Sunbeam Alpine Talbot

I’ve got you a car, Sunbeam Talbot coupé. New tyres. Fast. Right car for these roads.

Live and Let Die, chapter 16

At the tail of the line stood the black Sunbeam Alpine of Commander John Strangways, RN (Ret.), Regional Control Officer for the Caribbean–or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service.

DR NO, chapter 1

They got to the car. It was a black Sunbeam Alpine. Bond looked sharply at it and then at the number plate. Strangways’s car. What the hell? “Where did you get this, Quarrel?”

DR NO, chapter 4

See they look the part and send them off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

DR NO, chapter 5

The Gleaner said that a Sunbeam Talbot, H. 2473, had been involved in a fatal accident on the Devil’s Racecourse, a stretch of winding road between Spanish Town and Ochos Rio–on the Kingston-Montego route. A runaway lorry, whose driver was being traced, had crashed into the Sunbeam as it came round a bend. Both vehicles had left the road and hurtled into the ravine below.

DR NO, chapter 7

The car’s outside. You remember Strangways? Well, it’s his old Sunbeam Alpine. The Station bought it, and now I use it. It’s a bit aged, but it’s still pretty fast and it won’t let you down. It’s rather bashed about, so it won’t be conspicuous. The tank’s full, and I’ve put the survey map in the glove compartment.”

The Man with the Golden Gun, Chapter 4

The various descriptions above have me a little confused as to whether Fleming is saying that the car that Strangways brought to Bond in Live and Let Die, is the same car Strangways still had in Dr No, and was still around for the events of The Man With The Golden Gun.

There are several factors here which bear pondering. In LALD, the car is described as a “Sunbeam Talbot coupé.” A 1951 model of this car is shown here:

Sunbeam Talbot drophead coupe 1951

The first two descriptions in Dr No describe Strangways car as a “Sunbeam Alpine” which was a two-seater sports car manufactured by Sunbeam-Talbot from 1953 – 1955 and then again from 1959 – 1968. Of the first series, (which would’ve been the car described in Dr No) only 1,582 were made. Outside of the UK, US and Canada, only 175 were sent to other world markets.

Sunbeam Alpine 1953 -1955

Despite the similarities, there are some differences here, namely that the Alpine (which to add the the confusion here was also known as the “Talbot” Alpine) was a true open car, it had no roll-up windows or roof. You’ll recall that Bond instructed Quarrel to send the two men “off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

If this was a true Alpine, it had no roof to put down. There were snap-on roofs (and windows) available, but Bond’s direction was to put the roof down. The Talbot, as you can see in the top picture, did have a roof that could be put up and down.

Then, after the car is sent off, Bond sees the news that the Sunbeam Talbot was in a fatal accident. You see the confusion?

Then finally, Mary Goodnight is driving Strangways old Sunbeam Alpine? So was the accident on the Devil’s Racecourse fatal to the passengers, but the car was able to be hauled out of the ravine and then salvaged to the point that it could be driven again? Goodnight does describe the car as “rather bashed about” so I guess it is possible, if not plausible.

But again, we’re back from the “Talbot” to the “Alpine.” My guess here is that Fleming did intend for the car to be the same all the way through, and that it was actually a Sunbeam Talbot, from which the Sunbeam Alpine was derived. It seems that the terms were pretty interchangeable during that decade, and most readers then would not have noticed.

Hillman Minx

Outside the sun blazed down on the gravel sweep. The interior of the Hillman Minx was a Turkish bath. Bond’s bruised hands cringed as they took the wheel.

DR NO. Chapter 20

James Bond has just completed his report to the Acting Governor and is now set to return to Honey in Beau Desert. You’ll recall earlier in the novel, Bond had been given Strangways’ Sunbeam Alpine to drive, but had sent two men in it, posing as Bond and Quarrel down the Devil’s Racecourse, where the men and the car met an unfortunate end. (or did it?)

So now Bond has apparently been provided with a Hillman Minx to drive. The Minx is actually a very similar car to the Sunbeam, which is a badge-engineered variant. The car was a mid-sized family car from the British car maker Hillman, and was manufactured between 1931 – 1970.

A 1957 Hillman Minx
The Turkish bath interior

Austin A.30

In Dr No, James Bond and Quarrel are headed out of Kingston and toward their training ground at Morgan’s Harbour.

