Mr Bond, we’ve been expecting you… And expecting you. And expecting you. Torturous delays to the new James Bond film No Time To Die has been driving 007 fans bonkers. COVID-19 forced the cinematic postponement to Danial Craig’s final Bond film, but a further hiatus has recently been announced, something that will now push the film back by a whole year. Far too excited, we’ve jumped the gun and managed to get hold of a vehicle used during the filming of this 25th instalment to the franchise. Meet the evil Land Rover Defender 110.
While the full details of the movie’s plot remain under lock and key, promotional footage shows a trio of black Defenders giving chase over the Scottish highlands. In addition to the rough terrain, they are leaping through the air and hurtling along at quite a pace. Amazingly, Lee Morrison – James Bond Stunt Coordinator – tells us in a briefing that these cars were hardly modified for filming.
The first 10 all-new Land Rover Defenders created were given to Lee and his team for No Time To Die, each being stripped of their interiors, fitted with a roll cage and fuel isolator system, but that’s about it. From the outside these vehicles appear sinister with their chunky black silhouettes cutting a distinctive shape into its surroundings. However, you can ordered a P400 Defender 110 in exactly this specification if you like the ‘black on black’ look or are searching for a job as a henchman.
Clambering up and into the caged interior of the Defender requires some dexterity – no doubt Bond’s foes will have this down to a tee. I, on the other hand, looked about as elegant as an ostrich falling down a spiral staircase. Once seated in a body-hugging race seat, the next portion of the Da Vinci Code was the five-point racing harness and a sequence of buttons that primed the engine. Stunt ace Lee jumped into the passenger seat with the bravado of ‘those old Duke boys’ and quickly had the Defender P400 running. This particular car used during filming is car number seven off the production line. The VIN? 007, of course.
Today’s hay bale test track appeared simple enough, being comprised of a series of s-bends on each side, linked by two horseshoe curves. However, the surface was a muddy and deeply rutted affair with grip levels approaching that of ice. According to Lee, these saturated conditions were a good representation of what stunt drivers had to battle on set.
Keen to impress none other than the stunt coordinator of James Bond, I thought I’d provoke the Defender into oversteer and slide around the first corner Colin McRae-style. What actually happened was that I turned the wheel, applied a generous amount of throttle and immediately destroyed the bail of hay directly in front of me. Great, I’ve officially crashed a Bond car. Putting the 395bhp 3.0-litre petrol engine into reverse, I rejoined the track to obliterate another two hay bales. Not ideal, but then I guess a Bond baddie wouldn’t care much for track boundaries.
On this surface, not only does the car’s suspension have to deal with driving over the uneven bog at speed, but it also needs to provide a stable and predictable platform for repeatable stunts. With a bit of coaching from Lee, we soon had the Defender sliding around and firing bowling ball shaped hunks of mud at anything within 200 yards. Anticipating the understeer, the trick was to turn early at speed, let the loose surface do most of the work rotating the vehicle, and then apply power and plenty of opposite lock.
Considering how relatively standard this Defender was, the competence of the all-wheel drive system and hardiness of the vehicle itself, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Lee tells me that what we’re doing today is child’s play. When earning their keep, these Defenders were leaping 12 feet high, charging along some of the most unforgiving terrain and hitting bodies of water at 60mph. Apparently, the rugged Defenders were near faultless.
Like the rest of the world, we can’t wait to see No Time To Die, especially due to the vast quantity of four-wheeled stars that will appear in this film.