Citroën Traction Avant

In Casino Royale, we’re not given too much detail about the car driven by James Bond’s adversary, Le Chiffre. Ian Fleming tells us that it is a Citroën. (That’s also brand of car driven by the third Bulgar as he is trying to escape.)

We’re given a subtle clue though, from which we can narrow down the model of the car that Le Chiffre was driving that night.

With a harsh growl and stutter from the exhaust a beetle-browed Citroën shot out of the shadows into the light of the moon, its front wheel drive dry-skidding through the loose pebbles of the forecourt.

And a few pages later:

As the car rocked to the left outside the gate, Bond ruefully longed for the front-wheel drive and low chassis of the Citroën.

Citroën introduced front wheel drive to the mass market during the 1930’s, but the early models were somewhat plagued by being rushed to market. The second generation cars were better, but then production was halted at the onset of World War II.

The Traction Avant series (French for front wheel drive) really took off following the war, and I’m going to guess that Le Chiffre was driving one of these later-model cars. The description above of the car as “beetle-browed” throws me a little bit. I can’t really picture Le Chiffre driving something like this, (more likely the Bulgar mentioned above did so) so we’re going to go with a Big-6 Traction Avant of that time period.

1950 Citroën Big 6 Saloon

 

Alfa-Romeo Supercharged Straight-Eight

While James Bond in his Bentley is chasing Hugo Drax in his Mercedes, a third car suddenly appears on the scene, passing Bond.

Bond grinned in admiration as he raised a hand to the driver. Alfa-Romeo supercharged straight-eight, he thought to himself. Must be nearly as old as mine. ‘Thirty-two or ‘33 probably.

Bond recognized it as it came up on him by the “famous Alfa radiator” and also notes the edge of the bonnet has “in bold white script the words Attaboy II.” He also tells us that it is a red car.

It seems likely that Ian Fleming was referring to the Alfa Romeo 8C which was used on many models in the 1930’s. The 8C means eight-cylinder, or straight-eight.

This 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spyder seems like it could be a good fit for what Fleming was describing. It’s similar in some ways to Bond’s Bentley.

 

Here is a look at the supercharged straight-eight:

 

This similar model could also fit the description.

Mercedes Type 300 S

In Moonraker, Sir Hugo Drax drives this model car, which features in the Thursday afternoon/Early Friday morning aspect of the story.

It was a Type 300 S, the sports model with a disappearing hood—one of only half a dozen in England, he reflected. Left-hand drive. Probably bought in Germany. He had seen a few of them over there. One had hissed by him on the Munich Autobahn the year before when he was doing a solid ninety in the Bentley. The body, too short and heavy to be graceful, was painted white, with red leather upholstery.

Bond feels that it was typical of Drax to buy a Mercedes. There was something ruthless and majestic about the cars, he decided, and notes that Krebs obediently climbed into the narrow back seat behind the driver. He sat sideways – likely due to the lack of room in the rear.

The 300 series was Mercedes’ most expensive line of models in the 1950’s. If I had to guess, I’d say that Drax had the W188 I version of the Type 300 S, which was hand-built, higher engine output and a pricetag 50% higher than the W186 version.

 

Marchal Headlamps

As James Bond is motoring to the launch site of the rocket in Moonraker, we’re told that he switches on the headlamps in his Bentley, and that:

Once through the trees the car was running over a flat concrete apron the limits of which, in the bad light, were out of range even of the huge twin beams of his Marchal headlamps.

I enjoy these little product details that Ian Fleming so obviously likes to place in his narrative.

Marchal is a French automotive parts company that was founded in 1923. Ownership of the brand has passed around in recent years.

A company called Vintage Headlamp Restoration works at restoring and repairing headlamps such as those that would’ve been used on Bond’s car.

Here is a view of a Marchal headlamp on a 1930 Bentley:

 

And here is a look at the pair, (the upper set) which may look very much as what Bond would’ve been using on his own car:

Peugeot 403

The Peugeot 403 is featured in From A View To A Kill, first when James Bond is sitting in a Paris cafe, and Mary Ann Russell comes to find him.

A battered black Peugeot 403 broke out of the centre stream of traffic, cut across the inside line of cars and pulled in to double park at the kerb. There was the usual screaming of brakes, hooting and yelling.

Russell says she bought the car cheap, and other drivers give her a wide berth on the roads due to the bashed-about look of the car.

After his meeting with Head of Station F, Bond is lent use of the car for the duration of his assignment. It is referred to by model twice more in the story, as Bond leaves from the meeting, and later when after he talks with the dog handlers and goes to follow up a lead.

The 403 was manufactured by the French auto maker between 1955-1966. For Your Eyes Only, the collection of stories in which From A View To A Kill appears was published in 1960. We can conclude that it was an early (battered) model 403 that Fleming was describing here.

