Box Office Boats: 5 of the Best from James Bond

Known for class, style and amazing gadgetry, the Bond boats deserve to be as famous as the cars

11 November 2013.
By Alex Smith

Across and under the surface of the water, 007 is rarely more than a few frames away from stepping aboard a classy powerboat and then driving it like he stole it  – which of course he usually does.

James Bond at the helm

As a Naval Officer, Bond has always been happy to take the helm.

Yet not all the Bond boats have been outrageously high-end. In fact some have been distinctly modest – but, like his cars, all have possessed something that made them stand out from the crowd as something a man like Bond might have enjoyed.

What follows are five boats which, through the drama of the scene, the excellence of the marque or the sheer ‘Bondishness’ of the model, deserve a special mention.

Fairey Huntress – From Russia With Love (1963)

For many, Sean Connery will always be the ultimate Bond and for some, the Fairey Huntress is his greatest ever boat. It played a starring role (alongside the seemingly interchangeable Huntsman) in ‘From Russia with Love’ and its origins and design could hardly be more British.

Fairey Huntress

Bond baddies give chase in the Huntress – the boat fully deserved its post-Bond success.

Established by Sir Richard Fairey in the 1940s as a builder of sailing craft, Fairey Marine produced its first motor cruiser in the 1960s at the hands of Sir Richard’s son. As a fan of offshore racing, he wanted to create a peerless offshore performer so he obtained approval to use the hull designs of the legendary Raymond Hunt. After the original 23-footer, Fairey designed and built its own express cruisers – and the 28-foot Huntsman and Huntress both featured in the hit 1963 film.

In the key sequence, Connery evaded capture aboard a Huntress rigged with an Interceptor V8, while the bad guys’ chase boat was apparently helmed by world airspeed record holder Peter Twiss. After the film, these superb sea boats would go on to achieve precisely the legendary status they deserved, winning repeated acclaim in offshore races such as the grueling Cowes-Torquay and even carrying out military service as the craft of choice for Royal Naval Skippers. Ask any professional powerboat tester and almost every one of them wants a Fairey Huntress. Enough said…

 

Glastron GT150 – Live and Let Die (1973)

In what is surely one of the most memorable boat scenes in 007 history, a 1972 Glastron GT150 embarks on a long and implausibly fast chase through Louisiana. Equipped with an Evinrude Starflite 135hp outboard, the highlight of the sequence is a record-breaking 110-foot leap over the pursuing Sheriff at the hands of Roger Moore.

Glastron 150 airborne

The Glastron GT150 was the star of Live and Let Die.

Naturally, modifications were required in order to achieve the feat – not least a pair of wooden rails on the hull to keep the craft level on the ramp and the repositioning of the helm station in the centre of the boat to help maintain balance in flight. Even then, it is said (though unconfirmed) that around 25 craft were used in filming the chase, with around 100 takes of the jump sequence alone. A great many boats were damaged or destroyed either in practice or in filming but in an age when special effects could not come to the rescue, the results were superb.

The Glastron GT150 became something of a cult classic, featuring heavily on the film’s promotional poster and achieving more film success three years later in ‘Outlaw Blues’.

 

Lotus Esprit Turbo Sub – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

No 007 boat list would be complete without the Lotus submarine. Based on the Esprit Turbo, launched at Earl’s Court in 1975, its Italian-influenced design massively impressed the Producer of the latest Bond film, who was able to witness it first-hand outside the film studios, courtesy of a very canny Lotus PR man.

Lotus submarine

No 007 boat list is complete without the iconic Lotus submarine.

When it came to the film itself, the car was equipped with cement-dispensing nozzles behind the number plate (astonishing forethought by Q), plus a smoke screen and the ability to deploy mines and torpedoes. But it was in subsurface mode that it really came into its own, with dispensing a vertical-launch missile to eradicate the pursuing helicopter. When it eventually emerged from the surf onto a beach in the Bahamas, it did so with much the same impact as Ursula Andress – and its place in the hearts of Bond fans was assured. Of course, it’s not completely real, but so profound is its impact that it has led to the generation of several real sub-surface hybrid cars – and it has even inspired one man on the south coast of England to create an outboard-powered boat with an Esprit body shell, known rather brilliantly as the ‘Flotus’.

 

(4) Glastron Carlson CV23HT – Moonraker

Special edition Glastron Carlson

The Special edition Glastron Carlson was a superb Bond craft.

Here’s another boat that was equipped with special abilities. In a dramatic boat chase on the Amazon River, Roger Moore was again the man in the hot seat at the helm of a delightful Glastron Carlson CV23HT. This hard top model, introduced in 1978, two years after the introduction of the non-Hard Top CV23, was one of only 300 ever built, and one of only three to feature the custom silver-grey ‘metal flake’ paint job.

Glastron Carlson hard top

The hard top Glastron Carlson with silver-grey paint job was a very rare boat.

Naturally though, exclusivity was not enough and the boat was pimped up by the Q Branch wizards with torpedos, mines and a set of wings, which enabled Bond to evade Jaws and the pursuing Glastron SSV sports boats just before he plunged over the Iguazu Falls. The wings looked a little weak but the boat itself was top notch.

 

Sunseeker Sovereign 17 – Quantum of Solace (2008)

Sunseeker XS2000 in Casino Royale

The Sunseeker XS2000 put in a lively performance in Casino Royale.

Sunseeker has been a regular feature of 007 films in recent years and as a conspicuous British success story you can see why. You can just picture the marketing men rubbing their hands together and harping on about ‘synergy’ as the big screen displayed a Superhawk 43 in ‘Quantum of Solace’. You can only imagine how excited they got as a particularly fortunate Superhawk 48 in ‘Die Another Day’ was draped in a bikini-clad Halle Berry. And while ‘Casino Royale’ displayed a pair of Sunseekers in the form of the overtly sporting XS 2000 and the Predator 108 – it’s the relatively modest Sunseeker Sovereign 17 from ‘Quantum of Solace’ that really hits the spot.

Sunseeker Sovereign 17

The Sunseeker Sovereign 17 oozes Bond from every vintage pore.

The vintage (almost Riva-style) craft, built in 1970 and restored in 2005 as a celebration of Sunseeker’s heritage, harks back to a time when the brand was all about small, sporting powerboats, so it’s apt that Robert Braithwaite CBE (Sunseeker MD) plays a small cameo role early on in the film as the boat’s Skipper. In a later scene, Bond (played by Daniel Craig) also takes a ride in the Sunseeker 17 en route to the Tuscan villa of his supposed ally, Mathis. Of course, it’s by no means the grandest Sunseeker to appear in a Bond film and there are no outlandish modifications to enjoy, but arguably, no model has been more classically ‘Bond’ than this.

For more Classic powerboats, see: Five Classic Power Boats: Triana, Broom, Riva, Fairey, Albatross and Chris Craft Corsair 25: Heritage Edition or Powerboat Bucket List: 10 Best Boats to Drive


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