A vintage Aston Martin with special features credited with inspiring one of James Bond’s most iconic cars is to be auctioned.
Like Bond’s famous DB III, the car features a number of special modifications, including reinforced steel bumpers, a heavy-duty anti-interference ignition system, driver's seat connections for two-way radio and a homing device, and a gadget which accurately computes time and distance in relation to a pre-selected average speed.
Made in 1955, the Aston Martin was collecting rust and dust in a shed until it was lovingly restored to its former glory by a father and son team who are now selling it.
It was during the restoration that the car’s literary links came to light.
The current owner, from Deal, Kent, bought the car last year from a man who said its only claim to fame was that it had "once been driven in a rally".
But the former plane and hovercraft engineer soon discovered the unusual modifications while stripping the vehicle, which matched the specifications of the DB III referred to in Fleming’s book.
He later learnt the first owner of the car had been Philip Ingram Cunliffe-Lister, a contemporary of Fleming, who was a friend of the author’s neighbour and used to pay frequent visits in his stylish vehicle.
While there is no record of Cunliffe-Lister and Fleming knowing each other, both their fathers were close friends of Winston Churchill.
Cunliffe-Lister’s father, Lord Swinton was also head of MI5 during the Second World War and it has been suggested the character of M may have been modelled on him.
Cunliffe-Lister used to go on regular trips to see the Royal portrait painter Dennis Ramsay and his wife Rose at Hope Bay Studio, the house next to Fleming in St Margaret’s Bay near Deal, Kent.
Fleming later used the Ramsays’ house as the inspiration for his character Hugo Drax's property where he kept a rocket in Moonraker.
Speaking earlier this year, the car’s owner, who did not wish to be named, said: "The only reason we found it all out is because the information was released under the 50-year rule.
"It might be coincidence.
“But there are too many coincidences and the more I found out I thought I've got to run with this and carry on digging."
He added: "There never will be concrete evidence because everyone has died. The history of the car is like a family tree: You go off on historical tangents."
He refused to reveal how much he had paid for the car, which he found online, or the cost of the refurbished leather and exterior paint work.
He said: “She has been several different colours but is 95 per cent original apart from the paint work and leather."
The car will be auctioned by Coys at Blenheim Palace, Oxon, on July 12.
Chris Routledge, Coys managing partner, said: "The story around this car and its discovery is phenomenal.
“It was owned by Philip Ingram Cunliffe-Lister, whose father was Lord Swinton, a close confidant of Winston Churchill and head of MI5 during the Second World War.
"Moreover, the vehicle was regularly at Ian Fleming's direct next-door neighbour in Kent, and indeed it was the next-door neighbour's house which was also used as inspiration in the Bond novels, this time as Drax's residence in the novel Moonraker."
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