The James Bond films constitute the most successful movie franchise in cinema history. Spanning sixty years, twenty-five canonical films, and billions of dollars in box-office receipts, video sales, rentals and merchandising revenue, no other series of films comes close to the longevity and world-wide appeal of Bond.
Ask the average Bond fan why they love the films so much, and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. Some gravitate to the character himself, who always turns terrible odds around to complete his mission and save the world. Others love the cunning villains and henchmen. Still more will tell you it’s Q’s gadgets and weaponry.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet though that if you’re reading this, the cars of the Bond films are not an insignificant draw for you. Sadly, for lovers of American muscle, the preponderance of the cars in the Bond movies are of the European luxury and sports car varieties: various and sundry Aston Martins, Lotuses, BMWs, Bentleys, and the like.
There were a couple of notable exceptions though. In this installment of Rob’s Movie Muscle we’re gonna have a look at one: the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 as seen in Diamonds Are Forever!
Diamonds Are Forever was the seventh Bond movie, (the eighth if you include the 1967 comedy spoof of Casino Royale), and was released in 1971. It marked the sixth installment to star Sean Connery as the British spy, following his departure from the franchise and replacement by George Lazenby in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Owing to the poor box office performance of that film, and Lazenby’s reluctance to reprise the role, Connery was lured back for Diamonds for the then unheard of sum of $1.25 million.
As with all the previous Bond films, Diamonds was produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli through their company, EON Productions, Ltd. In the United States, the film was distributed by United Artists.
Director Guy Hamilton, who had previously directed the blockbuster Bond movie, Goldfinger, took the helm, filming a screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz that was loosely based on Ian Fleming’s original novel.
Rounding out the cast behind Connery was Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, and Norman Burton.
The story sees Bond investigate a diamond smuggling operation that has resulted in the murder of numerous involved parties. During the course of his mission, 007 travels from Amsterdam to Las Vegas, where the trail of diamonds leads him into conflict once again with his arch nemesis, Blofeld. Throughout, Bond is accompanied by a reluctant female smuggler, Tiffany Case, who he has convinced to change sides.
As with most James Bond movies, Diamonds features a spectacular hero car. In this case, the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 takes over the role previously held by the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 seen in Goldfinger and Thunderball, and the 1969 Aston Martin DBS featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The replacement of the Aston Martins for Diamonds Are Forever was notable at the time, and resulted from a product placement deal EON had struck with the Ford Motor Company. Although many Ford vehicles are seen in the film, the automaker insisted that Bond’s main car be their new Mustang, specifically in the high-end Mach 1 performance trim.
For 1971, Ford had entirely redesigned the Mustang with a radical new shape. Gone was the iconic, muscular form that had evolved from 1964 ½ to 1970, and in was a body featuring an extremely elongated hood, a short rear deck, and in the case of the Mach 1, a SportsRoof style roofline.
A variety of engines were available in the Mach 1 including three distinct flavors of 351 Cleveland V8, and two 429ci variants.
Specific features of the trim level included color-matched front urethane trim, a black honeycomb grille, Mach 1 decals on the fenders and trunk lid, a unique pop-open gas cap, heavy-duty competition suspension, and a non-functional, NACA-duct adorned hood that could be made functional by adding a Ram Air option.
Other popular options included side stripes, a rear deck wing, and a matte black or silver treatment to the hood.
Five Mach 1s were used in the filming of Diamonds Are Forever. All sported identical Pinto Red exteriors and a two-tone black and red 5E Vermillion Sports Interior. Each car was equipped differently though.
The hero car, used primarily for close-up shots and some of the action sequences, featured the C-code 429 Cobra-Jet V8 with a C6 automatic transmission. It was equipped with the Mach 1 Sports Interior package, which included a clock in the instrument cluster and the triple gauge pod in the center dash, a center console, and a Stereosonic 8-track tape player.
The second car, a stunt vehicle used solely for action, likely had the C-code 429 Cobra-Jet V8 too, as evidenced by the dual exhausts seen in a particular chase sequence, as well as a noticeably deep exhaust note. This car is clearly seen to have an automatic transmission, a four-point roll bar, and a camera mounting bracket installed in the rear seat area. It also notably had red seat belts instead of the black ones seen on the hero car.
Car three was another stunt car which also likely sported the Cobra-Jet and the C6 slushbox. It had a red four-point roll bar and black seat belts.
The fourth car, which was only used for a particular stunt jump off of a ramp, had a single exhaust, suggesting that it packed the base, 351 Cleveland two-barrel H-code V8. The car was missing the Mach 1 decals on the front fenders, and had tinted windows.
Car number five was equipped with the four-barrel version of the 351 and the auto box. It too was fitted with a red, four-point roll bar, and was the only car that did not have whitewall tires. Interestingly, it lacked a passenger side mirror and had no radio antenna. This car was also a stunt vehicle, and apparently suffered substantial damage in filming.
The Mustang appears in several scenes in the movie, but the most memorable one takes place at night in downtown Las Vegas.
Pursued by several police cars, Bond performs numerous burnouts, J-turns, power-on oversteer slides, and jumps. An extended chase through a parking lot during the sequence provides for a number of thrills as well.
The most famous stunt performed in the film occurs when Bond tips the car onto two wheels to escape through a narrow alleyway. Not only was it a spectacular moment that stunt driver Buzz Bundy performed, but it also constituted one of the biggest continuity errors in stunt history.
Bond initially gets the car up on the right two wheels before entering the alley, but in the following shot when it came out the other side, the car was on the left two wheels! Noticing this error late in the editing room during post-production, Guy Hamilton had to film an awkward interior pick-up shot of the car unrealistically changing pitch mid-alley to insert between the two sequences.
In the end, Bond manages to escape the police, and continue on to complete his mission. Sadly, the Mach 1 is not seen again.
Despite the somewhat limited screen time the Mach 1 had, it nonetheless became yet another iconic Bond vehicle. So much so that two of the three major toy car companies at the time, Matchbox and Corgi, released Diamonds Are Forever editions of the Mach 1, to complement their silver DB5 Goldfinger models.
The hero car used in filming Diamonds Are Forever managed to survive the production, and was identified decades later. Following a ground-up restoration, the car was sold at auction, and now resides in a private collection. It’s good to know that Bond’s Mach 1 lives on.