How to crash an Aston Martin

When the stunt team tried to flip James Bond’s Aston Martin DBS in ‘Casino Royale,’ they found the car too stable to be overturned by an 18” ramp. In their last attempt they fitted the DBS with a gas cannon and ended up rolling the car a total of 7 times, accidentally setting a new world record.

This story starts in late 2005 when Aston boss Ulrich Bez invited Bond producer Barbara Broccoli to look at a new model under development in their design studio. Broccoli immediately loved the car and cast it as the perfect transport for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

This was a bit of a problem for Aston. The new car, to be called DBS, was only to be lanched in 2007 and at that point it only existed on the drawing table. Aston’s prototype workshop worked some overtime and hand-built two identical DBS ‘hero’ cars that could be used for close-up shots and gentle driving.

They deliverd the cars just in time as film production was already started, but then their was another problem. In the script, 007 Bond encounters his love interest Vesper Lynd lying on the road ahead, swerves at high speed to avoid her and flips his car into a spectacular barrel-roll. Aston now also had to deliver three cosmetically accurate DBS stunt cars.

Fortunately Aston had a trio of redundant DB9 development hacks and drafted them into the prototype shop to be turned into DBS replicas. From the outside these sacrificial lambs looked identical to the fully formed ‘hero’ cars already working their stuff for the cameras. Inside, they were rather less polished, with tatty, rough-grained dashboards and stout roll-cages betraying their origins as pre-production workhorses. The tired matt-black vents and buttons on the top half of the dash were pretty far from the chrome-splashed versions in the show cars but, to avoid any risk of knackering continuity, the team came up with a cunning fix involving careful application of kitchen tin-foil.

Once again Aston met its deadline, by delivering three already existing DB 9's turned into DBS replicas. From the inside, they were fitted with roll cages and other safety equipment.

To perform the barrel-roll, the stunt team set up the eight-inch ramp they calculated would be enough to flip the DBS and brought in two old BMW 5-series, chosen because they had similar size and weight of the Aston, for a couple of rehearsal rolls. Sure enough, when they hit the ramp at 65mph, the BMW's barrelled three times, just as planned.

Satisfied that the stunt would work, the crew moved to the hill circuit at Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire, where shooting would take place, and carried out a final trial with their pimped DB9 practice car. Unfortunately, the Aston proved a lot more stable than their german counterparts and the ramp was raised to 18 inches to make sure the Bond car could flip over.

It still wasn’t enough. When the first DBS was charged into the ramp at 70mph it simply took off, levelled out and landed on all four wheels, destroying the dummy that stood in for Vesper Lynd before mangling its front suspension The Aston’s stiffer chassis and lower centre of gravity meant it wasn’t going to play turtle that easy.

Fortunately, the Bond team had a back-up plan involving another DBS fitted with a gas cannon to punch a metal ram out of the bottom of the car and flip it onto its roof. It was up to the stunt driverto hit the trigger at precisely the right moment, otherwise he’d risk being punted painfully into the trees by the side of the road.

With everything in place and the cameras running, the Aston was charged up to 75mph and fired the ram bang on cue. The result was beyond expectation. Once the Aston hit the landing area, it dug in and just kept rolling, and rolling and... rolling.

The team just unpurposely established a new Guinness World Record for most cannon rolls in a car, achieving an astonishing seven complete turns and stealing the record from Top Gear, who had previously set the benchmark using a rather less glamorous Sierra estate.