Words: Elliott Hughes | Photography: Aston Martin
The long-lost 1964 Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sir Sean Connery in the iconic Goldfinger film has reportedly been discovered after its mysterious disappearance perplexed authorities, investigators and enthusiasts for nearly a quarter of a century.
Investigators have revealed that they received an anonymous tip-off about the car’s location from a discerning eyewitness, after the informant allegedly stumbled across the missing Aston in a private collection somewhere in the Middle East. It’s claimed that the model’s serial numbers have been verified as matching those of the missing car.
Christopher Marinello – chief executive of Art Recovery International and one of the world’s foremost experts in tracking down stolen high-value works of art – has been spearheading efforts to recover the elusive Aston for more than a decade. He points to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain as “areas of particular interest”, but is unable to disclose any further information for fear of compromising the investigation.
The mystery surrounding the missing DB5 – known today as ‘the most famous car in the world’ – began when it vanished from a private aircraft hangar at Boca Raton Airport in Florida on the night of June 18, 1997. It’s thought that thieves sliced through the hangar door, cut a padlock and disabled the alarm before pulling the car onto a waiting truck, as shown by drag marks on the hangar floor.
No evidence was ever found linking the car’s owner, American businessman and car collector Anthony Pugliese III, to the car’s disappearance, despite widespread speculation that it had been dumped in the Atlantic Ocean.
The spirited-away DB5, chassis DP/216/1, was one of just four used in the movie, and the only example fitted with 007’s famous arsenal of weapons and gadgets. After filming, it was returned to Aston Martin, where it was rebuilt and sold in 1968 as a regular DB5 to its first owner, who soon reinstalled the car’s gadgetry.
Its current estimated value is £18.20 million ($24.80m). If sold for that figure at auction, the DB5 would rank as the eighth most valuable car to ever cross the block, demoting the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 sold by RM Sotheby’s in 2017.
Anthony Pugliese was the Aston’s last documented owner, having purchased the car in 1986 at RM Sotheby’s auction in New York. Pugliese’s winning bid came to £200,500 ($275,000); the equivalent of £500,000 ($685,000) today and a mere fraction of its current worth. After the heist, Pugliese was recompensed $4.20m (£3.06m) by his insurer, which is currently offering a $100,000 (£73,000) reward for information that leads to the Aston’s recovery.
“I’m hopeful that the possessor will come forward voluntarily before I have to make an announcement,” Marinello told The Telegraph in a recent interview.
“It’s my policy to give possessors of stolen and looted objects every opportunity to do the right thing. I don’t believe the current possessor knew the car was stolen when he or she acquired it. Now they do know, I think they should make every effort to have a discreet and confidential discussion about how we clear the title to this iconic vehicle.”
News of the car’s potential discovery comes just over a year after Aston Martin started its production of 25 Goldfinger-spec DB5 Continuation cars, complete with gadgets (pictured). Each Continuation was priced at £2.75m ($3.77m), and deliveries started in late 2020.
Should the real car be recovered, it would put an end to one of the automotive world’s most sensational unsolved mysteries aside from the disappearance of Jean Bugatti’s 1937 Type 57SC Atalanté Coupé known as La Voiture Noire.
The story goes that La Voiture Noire was loaded onto a train in 1940 in an attempt to conceal it from invading Nazi forces; it was never seen again. If the Bugatti is ever found, it is estimated to be worth around £73m ($100m), making it the most valuable car in the world.
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