feel it's frosting on the cake when a movie comes out featuring a car I like. You wonder if some car maker might have gotten a bigger boost in sales had they tried to get their cars in films.


  1. I remember how the movie series Back to the Future provided the De Lorean a lot of publicity but the company was not able to take advantage.

  2. Wallace Wyss says

    Oh but there is a thriving company making DeLoreans, at a much higher price, so at least somebody saw the gold in all the publicity…

    article here

  3. Glenn Krasner says

    Unfortunately, because of all the gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger continuation series cars are NOT street legal, and can only be driven on private roads or off-road. The Browning machine guns are for show and will not be firing anything. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

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