Urban Legend: 007's Triumph Stag

Bond is forever associated with Aston Martin, but for Sean Connery’s official return in 1971 he opted for another Brit. Yet, there’s an urban legend surrounding Connery’s Triumph Stag…

Although now viewed as one of the strongest installments in EON’s 007 film franchise, George Lazenby's inaugural On Her Majesty’s Secret Service initially found few admirers. In fact, with Lazenby’s reported erratic behavior and plummeting box office figures, the Bond universe was in serious turmoil.

When Lazenby left the series after a solitary effort, James Bond was expected to fade away as a 1960s’ phenomenon; a mere asterisk in cultural history. However, the tables turned when Connery was lured back with a record-breaking wage to portray the popular secret agent one last time.

The result was 1971’s Diamonds are Forever, Connery’s official swansong. Shirley Bassey returned with a John Barry-penned ballad, Blofeld was back with yet another diabolical plot for world domination and all manner of things exploded. James was back on form – although there was no sign of any Aston Martin…

Rather, in a bid to grab further attention from American cinema-goers, the main car chase revolved around Bond's commandeered 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1. Tanking down the Las Vegas Strip, the police chase climaxed with the now-infamous two-wheeled escape through an alleyway.

Enter the Triumph Stag

However, forget all that Mustang stuff; for buried away in the first reel remains a blink-and-you'll-miss it cameo from Giovanni Michelotti's British Leyland icon. Often forgotten when discussing all things automotive and 007, the timely first vehicle we catch sight of Connery driving in Diamonds is a 1970 Triumph Stag.

Effectively stolen from diamond smuggler Peter Franks (portrayed by stuntman Joe Robinson), Bond drives ‘his’ Stag across to Amsterdam, causally investigating a smuggling syndicate with darker motives. Yet, the back story and urban legend concerning the Triumph’s employment is almost as juicy as the V8 itself.

Many observant petrolheads of the time noted a difference in on-screen engine tone. Between shots, the yellow coupé changed from a throaty V8 to the age-old (and rather weedy) 4-cylinder note from a Triumph Herald. Brush it off as a plight of the anorak all you like, but there is speculation here that may raise a pre-Roger Moore eyebrow or two.

Forums and members of James Bond circles claim to have proof that the ill-famed V8 threw ‘a wobbly’, resulting in a frenzied scramble to fit a Dolomite engine for filming to be completed.

Yet, there is further speculation of dishonorable behavior. Enthusiasts of both 007 and a British Leyland persuasion point to Aston Martin, accusing them of jealousy. Legend states that Aston objected to the Stag V8 sound; genuinely concerned that it was on a par with their own. Worried that the new boy would trump their DBS, showcased with Lazenby two years prior, they took a stand.

Protesting that the Triumph omitted such a raw exhaust tone, they asked for a redub. With such a connection, both in business and culture, the producers apparently felt obliged to meet the demand.

Both the above stories seem bizarre, yet hold considerable following online. But what of the actual Stag itself?

As indicated by the low chassis number of LD14, the 007 Stag was one of a small number used by the press fleet. Painted in Saffran Yellow over a brown interior (it was the 1970s…), despite the reported running issues, the Triumph may have been on screen for only a few minutes, but nonetheless remains part of Bond history.

Spending many years in a museum environment before receiving extensive bodywork restoration and a new radiator, also being converted to run on unleaded fuel, the Triumph went to auction and sold for £20,700.

Pictures courtesy of EON, IMCDB and the Triumph Stag Owners' Club

 

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