Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 11:17 UK

Car firms clash over Bond credentials

By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News

Devil May Care, with model Bentley R-type Continental
James Bond almost had a love affair with his Bentleys, almost more important than his conquests of women
Richard Charlesworth, Bentley Motors

A genteel disagreement about whether James Bond prefers Bentleys to Aston Martin has raised eyebrows in the world of luxurious cars.

The spat comes as the latest James Bond novel, Devil May Care, is published to mark the centenary of Ian Fleming, the author who invented the spy during the early years of the Cold War.

In the new book, written by Sebastian Faulks "writing as Ian Fleming", Commander Bond is buzzing about in a convertible two-seater Bentley, dubbed R-type Continental.

"It's quite nice from a historical perspective, as James Bond drove Bentleys in the books," observes Richard Charlesworth, director of royal and VIP relations at Bentley Motors.

"Fleming himself was a Bentley fan and a Bentley driver," continues Mr Charlesworth, who also oversees Bentley's heritage collection.

James Bond posters currently on display at the Imperial War Museum exhibition For Your Eyes Only
Who would want to read the book? The film is what made James Bond famous
Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin

"He was brought up at a time when the Bentley brothers were winning a lot of races.

"The way he wrote it, James Bond almost had a love affair with his Bentleys, almost more important than his conquests of women."

Such apparent efforts by Bentley to muscle in on what has long been seen as Aston Martin-territory are met with guffaws by chief executive Ulrich Bez.

"Who would want to read the book?" he cries. "The film is what made James Bond famous."

In the films, Commander Bond "requires the best of British", insists Mr Bez.

"And that's an Aston Martin."

Product placement?

In this year's Bond-film, Quantum of Solace, actor Daniel Craig will be back behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DBS. (A well publicised fact, not least since a delivery-driver recently accidentally drove one of them into a lake.)

Aston Martin DB5 model currently on display at the Imperial War Museum exhibition For Your Eyes Only
In many films, Bond's car was an Aston...

"We are there, and someone else is trying to be there," Mr Bez shrugs. "What Ian Fleming was doing is a different story."

Retorts Bentley's Mr Charlesworth: "Had we made any effort, he'd have a right to be dismissive, but we've not.

"We're not paying to be in the book," he adds - though he has arranged for a classic Bentley to be loaned to the publishers to support the book launch, which will also feature a 750 Bentley Special Series leather-bound edition.

The same is true for Aston Martin, Mr Bez insists; even though it might come across as pretty costly product placement, Aston is not, apparently, paying to be featured in the films.

"Those involved in a love affair do not pay for each other," he declares cryptically.

Instead, Aston merely lends its cars to the film makers whose stuntmen give them a good thrashing before the wrecks are handed back to the company.

"For me, they are pieces of art," grins Mr Bez, who is proud to display the crashed cars at VIP-events at the company's gleaming factory.

Loyal, but only to Queen and country

Aston Martin has made much of Commander Bond's long-lasting loyalty, though historically the carmaker's love affair with the spy has been unstable.

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, driving a BMW Z8
...but his loyalty has sometimes given way to other marques.

In Casino Royale, which was made when Aston Martin was still owned by Ford, Mr Bond let down many purists when he appeared behind the wheel of a Mondeo.

In previous films he has driven a string of models, including American cars such as a Lincoln Continental, a Ford Galaxie 500, and a Chevrolet Impala.

And, perhaps more famously, Commander Bond has captained a submarine version of the Lotus Esprit.

In Octopussy he stole an Alfa Romeo, and he has driven a string of BMWs.

In From Russia with Love, he even drives a Bentley, albeit briefly.

Bond in the books

In books, the commander has been even less loyal, in part because Mr Fleming's novels were supplemented with Bond-books by other authors - Kingsley Amis under the pseudonym Robert Markham, John Pearson, John Gardner and Raymond Benson - and now, Sebastian Faulks.

Ian Fleming
Fleming liked to write about fancy cars

The greatest departure from Commander Bond's traditional taste in cars came during the 1980s when John Gardner had him driving Saabs.

On other occasions he has driven a Land Rover, a Simca Aronda and a Sunbeam Alpine, explains Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications.

"Ian picked the cars he liked himself at the time," she explains.

And in the Bond-books he wrote himself, "Bond's personal car was always a Bentley".

"The Aston Martin was one of the [MI6] pool cars."

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