It was a spooky coincidence. As the 4pm news came on the car radio last week, announcing the sad demise of actor Roger Moore, I passed an early Volvo P1800 northbound on the A34, almost identical to the white coupe the suave English actor famously drove as Simon Templar in the hit 1960s TV series, The Saint.
JUN 05th 2017
Axon's Automotive Anorak: The late great Roger Moore's top six movie motors
With his laconic dulcet tones, expressive eyebrows and witty Bond one-liners, Moore was better known for his slightly wooden acting style more than his love of cars.
Cars, however, did play an important role of Roger Moore’s acting career, almost upstaging his on-screen performances occasionally. By way of my own tribute to Roger Moore, here are half-a-dozen cars that memorably co-starred with him on both the small and big screens;
Volvo P1800 (The Saint – 1962-69 TV series)
When filming for the popular 1960s ITV television series The Saint began in 1961, the programme’s lead character – Simon Templar, played by Roger Moore – was due to drive the then-new ‘car of the moment’, a Jaguar E-Type. Jaguar had other ideas though, and wouldn’t play ball in loaning a car for the full length of the filming of the first series of The Saint. So, step forward the Volvo Car Corporation, who was very willing to supply the then British-built (by Jensen) Volvo P1800 coupe instead.
The P1800’s leading role on our black and white TV screens in the 1960s helped immensely to establish the Volvo brand name in the UK; a market where the Swedish marque was then largely unknown, with official British imports only starting in the late 1950s, despite Volvo being founded in 1927. The P1800 adding much-needed ‘sex appeal’ to the worthy but dull Swedish make, with the white Frua-designed P1800 becoming an instant screen idle, aided by its iconic ‘match stick man’ with halo Saint logo on the car’s bonnet, and the distinctive STI 1 license plate. Five P1800s were used in total during the 1960s for the filming of The Saint, and a Volvo was also given to Roger Moore for his own use.
In the short-lived ‘The Return of The Saint’ ITV television series in 1978-79, Jaguar finally made up for its 1960s E-Type faux pas by providing the ‘new’ Saint (played by Ian Ogilvy) with a white XJ-S coupe, also registered STI 1. Hollywood also attempted to revive The Saint with the disappointing 1997 movie, reuniting the lead character (played by Val Kilma) with a Volvo, this time the contemporary C70 coupe.
Lamborghini Islero S (The Man Who Haunted Himself – 1970 Film)
Widely regarded as one of Roger Moore’s best non-Bond film performances, he plays Harold Pelham, a stressed Rover 3.5-Litre (P5B) driving City worker who appears to become possessed and has a serious high-speed car accident. On the operating table, he briefly suffers clinical death, after which there appear to be two heartbeats on the monitor. On coming around, Pelham finds his life has been turned upside-down; with his character changing his acquaintances claiming to have seen him in places where he has never been. Pelham starts being followed by a mysterious silver car, a rare and achingly-exotic Lamborghini Islero S, one of just five RHD example built (out of a total of just 100), registered YLR 11G, with his ‘sensible’ Rover ultimately morphing into the Lamborghini. The Islero S used in the film still exists today in immaculate condition and was sold at auction in 2006 for £106,400.
Aston Martin DBS V8 (The Persuaders – 1971 TV series)
Shot in the glamorous French Riviera, the cult ITV TV series The Persuaders, followed the exploits to two international playboys, Sir (Brett) Sinclair, a polished English nobleman played by Roger Moore, and Danny Wilde (Tony Curtiss), a jet-setting rough New Yorker from the wrong side of the tracks.
Sinclair famously drove a suitably-sophisticated Aston Martin DBS ‘V8’ with Wilde in a more flamboyant (Ferrari) Dino 246 GT. The classic William Towns-styled DBS was painted in a unique Bahama Yellow colour, and purported to be the range-topping V8 model, when in truth the Persuaders car was powered by Aston’s ‘lesser’ six-cylinder motor, with BS 1 (as registered) wearing V8 alloys and badging. To give the illusion of being a V8 model.
AMC Hornet X Coupe (The Man With The Golden Gun – 1974 James Bond film)
It was a most unlikely scene in a most unlikely car. The longest-running of all actors to play British spy James Bond, 007 (12 years), Roger Moore’s second Bond film, 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun, saw him famously escape from his pursuers over a twisted broken bridge in the 1974 Hornet X Coupe, to perform the first-ever ‘astro spiral’ corkscrew jump in a movie, claiming a place in the history books as the first computer-modelled stunt in any movie.
The spiral jump was conceived and patented by American racing driver Jay Milligan, who first performed the stunt in an AMC Javelin in Houston, Texas, 1972. The film’s villain, Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee) kidnaps Bond’s love interest May Goodnight (Britt Ekland) and flees in a flying 1974 AMC Matador Coupe with wings and an engine strapped to the roof of the then-new Richard Teague-design full-size coupe.
Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me 1977, and For Your Eyes Only 1981 James Bond films)
In a major change from the Aston Martins traditionally favoured by 007, for the 1977 Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, 007 (played once again by Roger Moore) uses a white mid-engined Lotus Esprit in Series 1 guise. At the end of an edge-of-the-seat car chase in Sardinia – with Lotus test driver Roger Becker doing all the hard work at the wheel – the white Esprit drives into the Mediterranean sea and miraculously transforms into a gadget-laden submarine. Some years later Tesla founder Elon Musk reportedly bought the Bond submarine Esprit at auction for a staggering £616,000 in 2013!
Moore returned to another Esprit - this time the more potent bronze Series 2 Turbo model – for the 1981 007 flick For Your Eyes Only – this time fitted with ski racks on the rear engine cover louvres. This Lotus was also later sold at auction in 2009 for more than £100,000.
Citroen 2CV (For Your Eyes Only – 1981 James Bond film)
Moore didn’t just get to drive the Lotus Esprit Turbo in the 1981 Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Having destroyed his Lotus, 007 is chased by the bad guys in their black Peugeot 504s around the Spanish town of Pagi (with the chase sequence actually filmed in Corfu!), with Bond using Melina Havelock’s (played by Carole Bouquet) borrowed yellow Citroen 2CV to fend off the villains. Powered by a more powerful motor from the 2CV’s larger air-cooled sibling, the Citroen GS, Bond offers to drive the 2CV ("You don't mind if I drive, do you?") and flies over the roof of the pursuing Peugeots, inevitably arriving in one piece at their Hotel Bellavista destination.
To coincide with the release of this Bond movie, Citroen launched a limited-edition collection of yellow 2CVs, each one sold with stick-on fake bullet holes.
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