The 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the forgotten James Bond picture, the only one to star George Lazenby. Just as Lazenby’s short MI6 career was lost between Connery’s and Moore’s long stints, the DBS has been largely forgotten, lost between the goofy gadgetry of Connery’s DB5 and the general lack of car interest during the Moore era. But it isn’t exactly like you wouldn’t want to see more of this beautiful example of British car design.
By 1969 it was time for a new Bond, but the franchise’s relationship with Aston Martin had only warmed, thanks to Aston’s Bond-related success. The OHMSS producers again chose the most modern offering, The DBS, which had just been released for the 1967 model year.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was something of a departure for Bond, however, since the cartoony stunts and goofball gadgets were left out. Yes, the film offered plenty of action, romance, and international intrigue, but Lazenby’s DBS was spared all but the most practical of Q Branch’s devices. Only a folding sniper rifle huddled in a secret compartment of the glove box.
This lack of gadgetry, however, (and the unfortunate lack of bulletproof glass) did not disqualify the DBS from being a true Bond car. Slick as a tux, quintessentially British, and professionally fast, it was the perfect car for 007. Named, like so many Astons since 1948, after then owner David Brown, it was bigger than its DB5 and DB6 predecessors, following the American muscle car styling cues of the day. And it was slightly heavier, too, at around 3,500 lbs.
But there was also plenty of power to move all that metal. It had a 4 liter straight 6, which fired out 282 horsepower. But since these were the exact specifications of the earlier, lighter DBs (including the DB5), Aston Martin offered a no cost factory upgrade to Weber carburetors, which upped the power to a more timely 325 horses. It could push to 60 in just 7.1 seconds, almost a full second faster than a 351 Mustang of the same year. Top speed was a very impressive 141 mph.
Styling for the DBS took a new direction for Aston Martin. It was unconventionally a fastback, and more angular than its slippery predecessors. Even the grille was squared-off, making Aston’s trademark scoop-outs barely distinguishable. Still, it was a pure Aston. It sported chromed side-vents and rolled on a set of knock-off wire wheels. And of course, there was the sound, that perfect British exhaust note, both civilized and savage, not unlike Bond himself.
Despite the modernization, however, the DBS wasn’t enough to keep Aston Martin out of financial trouble. In fact, the DBS was the last model of the David Brown era, and the firm was sold in 1972 to something called “Company Developments Ltd.” And as similar as this sounds to a cover for an evil organization run by Bond nemesis, Blofeld, it was just a stuffy group of investors.
The DBS, like the serious Bond film, went out of production after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but both would eventually reemerge. More on that later, but next week we’ll break out of the Aston Era with Roger Moore’s submersible Lotus Espirit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.