They were at the saddleback at Stony Hill where the Junction Road dives down through fifty S-bends towards the North Coast. Bond put the little Austin A.30 into second gear and let it coast. The sun was coming up over the Blue Mountain peak and dusty shafts of gold lanced into the plunging valley.

The Austin A.30 was a small car manufactured for only four years, from 1952 to 1956. According to reviews, “The car’s newly designed A-Series straight-4 engine was state of the art for the time and returned an average fuel consumption of 42 mpg / under 7L/100 km. With spirited driving the A30 was able to attain a top speed of 70 mph (110 km/h).”

Silver Wraith Rolls

In Dr No, M is arriving at his office on the first day of March.

When the old black Silver Wraith rolls with the nondescript number-plate stopped outside the tall building in Regent’s Park and he climbed stiffly out on to the pavement, hail hit him in the face like a whiff of small-shot.

The Silver Wraith was manufactured between 1946 and 1958. It was the first post-war auto from Rolls-Royce. The car featured a 4,257cc overhead-inlet, straight six cylinderside-exhaust engine, and was the first Rolls-Royce to feature hydraulic brakes.

If you’re interested, this 1954 Silver Wraith is for sale.

(Rolls had manufactured the Rolls-Royce Wraith in 1938-9 – if Fleming was really going “old” it’s possible he was referring to this car.)

 

Morris Oxford Saloon

While in Belgrade, James Bond and Tatiana Romanova are taken to the apartment of Stefan Trempo.

All we’re told about the car they ride in:

The man opened the rear door of a shabby Morris Oxford saloon. He got in front and took the wheel.

Morris Motors produced Oxford model cars from 1913 to 1935, and then again from 1948 to 1971. With Ian Fleming writing the novel From Russia With Love in 1956, we’re limited to models prior to that year. As the car is described as ‘shabby’ we’re going to assume it was not a new car. That seems to narrow it down to three models of the Oxford:

The Oxford series II 1954–56

The Oxford Series II from Morris Motors

The Oxford MO 1948–54

1953 Morris Oxford MO

The Oxford Six, Sixteen and Twenty 1929-1935

1935 Morris Oxford Sixteen

I can’t imagine the car being much older than that.

Morris Motors was one of the United Kingdom’s early car manufacturers, founded in 1912. The name continued in use on automobiles until 1985. The name and brand is currently the property of SAIC Motor of Shanghai.

Basket-work Rolls Royce coupé-de-ville

James Bond Arrived at Yeşilköy Airport.

After arriving at Yeşilköy Airport on his B.E,A, flight for his assignment in From Russia With Love, James Bond is met outside customs by a car sent by Darko Karim.

…a gleaming aristocrat of a car—an old black basket—work Rolls Royce coupé—de—ville that Bond guessed must have been built for some millionaire of the ’20s.

This car, certainly “elegant” and comfortable, makes several appearances in the film, as Bond and Karim are driven around the city.

While a “coupé de ville” can describe a car in which the driver compartment is open (or without a roof) while the passenger compartment is closed, it can also just mean a car with a partition (usually glass) between the compartments, or even a removable roof over one or both compartments.

1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Sedanca de Ville

At a minimum, this is a similar car to that which picked up Bond. The detail I’m missing is the “basket-work.” Apparently some cars of that age actually were partially made of a basket-type material, (Edit – it was a paint design – see comment below) at least on some outside paneling. Something like this:

This Rolls Royce model is from 1935, so it’s likely not the one in the novel, but you get the idea of the basket-type.

Whichever car it ultimately was, once again, Ian Fleming was referencing a top of the line, classic car.

ZIS Saloon

ZIS (Zavod Imeni Stalina) Saloon Automobile

In From Russia With Love, Donovan Grant makes the 40-mile trip to the Simferopol airport in a “battered ZIS Saloon”, driven by one of his guards/handlers.

“As everywhere in Russia, a car meant an official and an official meant danger.”

ZIS (or ZIL) is Zavod Imeni Stalina (Factory/Plant named for Stalin) or Zavod imeni Likhachova – a Russian truck and heavy equipment manufacturer founded in 1916 and based in Moscow. They also built luxury automobiles for Soviet officials. These cars were built during the time period of about 1945 to 1959.

Here is an image from a ZIS brochure of the time period:

Here is an interesting story about a 1950 ZIS 110 Saloon found in storage in China.

