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MIDLAND: James Bond car to live and let die for.

Byline: By Rachel Williams

It was the car that enthralled a generation and became part of British film folklore.

And while it might be four decades old, that hasn't stopped a rich enthusiast from paying a cool pounds 1 million for James Bond's gadget-packed Aston Martin.

Would-be buyers crammed into the sale in Phoenix, Arizona, to get a glimpse of the legendary 1965 Aston Martin DB5, complete with superspy additions including built-in Browning machine guns and tyre slashers.

The car, which was driven by Sean Connery in the films Thunderball and Goldfinger, went under the hammer for $2,090,000 -pounds 1,190,000 - after 15 minutes of intense bidding.

Other gadgets include a retractable rear bullet-proof screen, an oil slick ejector, a smoke screen system and three revolving number plates including the registrations 007JB and JB007.

But a passenger ejector seat with removable roof panel has been replaced with a standard seat. The car, which was last on sale 35 years ago, was bought in the room by a European collector, RM Auctions spokesman Terrance Lobzun said.

He estimated about six bidders, plus more on the telephones, were battling it out for the slick motor. In 1970 it was bought for just pounds 5,000 by a Tennessee museum owner from JCB owner Sir Anthony Bamford, who used it at his Midland estate.

Before the sale began the lights were turned off and Mr Lobzun, dressed in 007-style tuxedo, drove the car on to the stage and demonstrated all the features - including the guns - in return for a standing ovation from the ecstatic audience. "It was just amazing," he said.

"Every seat of the 1,500 in the house was sold - it was standing room only. It was the biggest crowd we've ever had.

"The atmosphere was electric, it was so exciting.

"If there had been real bullets in the guns I would have taken out the whole front row of these people who have more money that most countries do." He added: "This car was definitely the star of the show, it's incredible.

"Needless to say the previous owner is quite happy with his investment."

The Aston Martin is one of only four cars originally constructed and used for 1964's Goldfinger and 1965's Thunderball, as well as on promotional tours. The car auctioned was mainly used for that purpose. The price includes the buyer's premium.

After flirting with other marques over the years, Bond has been reunited with Aston Martin recently. Die Another Day featured the Warwickshire-based company's flagship model, the Vanquish, and earlier this month actor Daniel Craig visited its headquarters in Gaydon to take a test drive in a DBS which will feature in Casino Royale, Craig's first screen outing as Bond.

The number plates from the Mini Coopers used in cult film The Italian Job are being offered for auction.

The three plates are expected to fetch up to pounds 20,000. The getaway cars were the stars of the 1969 film featuring Michael Caine.

Each number plate relates to something from the movie -GPF 146G came from the Grand Prix flag, HMP 729G was Caine's prison number and LGW 809G was the gang's flight number. They were removed from the cars shortly after filming and have been in the hands of private collectors. The sale takes place on January 26 at Cheffins auction house in Cambridge. A Chef-fins spokesman said: "These are certainly a lot for the dedicated Italian Job fan - or maybe Michael Caine himself may be interested."

The Mini Coopers getaway scene on the streets of Turin is often voted the best movie car chase of all time. The film was remade in 2003 starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.

The Bond DB5 was road registered for the first time in the UK in 1969 and used by Sir Anthony Bamford at his Midland estate

Sir Anthony put the car up for sale, at which point it was acquired by American collector BH Atchley, owner of the Smoky Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

The car was the featured display piece at the front of the museum for 35 years

It was started and left to idle annually to ensure its proper mechanical operating condition, and is still in almost original condition

CAPTION(S):

Former Bond girl Honor Blackman with an Aston Martin DB5 at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC' Rapidly-revolving hub cap extensions could be fatal for the villains
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 23, 2006
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