James Bond’s first Bentley was a 1930 4 ½ litre with an Amherst Villiers supercharger. It was a “Convertible coupé” with large French Marchal headlamps. Fleming introduces the car in his first novel “Casino Royale”, published in 1953, stating “Bond’s car was his only personal hobby … Bond drove it hard and well with an almost sensual pleasure.” (See chapter 2, “Dossier for M”) Bond had bought this car in 1933, keeping it safely in storage throughout the Second World War. The Bentley is wrecked when Bond crashes at high speed whilst chasing the villainous Le Chiffre in a front-wheel drive Citroen 15 ‘Traction Avant’, after running into a “small carpet of glinting steel spikes” that have been strewn across the road ahead of him. (See chapter 16, “The Crawling of the Skin”)
The car is presumably repaired, since it reappears in the third Bond novel “Moonraker”, published in 1955. In the opening chapter “Secret Paper-Work” Fleming writes: “He had a small but comfortable flat off the King’s Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper – a treasure called May – and a 1930 4 ½ litre battleship grey Convertible coupé, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to…On these things he spent all his money and it was his ambition to have as little as possible in his banking account when he was killed…” In Moonraker, the car is wrecked yet again, chasing the wicked Sir Hugo Drax. Bond, in his “battered grey Bentley” is following Drax’s white Mercedes Type 300S convertible at high speed in Kent; he crashes into heavy rolls of newsprint that fall out of a lorry into the path of his speeding car, after Drax has had the load sabotaged by his Peter Lorre lookalike ‘dogsbody’, Willy Krebs. (See chapter 20, “Drax’s Gambit”) Once again, Bond miraculously survives but this time the car does not.
At the back of his mind, Bond must already have been contemplating buying a ‘modern’ model. Earlier, with M as his Bridge partner, he had punishingly won £15,000 at M’s club, Blades, from the ogreish card-cheat ‘Hugger’ Drax. “I should spend the money quickly, Commander Bond,” Drax had threatened. (See chapter 6, “Cards with a Stranger” and chapter 7, “The Quickness of the Hand”). Pondering how he would use this “miraculous windfall” …Bond decided “All right then, he would spend it quickly. He sat down at his desk and picked up a pencil. He thought for a moment and then wrote carefully on a memorandum pad headed ‘Top Secret’
(1) Rolls-Bentley Convertible, say £5,000.
(2) Three diamond clips at £250 each, £750.
He paused. That still left nearly £10,000. Some clothes, paint the flat, a set of the new Henry Cotton irons, a few dozen Taittinger champagne. But those could wait. He would go that afternoon, buy the clips, and talk to Bentley’s.” (See chapter 8, “The Red Telephone”)
Consequently, still in Moonraker, James Bond acquires his second Bentley. When Bond, recovering from the crash, returns to his office, he asks his secretary, Loelia Ponsonby (Lil) “Anything for me?” She replies “Your new car’s downstairs. I’ve inspected it. The man said you’d ordered it on trial this morning. It looks lovely…” Bond “limped out” to see the car. “The 1953 Mark VI, had an open touring body. It was battleship grey like the old 4 ½ litre that had gone to its grave in a Maidstone garage, and the dark blue leather upholstery gave a luxurious hiss as he climbed awkwardly in beside the test driver.” After half an hour’s drive, Bond buys the car. “We could get more speed out of her if you want it, sir” the factory driver informs him. “If we could have her back for a fortnight we could tune her to do well over the hundred.” “Later” Bond replies. “She is sold on one condition. That you get her over to the ferry terminal at Calais by tomorrow evening.” (See chapter 25, “Zero Plus”)