On this day in 1965, the James Bond movie "Goldfinger," which features the suave British super-spy driving an Aston Martin Silver Birch DB5 sports car, opens in theaters across the U.S. Aston Martins would go on to appear in a number of other Bond films.
Aston Martin's roots date back to 1913, when Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin formed a company in London to sell Singer cars. The following year, the men changed the name of their business to Aston Martin (in honor of Lionel Martin's successful performances at hill climb races at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, England) and eventually began producing their own high-quality sports cars. By the 1920s, Aston Martin cars were racing in international competitions, including the French Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1947, British industrialist David Brown bought Aston Martin and the next year launched the DB1 (the name comes from his initials). In 1959, an Aston Martin DBR1 took first place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the company also won the World Sports Car Championship that year. (Afterward, the company took a lengthy hiatus from racing, returning again in 2004.
In 1987, Ford Motor Company took a 75 percent stake in Aston Martin, which by then had gone through several owners; Ford assumed full ownership in 1994. In 2007, Ford sold Aston Martin to a group of investors for a reported $925 million. At the time, Aston Martin made around 5,000 cars per year, each carrying a price tag of more than $100,000.
The DB5 went into production in 1963 and the elegant coupe was featured in "Goldfinger," which debuted in Great Britain in 1964. The DB5 also appeared in such movies as "Thunderball" and "GoldenEye." "Die Another Day," which premiered in 2002 and starred Pierce Brosnan, featured an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. In 2006, "Casino Royale," starring Daniel Craig, featured an Aston Martin DBS.
James Bond was the creation of British author Ian Fleming (1908-1964), whose first Bond book, "Casino Royale," was published in 1953. Fleming, who came from a well-to-do family in London, worked as a foreign correspondent, stockbroker and personal assistant to Britain's director of naval intelligence during World War II, experiences that would provide fodder for his best-selling Bond books. The first Bond film, "Dr. No," was released in 1962 and starred Sean Connery, who also played Bond in "Goldfinger" (as well as five other movies). Since that time, five more actors--George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig--have portrayed the world's most famous fictional spy in what has become one of the most lucrative movie franchises in history. Fast cars and high-tech gadgetry have played a central role in all Bond films.