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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Bond Caliber Woman Would Actually Drive this Thing?

So the Bond girl has gone from driving a Citroen 2CV, A '65 Mustang, Halle Berry's Orange Thunderbird and a red Ferrari F355 to a Fu*^in! Ford Ka!!!! Disgraceful!

At least Bond has moved up from a BMW Z3 4 cylinder to an Aston DBS.

As evolutions go, that of the Bond girl has been a gradual one. But in the last 40 years, since a bikini-clad Honey Rider emerged from the sea in Dr. No, the Bond girl has become the Bond woman — an independent, defiant icon of feminine strength, gracing the covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, rather than Playboy.



The pivotal moment in the transformation came in 1995 with the release of Goldeneye. When Xenia Onatopp flashed a challenging smile as she roared past Bond in her red Ferrari F355, she simultaneously waved goodbye to the Bond girl of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, and went on to win the race.

Until that point the relationship between two of the most iconic things in James Bond's world — cars and women — had been kept almost entirely separate. Jill Masterson's sister, Tilly, made a fleeting appearance driving a Mustang in Goldfinger. And there was the scene in For Your Eyes Only when Roger Moore's Lotus self destructs, so he has to resort to his girl of the moment, hopping in Melina Havelock's Citroën 2CV to make their escape.

But this scene typifies how women and cars were seen in the early Bond films. The chase begins with Melina at the wheel. A minute in she crashes, so Bond has to take over. Bearing in mind the very essence of a Bond girl's appeal is that she can survive in a man's world, do a man's job, and often carry and use lethal weapons, when it comes to cars, scenes like this portrayed them as the weaker sex. The Bond girls might have constantly challenged the sexual status quo but they weren't to do it, apparently, from behind the wheel.

Goldeneye marked a departure. Barbara Broccoli joined her brother Michael on the production team, and times changed. Pierce Brosnan was the new Bond, Dame Judi Dench played M, and a new type of Bond girl emerged. No longer were they bikini-clad on the sidelines watching Bond's Lotus (as in The Spy Who Loved Me) emerge from the sea. They were in the driving seat. And they won car chases.

The latest Bond woman, Camille, is played by Olga Kurylenko, the Ukrainian supermodel-turned-actress making her Bond debut in the 22nd instalment of the 007 series, Quantum of Solace. In the film, her car plays a starring role too. And I'm standing on the Quantum of Solace set in Panama, in front of Camille's car, the new Ford Ka. It's one of just three prototypes in existence, all of which currently reside here on set.


The Ford Ka typifies today's automotive trends, even in the rarefied world of 007. Less mph and more mpg. Since Bond films have always been one step ahead, it's no surprise, in this day and age, that Camille's car of choice is hydrogen powered.

"Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric" logos are splashed across the Ka's hood and trunk. They are logos for Greene Planet, the eco transport business run by the film's arch villain Dominic Greene, for whom Camille works.

The cars themselves have been handmade in secret at Ford just to make the set in time for filming. The Ka only needs to look the part rather than genuinely be able to survive a lifetime's driving. Hence neither the side-view mirrors nor any of the interior electronics work; the glovebox door is fixed and hides no glovebox; the interior door handles are hand-painted gold and, after almost a month of stunts, are starting to wear; and the rear windows are temporary as they're constantly being removed and replaced to allow cameras essential access for interior shots. This car is made for Hollywood, not the highway.

But it's still the same Ka that would debut at the Paris motor show this past September. Olga Kurylenko and her stunt doubles aside, I'm the only person outside of Ford who's driven it to date. A few minutes whipping around a film set doesn't make for an exhaustive road test by any stretch, but it's certainly good enough for some honest first impressions.


On the plus side the new Ka feels impeccably solid and sure-footed with no sign of a harsh ride on city streets. The feel from the driver's perch is classier than you might expect from such a basic car, helped in no small part by a seat with plenty of side support and a comfortably solid steering wheel. Once keyed over, the motor delivers what power it does have very directly and cleanly.

The Ka is very impressive and watching the film, you'd never guess it's only half-built. The car looks immaculate, of course. Just like its stunningly beautiful owner, Camille, who is the archetypal modern-day Bond woman. In the film she parachutes, takes part in speedboat chases and fight scenes, and — of course — drives her car as competently as James Bond himself.


Anonymous November 12, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

You had failed to mention Tracy di Vicenzo's red Mustang (or some other kind) that she used to help Bond escape from Blofeld's thugs in OHMSS.