Happy 90th birthday to Sir Sean Connery, the tough and debonair Scot who was the first actor to play James Bond. Arguably, he was the best do ever don the suit and Walther PPK.
Born on August 25, 1930, Connery was once one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men, and it was as Bond that he made his mark. Although the first 007 car that most people think of is the iconic Aston Martin DB5, it wasn’t the first car that Connery drove on screen as Bond. That would be a 1957 Chevy, believe it or not, which he used as a getaway car in the early moments of the 1962 Bond debut film Dr. No.
The first real Bond car—one the British Secret Service agent didn’t commandeer—was a powder blue 1961 Sunbeam Alpine II. Bond drives the car to meet Miss Taro at her villa in the Blue Mountains above Kingston, Jamaica. Of course, Bond must elude Dr. No’s henchman in order to reach her, and his slick driving skills result in a fiery death for his pursuers. “I think they were on their way to a funeral,” he tells a road worker as the two stare at burning hearse in the ravine below.
Unlike more curvaceous British cars that came before it, the Sunbeam Alpine featured a more straight-line, square-body design, similar to later ’60s models from MG and Triumph. Painted Lake Blue with wide whitewall tires, the Series II was powered by a peppy 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine—although in retrospect it was a much tamer version of Bond cars to come. Coincidentally, a later-model Alpine was the vehicle of choice for TV secret agent Maxwell Smart.
The film producer’s choice of the Sunbeam roadster not only allowed the world to get a good look at the face of the new Bond star, the movie car was supposedly borrowed from a Jamaican resident to avoid the cost of importing one for filming. Of course, 007 knows how to roll with whatever vehicle is available.
Although the Alpine is among the least memorable cars that Bond has driven in 58 years and 26 films, it was his first, and that makes it special—just like the first actor to take on the role. Cheers to Sean Connery.
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