Jaguar S.S.I

When James Bond and Ernie Cureo are getting together for a talk in the latter’s cab, they realize that they have company.

Ernie Cureo’s voice broke sharply in on his thoughts. “We got ourselves a tail, Mister,” he said out of the corner of his mouth. “Two of ’em. Fore an’ aft. Don’t look back. See that black Chevy sedan in front? With the two guys. They got two driving mirrors and they been watching us and keeping step for quite a whiles. Back of us there’s a little red sex-ship. Old sports model Jag with a rumble seat. Two more guys. With golf clubs in the back.

A black Chevy sedan is pretty generic, but I was interested in this Jaguar that was also tailing them. A Jaguar with a rumble seat? As the account continues, we get a few more details about the car.

They were riding easily along at forty with the low-slung Jaguar right on their tail and the black sedan a block ahead of them.

It’s low-slung, for one.

“Nice little car you once had,” said Bond. The shattered windshield had been lowered flat and a piece of chrome from the radiator stuck up like a pennant between the two wingless front tyres. “Where are we going in the remains?”

And the windshield can be lowered.

A website devoted to Jaguars helped me narrow it down.

The early coupe had helmet style front fenders (wings) with no running boards, rather cramped rear seats, a leather covered roof with non-functional landau bars (pram irons) on the sides thus no side windows for the rear seat passengers, and an optional rumble seat (dickey seat).

As you can see, this 1934 S.S.I was low-slung, with a windshield that could be flattened and if you see the latches on the rear, had a rumble seat that could be opened – as far as I can tell this was the only S.S.I model that had such a feature. (Car shown may not have a rumble seat – a seat that folds up from the trunk area – but it looks enough like it could have one, which might be a detail that fooled Fleming. I tend to doubt that, though, he usually got his car stuff right.) Landau bars are those  decorative curved bars where the rear passenger windows would be.

While this may not be the exact car that was chasing Bond and Cureo, it’s going to be pretty close, and should give an idea of what the

The company was originally known as Swallow Sidecar Company, became SS Cars Ltd in 1934, and Jaguar Cars Ltd in 1945.

This is a 1932 model Just a gorgeous car. Ian Fleming certainly had an eye for automobiles!

1920 Stutz Bearcat Roadster

While James Bond is in the ghost town of Spectreville in Diamonds Are Forever, he spots this model car.

From behind the traditional sawn-off swing-doors, yellow light streamed out on to the street and on to the sleek black and silver of a 1920 Stutz Bearcat roadster at the kerb.

Stutz was an American luxury car manufacturer which produced cars from 1911 to 1935. They produced America’s first sports cars, and the Bearcat was actually a road-going version of a car that competed in the Indianapolis 500. They are among the most collectible of antique cars to this day.

Ian Fleming certainly knew what he was doing by inserting this car into the ownership of Seraffimo Spang, as a Stutz Bearcat was a status symbol for the wealthy of that era, priced sometimes two to three times higher than other “average” cars of the time.

Studillac

In Diamonds Are Forever, Felix Leter picks up James Bond outside the Plaza – near the horse-cabs – in what Bond believes is a black Studebaker convertible. After Leiter gives Bond a demonstration of the abilities of the vehicle, Bond is impressed.

“Well I’ll be damned,” said Bond incredulously. “But what sort of a car is this anyway? Isn’t it a Studebaker?”

“Studillac,” said Leiter. “Studebaker with a Cadillac engine. Special transmission and brakes and rear axle. Conversion job. A small firm near New York turns them out. Only a few, but they’re a damn sight better sports car than those Corvettes and Thunderbirds. And you couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market. Studebaker’s never got enough credit for this body. Too unconventional. Like the car? Bet I could give your old Bentley a licking.”

Growing up, I had assumed the Studillac was a Fleming creation – something that perhaps existed, but not in any real volume. My dad had put a Chevy 350 engine into a Pontiac Grand La Mans, so I knew that this type of thing was possible, but not on the scale of the Studillac, which was a small sensation back at the time of this book.

 Taking advantage of the gorgeous design of the Studebaker body, which as mentioned was designed by Raymond Loewy – “The Father of Industrial Design” – the Studillac built on that with the addition of the V8 210-250 HP Cadillac engine which gave it the performance that Bond witnessed.

The small firm that turned these out was Bill Frick Motors:

(Hey – Marchal Headlamps!)

The car was reviewed in a number of automobile publications, including Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Science: