Ford v Ferrari’s odd James Bond reference

Henry Ford II (1917-1987) in front of portraits of his father, Edsel Ford (1893-1943) and grandfather Henry Ford (1863-1947).

Obviously, this is a spoiler for Ford v Ferrari.

This weekend, the top box office movie in the U.S. is Ford v Ferrari, a depiction of how Ford beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in the 1960s. It also has a peculiar James Bond reference.

Early in the film, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) is trying to persuade Ford Motor Co. boss Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to get involved in international auto racing to boost the company’s image.

As part of Iacocca’s presentation he shows two slides of Sean Connery as James Bond — one a publicity photo for Goldfinger of Connery with the Aston Martin DB5, the other a still from Thunderball. “James Bond doesn’t drive a Ford,” Iacocca says.

“That’s because he’s a degenerate,” Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce,” scoffs.

This is a little odd for a few reasons.

In Goldfinger, Ford already supplied a fleet of vehicles. Ford Motor wouldn’t own Aston Martin until 1987. But the movie was the movie debut of the Ford Mustang (driven by Tilly in Switzerland).

The film also had a Lincoln Continental (crushed with the body of Mr. Solo inside), a Ford Thunderbird (with Felix Leiter as a passenger) and a group of Ford trucks (driven to Fort Knox).

Ford’s presence was even more prominent in Thunderball.

There was another Thunderbird (driven by Largo to SPECTRE headdquarters in Paris), two Lincoln Continentals, a Ford Fairlane (driven by Count Lippe when he meets his demise via rockets fired by Fiona Volpe) and another Mustang (driven by Fiona when she picks up a hitchhiking Bond).

On top of all that, Henry Ford II himself was an extra in the movie during the Nassau casino sequence, according to The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin. The auto executive’s fee was $35, according to that book.

Also, if anything, Bond and Henry Ford II should have been kindred spirits. Here’s a short passage from an obituary about Henry Ford II by the Los Angeles Times.

He was the international playboy who did as he liked, starring in the jet set gossip columns and making headlines as master of revels at famous watering holes in the Bahamas, Mexico and the Riviera.

“Never complain, never explain,” he said when questioned about a 1975 peccadillo.

Ford Motor had a long, on-and-off relationship with the Bond film series. Other Bond films with Ford vehicles include On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Three brands formerly owned by Ford, Aston Martin (sold in 2007) and Jaguar and Land Rover (sold in 2008) continue to appear in the series.

1965: the apex of the 007-Ford Motor relationship

Ford Motor Co. has had a long association with the James Bond film series, most recently with Quantum of Solace. But the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker’s involvement with 007 probably peaked with Thunderball.

The company’s cars not only saturate Sean Connery’s fourth 007 outing, but the automaker’s CEO, Henry Ford II (1917-1987), worked as an extra and Ford had what has to rank as one of the most unusual movie promotions for Bond.

First, a sampling of Ford cars that appear in the movie. For the record, we are excluding the Aston Martin DB V. Ford didn’t buy U.K.-based Aston until 1987 and sold it off in 2007. This list is of Ford Motor offerings at the time of production and release.

— “Madam Bouvard” departs the funeral for “her” husband in a Lincoln Continental.

— SPECTRE No. 2 Emilo Largo arrives at the criminal organization’s Paris headquarters in a white Ford Thunderbird convertible. The two-door Tbird, while hardly Ford’s biggest car of the era, looks huge in the narrow Paris street.

— SPECTRE operative Count Lippe tools around in a Ford Fairlane while doing his part for the criminal group’s plan to hijack two NATO military aircraft. Lippe’s Fairlane meets an explosive end, courtesy of rockets from SPECTRE hitwoman Fiona Volpe’s motorcycle.

— Bond, nearly killed while inspecting Largo’s yacht underwater, swims ashore and ditches his wetsuit. He thinks he’s lucky when a baby blue Mustang pulls up. But it’s driven by Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) and Bond isn’t sure whether he’s going to survive the drive as the SPECTRE hitwoman gets the Mustang up to 120 mph.

— Bond drives a light blue Lincoln Continental to Largo’s Palmyra estate for lunch. A rental car? Was Bond looking for more room after driving the Aston so much? Were Ford executives relieved to see Bond, and not the bad guys, driving one of their cars?

— Bond, after a pleasant interlude with Fiona, is captured by SPECTRE. They take him in a Ford station wagon until they hit congestion from the Junkanoo festival. The disruption gives Bond a chance to escape.

This wasn’t all of Ford’s involvement. The company produced A Child’s Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car, in which a British chap takes his godson to watch the filming of a scene from Thunderball. The scene is where Fiona (actually a stutman subbing for Luciana Paluzzi) shoots rockets at Count Lippe’s Fairlane (here driven by stuntman Bob Simmons). The audience can view how special effects man John Stears (who’d win an Oscar for his efforts on Thunderball) prepares gasoline-soaked rags, which will be ignited to create the explosion and make it look like the handiwork of rockets. Unfortuantely, this gives the god son unfortunate ideas…

The Ford promo had gone unseen for decades until TWINE Entertainment’s The Thunderball Phenomenon was produced in 1995 as part of a special VHS issue of Thunderball and Goldfinger. The featurette remained as part of DVD issues but the entire Ford production is now part of two-disk Thunderball sets.