The 403 was also the car of the television detective Columbo. A look at Inside Columbo’s Car can tell you almost all you want to know about the 403.

1937 Cord Saloon

From Live and Let Die when James Bond is in Florida.

But Leiter had got hold of an old Cord, one of the few American cars with a personality, and it cheered Bond to climb into the low-hung saloon, to hear the solid bite of the gears and the masculine tone of the wide exhaust. Fifteen years old, he reflected, yet still one of the most modern-looking cars in the world.

Not much to go on here, but truthfully there weren’t that many Cords made. Bond says it is fifteen years old, which would make it one of the last production runs for the Cord, which were not made after 1937. Referring to the “low-hung saloon,” the Cord was known for being lower to the ground than most of the competition. The Cord introduced front-wheel drive to the industry and featured innovations such as retractable headlamps. We’re not told whether the car was a convertible or not, so here are a couple models that might be the car referenced by Ian Fleming:

1937 Cord 812
1937 Cord 810
1937 Cord Phaeton Saloon
1937 Cord 810 Sportster

For more information on the Cord, including vintage advertising check this post – Vintage Cord Advertiments Here is another detailed look at a 1937 Cord – 1937 Cord 810 Westchester : Classic Cars For everything you ever wanted to know about Cord, look at this gorgeous book – Cord Complete.

Buick With Dynaflow Gears

In Live and Let Die, when Bond is collected at Idewild airport and shuttled to the St Regis, Agent Halloran takes him in a car which is described this way:

Directly outside a black Buick waited, its engine sighing quietly. They climbed in. Bond’s two light suitcases were in front next to the driver. Bond couldn’t imagine how they had been extracted from the mound of passenger’s luggage he had seen only minutes before being trolleyed over to Customs.

‘Okay Grady, let’s go.’

Bond sank back luxuriously as the big limousine surged forward, slipping quickly into top through the Dynaflow gears.

Like the Amherst-Villiers supercharger, Fleming enjoys referring to automobile technology of the day.

The Dynaflow was an automatic transmission that was in use by Buick from about 1947-1963.

From Wikipedia:

The Dynaflow initially used a five-element torque converter, with two turbines and two stators, as well as a planetary gearset that provided two forward speeds plus reverse. In normal driving, Dynaflow started in high gear (direct drive), relying on the converter’s 2.1:1 torque multiplication to accelerate the vehicle. Low gear, obtained via the planetary gearset, could be manually engaged and held up to approximately 60 mph (97 km/h), improving acceleration. The transmission was incapable of automatic shifting, requiring the driver to move the shift lever from low to drive to cause an upshift. Buicks equipped with the Dynaflow transmissions were unique among American automobiles of the time in that the driver or his/her passengers would not detect the tell-tale interruption in acceleration that resulted when other automatic transmissions of the time shifted through their gears. Acceleration through a Dynaflow was one smooth (if inefficient and slow experience. It was because of this slow acceleration that the Dynaflow transmission was nicknamed “Dynaslush.”

The car in which Halloran picked up James Bond at the airport may have looked similar to this 1952 Buick Series 40 Special Deluxe:

 

This 1951 Buick Eight is another possibility:

4 ½-litre Bentley With Supercharger

We’re introduced to this car in Casino Royale. He also drives this car in Live and Let Die and Moonraker.

Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last of the 4½-litre Bentleys with the supercharger by Amherst Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and had kept it in careful storage through the war. It was still serviced every year and, in London, a former Bentley mechanic, who worked in a garage near Bond’s Chelsea flat, tended it with jealous care. Bond drove it hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure. It was a battleship-grey convertible coupé, and it was capable of touring at ninety with thirty miles an hour in reserve.

As mentioned in Live and Let Die:

The Grey Bentley convertible, the 1933 4 ½-litre with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger, had been brought round a few minutes earlier from the garage where he kept it and the engine had kicked directly he pressed the self-starter.

And in Moonraker:

He had a small but comfortable flat off the King’s Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper – a treasure called May – and a 1930 4½-litre Bentley coupé, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.

We’ll use the year on the last entry, as by 1933, the 4½-litre was no longer being made. In Casino Royale, it is merely stated that Bond bought the car in 1933, not that it was a 1933 model.

Only about 720 4½-litre Bentleys were produced, and only around 50 of those had the supercharger or “blower.”

This appears to be the 1930 coupe. I don’t think James Bond had the Union Jack on his car though. The grey device directly above the number plate is the Amherst-Villiers supercharger.

Here is a look inside at the dash:

Here’s another interesting look inside the cab.

There is a website – Vintage Bentleys – which is dedicated to finding and tracking all of remaining cars of this type in the world. They’ve done a stunning job at cataloging the cars.

For more information and photos on this model, check this page.