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This Week in History, 1977: Frank Baker invites you to dine with James Bond and his Aston Martin

Flamboyant restauranteur was a local fixture from the 1950s through the 1980s.

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James Bond’s 1963 Aston Martin DB5 is arguably the most famous movie car ever made.

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The sleek silver sports car used in Goldfinger and Thunderball was lightning fast and equipped with the kind of space-age doo-dads befitting a secret agent licensed to kill — machine guns hidden behind the headlights, an ejector seat, and revolving license plates (British, Swiss or French).

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Unfortunately, the Aston Martin DB5 was stolen from an aircraft hangar in Boca Raton, Florida in 1997 and vanished into thin air. But it was recently discovered in an undisclosed “private setting” in the Middle East.

The discovery made headlines around the world, and the car is now said to be worth about $25 million US.

This seems to be a good time to bring up the Frank Baker James Bond car, which was parked at his West Vancouver restaurant Frank Baker’s Attic throughout the 1970s.

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“James Bond Eats Here Every Night,” boasted an ad in the Oct. 19, 1977, edition of The Vancouver Sun. “Well, you can see his car parked outside all the time. Bring the kids to see 007’s famous spy car. Then treat them to some great food at children’s prices.”

Baker purchased the car for $20,000 US ($21,600 Cdn) in September 1969. The seller was London financier Kenneth Luscombe-White, who had swapped a Ferrari for the car. Baker threw in a trip to Vancouver to clinch the deal.

But whether it was the actual Aston Martin used in the Bond movies soon became a matter of debate. A Chicago lawyer claimed he owned the Bondmobile, and that Baker’s car was a replica.

It turned out there was one original and two or three copies that had been made for promotional purposes. Baker always claimed he had the real one, but others insisted they did.

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In any event, buying the Aston Martin generated lots of free publicity for Baker, a flamboyant fellow with a pencil thin moustache and a habit of wearing a white suit and a straw hat.

Born in Vancouver in 1922, he claimed to have won a bunch of money playing poker in the army during the Second World War and used it to get into the catering business.

Within a decade, he owned three catering halls, but sold them in order to partner with Frank Barnard at the Top of the Towers, a penthouse restaurant and lounge in the 22-storey Georgian Towers at 1450 West Georgia.

Frank Baker shows off his Vancouver alderman pin. June 17, 1960. Vancouver Sun files.
Frank Baker shows off his Vancouver alderman pin. June 17, 1960. Vancouver Sun files. jpg

Then he opened a couple of restaurants in West Vancouver, which he filled with antiques. A trumpet player, he often blew his own horn at his restaurants, sometimes with Lance Harrison’s band, which had a long-time gig at the Attic.

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Baker was also a four-time Vancouver alderman for the Non-Partisan Association from 1956-62, but he left politics to run his restaurants and enjoy life with family and his collection of cars (he had several), firetrucks (he had two), and his yacht El Citta (attic spelled backwards).

Alas, Baker went bust in 1982, when high interest rates took a toll on restaurants. The Sun’s Denny Boyd also reported that the RCMP fraud squad informed Baker that his staff had been robbing him blind.

“It’s my own fault for not being around and watching the books,” said Baker. “I should have known when my busboy drove up in a better car than mine.”

He sold the Bondmobile and in 1984 rebounded with a new restaurant at 14th and Cambie in Vancouver. Roger Bywater lived above it in an apartment, and one night they left the exhaust fan going, which “sounded like screeching metal.”

Bywater went downstairs in the early hours to see if anyone was still there.

“There was an old-fashioned English telephone booth inside,” he recounts. “It looked like there was a person there on the phone, so I kept hitting the window (to get their attention). I thought, ‘This guy is purposely ignoring me.’ I was getting really pissed off and kept banging and banging, and finally I just gave up.

“I went down the next morning and realized it was a wax dummy replica of Frank in the phone booth.”

Of course there was. Frank Baker passed away from cancer on Nov. 21, 1989 at 67.

