Retro Heaven

When James Bond Drove a Saab

Have Saab will travel…

droppedImage_7Bond fans generally fall into two categories, those who accept the product for what it is and those who wish it was just that bit, you know…better. First and foremost the James Bond franchise is of course, a work of fiction and the films which followed Fleming’s novels took that ‘make believe’ to another level. But for aficionados of Cold War spy fiction ‘we’ want the main man to be that bit more authentic.

Throughout the book and the film franchise we have seen Bond evolve and change in so many ways, times date Bond by fashion predominantly but for me the choice of cars has always been somewhat bizarre and I never quite ‘got it’. I never understood the Bentley MK 11 Continental of old and as much as the Aston Martin was and is pure nostalgic beauty I wondered how he ever afforded it. Should I be bothered? Not really but then when you commit yourself to literary Bond you feel as though you are deserving of some credibility as thanks for giving up a period of your life to the written word. In the John Gardner series of James Bond novels I read Bond’s passage into 1980s British culture and social conscience with a mixture of sadness and annoyance.

We all know how the Bond franchise makes its bucks, you market him out to the highest bidder, simples. He’s a civil servant who wears Omega watches, tailor made Brioni suits and drives Aston Martin, BMW, Lotus, Bentley and er, SAAB. Hang on, SAAB? Yes, and what’s more he likes SAAB so much HMG agree to have it shipped to America in Gardner’s ‘For Special Services’ and then Finland for ‘Icebreaker’. It has of course been equipped with all of the latest gadgets expected of a cinematic Bond car. The 900 Turbo, nick-named ‘The Silver Beast’ first cropped up in Gardner’s debut Bond novel, ‘Licence Renewed’ It’s 1981 and Bond is cutting back, he has his favourite cigarette maker producing lower tar cigarettes for him (as they do) and given the rising cost of fuel (Gardner’s words, not mine) Bond has had to let go of the Bentley for a more economical foreign car purchased with his own money.

We’ve all considered fuel costs before buying a car but if that is indeed a factor who then orders those standard optional extras such as bullet proof glass and steel-reinforced ram bumpers? I know I don’t.

“The Saab now suited Bond’s purposes and was easily convertible from petrol to gas, if the fuel situation became even more critical, the consumption was low in relation to speed, whilst the turbo gave that extra dynamic thrust always needed in a tricky situation”

Groan. Sorry John but ‘Icebreaker’ just became ‘dealbreaker’. But here’s the question; what would YOU replace it with? In 1981 the car to have was the Ford Cortina followed by the Escort. I’d have stuck him in a Ford Mexico earlier on but if they’d insisted on going foreign then it’s an Alfa or a Scirocco surely? Anything that was winning rallies at the peak of its popularity whilst acknowledging Bond’s cutbacks.

Or you could just sneak in a Datsun Cherry for badness!


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