THE REAL MOONRAKER!
By Ajay Chowdhury
A sizable trove of James Bond artefacts goes up for sale at an auction in Planet Hollywood, London on Tuesday, 31st July 2001. Auctioneers Fleetwood Owen (co-owned by Mick Fleetwood of rockgroup, Fleetwood Mac) are excited to be selling one of the largest collection of James Bond posters ever put under the hammer but the star of the show will be a unique, one-off artefact: the Moonbuggy driven by Sean Connery, when he was James Bond in the 1971 classic Diamonds Are Forever.
This bizarre Bondian vehicle was the star of a comically surreal chase when Bond, evading WWTechtronic guards, steals the lunar vehicle and smashes through a Nevada Moon Test site in order to effect an escape. Chased by chunky-tired, 3-wheeler motor-trikes, 007 puts the Moon Buggy to test in the harsh desert terrain. The scene was a fun example of the imaginative ways the James Bond films put a spin on the more mundane car chase.
This year is the 40th Anniversary of the first appearance of the Moon Buggy. Directed by Guy “Goldfinger” Hamilton and produced by the legendary Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, Diamonds Are Forever co-starred Jill St John as Tiffany Case and the late Charles Gray as Ernst Stravro Blofeld. The Moon Buggy chase was filmed during the first half of 1971 on location in and around the John Manville Gypsum plant near Las Vegas. The chase was problematic as the strange contraption had delicate suspension causing it to lose it’s wheels during the filming of the chase. In one scene of the finished film, these wheels, detached from 007’s getaway vehicle, can clearly be seen rolling into shot! Based on a concept drawing by Oscar-winning production designer Ken Adam, the Moon Buggy and was designed and built by Dean Jeffries’ Automotive Styling workshop in California.
Graham Rye, the Creative Director of The James Bond OO7 International Fan Club & Archive (JBIFC&A), discovered the remains of the Moon Buggy in a Kent field in the early 1990s. During 1993, Rye had the vehicle professionally but lovingly refurbished according to the original design specifications. It was a labour of love and required specialist work but on 12th December 1993, the Moon Buggy was officially relaunched at the JBIFC & A 22 Carat Diamond Are Forever Christmas Special luncheon held, appropriately enough, at Pinewood Studios, the spiritual home of the James Bond films.
Subsequently, the Moon Buggy became the centrepiece of the movie props display at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas. The vehicle was originally going to grace the James Bond room in Planet Hollywood, London but was too large for the limited space of the UK branch of the restaurant chain. The Moon Buggy will remain in Las Vegas on display until April 2003 but there is a certain symmetry to the fact that it will be auctioned in London.
Graham Rye states, “The Moon Buggy has a unique place, not only in the James Bond film series, but in movie history. Unlike other vehicles driven by James Bond, the Moon Buggy is a true one-off: there was only one ever built.” As the penultimate vehicle ever driven by Sean Connery in an Eon James Bond film, it is symbolic of the end of a cinematic era.
Experts conservatively estimate that the Moon Buggy will be sold for at least £150,000. At that price, diamonds aren’t the only things that are forever!
© 2001, Ajay Chowdhury. All Rights Reserved.