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Frank Baker checks out the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 he purchased when it arrived at his West Vancouver restaurant The Attic on Nov. 18, 1969. Someone has written “Hi Frank” in chalk on the bullet deflector shield behind the rear windshield. Bill Cunningham/Province
Frank Baker checks out the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 he purchased when it arrived at his West Vancouver restaurant The Attic on Nov. 18, 1969. Someone has written “Hi Frank” in chalk on the bullet deflector shield behind the rear windshield. Bill Cunningham/Province Photo by Bill Cunningham Bill Cunningha /jpg
Restauranteur Frank Baker at his The Attic restaurant in West Vancouver. Photo ran January 16, 1981. Ken Oakes/Vancouver Sun
Restauranteur Frank Baker at his The Attic restaurant in West Vancouver. Photo ran January 16, 1981. Ken Oakes/Vancouver Sun Vancouver Sun
Frank Baker when he was running for Vancouver alderman in the 1950s. Photo by Hughes Studio.
Frank Baker when he was running for Vancouver alderman in the 1950s. Photo by Hughes Studio. jpg
Frank Baker was the master of publicity, sending photos back to Vancouver when he was on vacation. Here he is shown on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, celebrating his ninth wedding anniversary with his wife Dorothy. Vancouver Sun files.
Frank Baker was the master of publicity, sending photos back to Vancouver when he was on vacation. Here he is shown on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, celebrating his ninth wedding anniversary with his wife Dorothy. Vancouver Sun files. jpg
November 1969. Restaurant owner Frank Baker and his James Bond Aston Martin. Other person in photo is Kenneth Luscombe-White. George Diack / Vancouver Sun
November 1969. Restaurant owner Frank Baker and his James Bond Aston Martin. Other person in photo is Kenneth Luscombe-White. George Diack / Vancouver Sun Photo by George Diack /Vancouver Sun
The Georgian Towers once had a restaurant bar on the 22nd floor at 1450 West Georgia. Owners Frank Bernard and Frank Baker were showmen, hence the classic line in the sign Drink in the view, 22 stories closer to heaven.”
The Georgian Towers once had a restaurant bar on the 22nd floor at 1450 West Georgia. Owners Frank Bernard and Frank Baker were showmen, hence the classic line in the sign Drink in the view, 22 stories closer to heaven.” Vancouver Sun
The flamboyant Frank Baker with a friend in his restaurant, Aug. 27, 1968. Dan Scott/Vancouver Sun.
The flamboyant Frank Baker with a friend in his restaurant, Aug. 27, 1968. Dan Scott/Vancouver Sun. Photo by Dan Scott Dan Scott /jpg
Frank Baker ad in the Aug. 2, 1977 Vancouver Sun.
Frank Baker ad in the Aug. 2, 1977 Vancouver Sun.
A Jim Pattison ad in the May 30, 1961 Vancouver Sun featured Frank Baker, “prominent restauranteur, sportsman and city alderman,” being the first person to buy a car from Pattison after he opened his own dealership.
A Jim Pattison ad in the May 30, 1961 Vancouver Sun featured Frank Baker, “prominent restauranteur, sportsman and city alderman,” being the first person to buy a car from Pattison after he opened his own dealership.
Frank Baker ad from the Dec. 12, 1960 Vancouver Sun. The flamboyant restauranteur was elected to Vancouver council four times, including in 1960.
Frank Baker ad from the Dec. 12, 1960 Vancouver Sun. The flamboyant restauranteur was elected to Vancouver council four times, including in 1960.
Frank Baker tried to mount a political comback by running for Vancouver mayor in the 1986 election, but lost. Here he launches his campaign in front of city hall on Oct. 29, 1986. The print has been marked up for editing. Craig Hodge/Vancouver Sun files.
Frank Baker tried to mount a political comback by running for Vancouver mayor in the 1986 election, but lost. Here he launches his campaign in front of city hall on Oct. 29, 1986. The print has been marked up for editing. Craig Hodge/Vancouver Sun files.

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