Aston Martin chromeplated ballpoint pen
At least once a week we find ourselves wishing we had a pen on our person, usually when trying to open some infuriating, shrinkwrapped doodad. Here’s a doodad opener so handsome – finished in beautifully turned chrome – that we’d gladly use it for its intended purpose, too. £7350 www.panerai.com
Lovely thing, this. The 1940 3 Days references one of the most desirable watches from Panerai’s past: the rare Egiziano Piccolo, the black face of which was unexpectedly turned brown by the radium-based ‘Radiomir’ powder used to create the dial’s luminous markings. It’s the horological version of a reissued Inverted Jenny.
The name’s Woodhouse…
Following your Bond Astons special ( Vantage issue 12), I thought your readers might be interested in the attached photo and the story behind it.
I was the service depot manager at the Newport Pagnell factory at the time, and the photo came about when I got an urgent telephone call from Steve Heggie, the new managing director of Aston Martin Lagonda, to drop everything and get the Goldfinger DB5 down to Hyde Park as fast as I could, as pre-premiere publicity photographs were needed.
The photograph was taken by Barratt’s Photopress Ltd, of 20/21 Red Lion Court, Fleet Street on September 14, 1964. Having duly met up with the photographer and a model, I was asked if I would stand in for Bond, which was a surprise. I decided to play the part and took the pistol from the draw under the driver’s seat, which also contained hand grenades and a few other lethal weapons, and adopted the pose.
The car was a total pig to drive. The development department at Aston had taken Eon Productions literally when they had said they wanted a bullet-proof screen that could come up between the rear windscreen and the bootlid. To do this with a solid armour-plated steel sheet meant two powerful and very heavy rams, overloading the rear end. If we had understood the film world better, we would have realised the bullets hitting the screen would have been filmed in the studio in close-up, and the car could have readily been fitted with a honeycomb faced with two sheets of aluminium. But there you are, you learn with experience.
Because of the armaments draw under the driver’s seat there was very little padding and reduced headroom. In fairness, at the time no one had foreseen that the car would be in such demand and I would be driving to so many events. If I had a passenger, my constant worry was that he might flip the cover on the gear lever and press the red button. The ejector seat worked on compressed air, but you had to first open the roof manually!
Of course I had a lot of fun with the car, but it could be a right pain, not least because my service department had to maintain it. Eventually, to my relief, both this DB5 [now known as the Effects Car] and the relatively unmodified high-speed model [the Road Car] were shipped out to Japan to promote the film there and then I believe they went on round the world.
I well remember the start of the whole shebang. Steve Heggie came bouncing into my office, full of beans, saying: ‘Bill, Bill, they want to have an Aston Martin in the new James Bond film.’ I, having read the books, said: ‘I’d better try and find an owner with a well preserved DB2/4 Mk III.’ Heggie replied: ‘Don’t be so pedantic! It’s going to be a DB5.’
I have to say, I wasn’t convinced and couldn’t resist saying: ‘So having made our name winning world championships, we’re now going to promote ourselves with make-believe.’ Steve’s reply? ‘You don’t understand. Your friends don’t buy Aston Martins any more… they buy tractors! Our new customers make their money in the city, and they will be impressed by image.’ Of course, Steve was right: a better marketing man than me. Bill Woodhouse, Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Emperor’s new clothes
Is it not time someone pricked the Zagato double-bubble? Zagato bodies have, to my mind, never improved an Aston Martin – and in at least two occasions have ruined their looks completely.
The DB4 GT is a sleek, lean, handsome car – poised like a greyhound, ready for a chase. The DB4 GT Zagato is a puffedout version on steroids with congestive heart failure and in need of diuretics.
Then we come to the horror of horrors, the V8 Zagato, whose looks – either in coupé or drophead version – only a mother could love. It is actively ugly from all angles. I wouldn’t even call it a Marmite car – because many people, myself included, like Marmite!
They’re very rare, you say. All I can say is, thank God they are. At least they’re unlikely to frighten the horses as they drive by. They’re very quick, you say. Yes, and put a V8 engine into a Morris Minor and it will be quick, too (and a lot better to look at). Anyone who is thinking of paying £200,000 for one of those needs a psychiatrist quickly.
So, on to the DB7 Zagato featured in issue 12. Zagato took the best looking car in the world (according to Jeremy Clarkson) and messed it up. The widened front grille looks like someone in the dentist’s chair; the rear looks as if it has been smacked very hard; the roof looks as if it has had a tree fall on it. No wonder values were static for a long time – people have good sense.
A prominent AMOC member once bought a wedge-shaped Lagonda without telling his wife. When he brought it home and she saw it she would not let him in. She has good sense and honesty. Italian stylists Touring produced great-looking Aston Martins. By comparison, most Zagatos are puffed-up overpriced nonsense! Dr Graham Barker, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey SPRING 2016