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