When the phrase “Bond
Car” is used, it typically brings to mind a gleaming silver Aston Martin
DB5 bristling with gadgets, machine guns, and mysterious red buttons that
may or may not eject your passenger. To those of a different generation,
it might suggest a white Lotus Esprit that Q Branch had converted into a
submarine, or perhaps a silver BMW Z8 convertible. For some, though, there
is no more noteworthy “Bond Car” than this, the 1974 AMC Hornet X
“Astro-Spiral” stunt car from The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).
The famous stunt saw James Bond, played by Sir Roger Moore, drive the
Hornet over the remains of a collapsed bridge, corkscrewing over a river
to continue his pursuit of the villains. In today’s CGI world this seems a
minor undertaking; in 1974 it was awe-inspiring. The corkscrew stunt
itself was conceived by famed racing and stunt driver Jay Milligan and was
performed by Mr. Milligan publicly as early as 1972. Following his
successful execution of the trick at Houston’s Astrodome, Milligan
contacted the producers of the Bond series and offered it to them for the
next installment of the franchise. The producers secured the right to use
the trick and ultimately filed a patent on it to ensure that no one else
could perform it on film.
Performing the trick in a controlled setting is one thing; to safely
execute the stunt on location in Thailand under the limitations of a movie
set is quite another. To produce a film-worthy stunt while ensuring the
safety of the driver and film crew, extensive computer modelling was in
order. At the time the science of automotive computer modelling was still
in its infancy and not yet able to produce useful results for the film. It
took the groundbreaking work of Calspan Corporation and engineer Raymond
R. McHenry to create the system that ultimately enabled the trick to be
successful for the film. Following extensive research, engineering, and
programming, the trick was exhaustively planned before the first ramp was
built. So successful was this planning that the car, bravely piloted by
stunt driver Loren “Bumps” Willard, landed exactly where the simulation
predicted after hitting the ramp at the suggested speed of 40 mph.
Reportedly the trick only required one take, an amazing testament to both
the skill of the programmers and that of “Bumps” Willard.
Due to the pioneering systems created by Calspan and Mr. McHenry, the
Hornet survived the jump without incident. In a further indication of the
skill of the programmers, the basic technology they created for the stunt
still influences computer simulations including today’s most popular
racing video games.
Offered from the Jay Milligan collection, This 1974 AMC Hornet Hatchback
is the actual stunt car used in The Man With The Golden Gun. The car is
operable and remains in as-jumped condition, having suffered no damage
during the stunt’s one-take execution. The engine and chassis numbers of
this car match those on the shipping invoice created when the car was sent
from the filming location in Thailand back to Jay Milligan’s JM
Productions in New York.
The sale represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a truly
significant piece of automotive, technological and film history.