The Moon Buggy was conceptualised by
Oscar-winning Production Designer
Ken Adam (1921-2016), and engineered
and built by famed movie custom-car designer Dean Jeffries (1933-2013)
in his California workshop. The 4-wheeled vehicle is constructed from
a welded tubular steel frame clad in aluminium panelling, and the cockpit
covered with a Plexiglas dome hinged on one side and a radar dish unit
mounted behind. An arm with a claw implement is attached on each side
and a red sphere at the rear. Unlike other Bond vehicles
there was only one Moon Buggy ever built. Jeffries’ company Automotive
Styling fabricated the Moon Buggy at a cost of $10,000.
1 - 4 May 1971 Las
The Moon Buggy sequence was filmed on location from Saturday 1st to
Tuesday 4th May 1971, at the ‘Johns Manville Gypsum Plant’ outside
Las Vegas, standing in for Willard Whyte's Techtronics Plant.
In the Diamonds Are Forever script given to Dean Jeffries,
the Moon Buggy was to burst out through a breakaway wall and drive
off down a service road before turning on to a main highway and
disappearing from view. It was only when film's director
Hamilton saw the location that it was decided to stage a chase over
the rocky and duned desert terrain. Unfortunately, Jeffries hadn't
constructed the vehicle to take that kind of punishment, and much to
his displeasure (and the filmmakers) the Moon Buggy kept breaking down
during filming. On one occasion during filming the vehicle broke down
out of shot, but the rear wheel which had come off can be clearly seen
bouncing back into shot. In his original concept sketches Ken Adam had proposed conical wheels, and these were incorporated in the early
stages of construction. However, these wheels proved
impractical, and were replaced with the more robust rubber tyres seen
on the finished vehicle.
1971 ‘B’ Stage Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire
The Moon Buggy was shipped to England in June 1971.
The moonscape from which James Bond (Sean
Connery) escapes in the Moon Buggy was filmed on ‘B’ Stage at
Pinewood Studios on Thursday July 20, 1971.
For the scene where the
Moon Buggy crashes through the breakaway wall of the set, the vehicle was driven
by long-time James Bond stunt performer/arranger
The finished sequence in the film then
cuts to the footage shot in Nevada in the previous month.
December 1971 Blue Peter - BBC TV
This edition of the popular children's
magazine programme Blue Peter was broadcast live on BBC1 Friday
December 9, 1971 at 4.55pm; and featured the Moon Buggy being driven
into the studios at BBC Television Centre by presenter John Noakes
(1934-2017), who then went on to demonstrate the features of the
Blue Peter is
the longest-running children's TV show in the world, having been
broadcast since October 1958.
1971 Munich, Germany
Diamonds Are Forever first opened
in Munich, West Germany on December 14, 1971. American Actress
Wood, who appears in the film as Plenty O'Toole, accompanied the Moon
Buggy on a promotional tour a week later to tie in with the release.
Forever then opened in the USA on December 17, 1971. Sean Connery
attended the London press screening at the ODEON Leicester Square on
the morning of December 29, 1971, and the film then opened to the
public the next day.
In January 1972 United Artists announced in UK trade journals that
Diamonds Are Forever had achieved “the greatest 7-day gross in
the history of motion pictures,” when the film grossed $10,438,536
in the first seven days of its release over 23 countries (not
including the UK).
1972 ODEON Kensington, London
The Moon Buggy returns to the UK and is
photographed outside the
ODEON Kensington which screened Diamonds Are Forever
concurrently with its West End engagement at the
ODEON Leicester Square.
Diamonds Are Forever played at the 1,894-seat ODEON Kensington for three
weeks from Thursday February 3, 1972, ahead of its general release.
The appearance was used as a photo opportunity for cinema managers
and local celebrities. These photographs later appeared in various
local newspapers once Diamonds Are Forever went on general
release in early 1972. Pictured left in the Moon Buggy (accompanied by
two ‘James Bond Girls’) is Ray Potter; motoring correspondent,
ex-motor racer, and proprietor of the Hackney Gazette.
1972 - Brands Hatch, Kent
On Sunday March 19, 1972 the Moon Buggy
appeared at the Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit in Kent, where it
was driven by motoring correspondent, newspaper proprietor and
ex-motor racer Ray Potter. After meeting the publicity director of
Rank Distributors (who handled the release of Diamonds Are Forever
in the UK) at a press screening, it was suggested that the Moon Buggy
be given a ‘road test’ to publicise the film for a feature in the
Hackney Gazette before going on general release. As the
vehicle was hardly road-legal it would need to be on a test track.
Through his connections in the motor racing world, Ray Potter was able
to arrange for the Moon Buggy to appear at Brands Hatch, the the home of
the British Grand Prix.
The plan was to have
the Moon Buggy complete a lap of the circuit, driven by Formula One
World Champion John Surtees (1934-2017) ahead of the STP-Daily Mail
Race of Champions. The 1½-ton vehicle with its 90 bhp air-cooled
Chevrolet Corvair engine, driven by Ray Potter, completed a test lap of
the Brands Hatch circuit on Saturday March 18, 1972.
Ray Potter recounted
his experience of driving the Moon Buggy in an exclusive article
featured in 007 MAGAZINE ARCHIVE FILES Diamonds Are Forever
File #1. Having already seen inside the vehicle at the ODEON
Kensington, Potter wanted to take a closer look at how it worked:
“A half-dozen iron steps, similar to those found in drain manholes,
enabled you to climb up to the ‘pod’ with the hinged Perspex dome.
Inside, it resembled nothing like the hi-tech illuminated dashboard
switchgear as in the film with Sean Connery deliberating how to start
and drive the thing away from the simulated lunar landscape. In fact, there were
hardly any controls or instruments at all – just an ignition switch
that had broken. The gearshift was a long lever that pushed in one
direction for drive and pulled back for reverse; an action that I was
to discover was far from perfect.”
After completing the
test lap on Saturday March 18th, Potter convinced retired World
Champion John Surtees to drive the Moon Buggy the next day. However, on race day
there was no sign of Surtees, and with usual Formula One race
organisation and clockwork efficiency, the officials on the grid said
“Either you get in and drive it NOW – or take it away!”
Rather than miss the
slot, Ray Potter grasped the opportunity to have another go and
climbed up the steps and into the bubble with the commentator
announcing – “I have a note here that John Surtees is supposed to be
driving this, but it looks very much like Ray Potter to me – what the
hell he is doing in that, I don’t know!”
Ray Potter recounted
what happened next:
“I set off at a faster rate than before; the arms flapping about even
more and much to the delight of the huge crowd. All went well until
finally going down the pits straight where the beast reached the dizzy
speed of about 50-mph. The whole machine then started pitching and
flexing from front to back and I can only assume that the movement
played havoc with the gear-shift and took it out of drive and into
reverse – and the torque converter or automatic drive didn’t like
that!... The Buggy’s rear wheels completely locked up leaving huge
black marks and slewed to a standstill right across the startline.
Chaos ensued with marshals and officials descending on me and in no
uncertain terms asked me to remove the beast immediately. I could hear
the F1 cars warming up in the pit lane but with little chance of me
being able to move it, the Moon Buggy made its unceremonious and rapid
exit by a hastily acquired crane.”