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Sunday, March 27, 2016

James Bond’s Stag: The Unreliable, Unsung Hero of the Franchise

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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The Stag’s placement in the James Bond world is an easy one. Sean Connery’s character takes the place of a detained smuggler in Diamonds Are Forever. That includes commandeering the miscreant’s car, too. Connery drives it from customs, onto the hovercraft, and eventually parks it in Amsterdam. Like seducing a secretary in Blofeld’s company, Bond quickly got what he needed and moved on without a second thought.



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This one isn’t a Bond car in a traditional sense. In the movies, 007 often prefers exotic cars but in mute colors. It’s in the slim hope that people might still see this super-slick secret agent as just an international businessman. This stolen Stag is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Its Italian style has an understated elegance. Even it’s iconic T-bar rollover protection manages to look more clever than T-tops. But the movie car seems to by trying to grab as much attention as possible in its mustard-like Saffron Yellow.
 
The Stag’s brief appearance is more than coincidental. The 1971 film was in production just as this new exciting British convertible was hitting the market. Movie producers likely inserted it to proudly wave the British flag for a moment. Unfortunately, by the time Diamonds Are Forever was in theaters, problems with the Stag were already starting to become known.



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 Most concerns centered on the 3.0-liter V8. Design and manufacturing flaws made the motor prone to overheating, sometime terminally.

 This was a brand new engine for Triumph, and those who had trouble with Stags often questioned why they weren’t fitted with the more reliable V8 that Rover bought from General Motors. Apparently Triumph’s V8 program had already progressed too far by the time Rover became a stablemate in the British Leyland conglomerate.

 It was claimed their V8 wouldn’t fit in the Stag, and not enough Rover V8s would be available to keep up with the convertible’s anticipated demand. It was a fatal mistake.

But this history is the reason why I love the Stag in Diamonds Are Forever. Connery’s troubles with the producers kept him sidelined for the previous film (remember the Australian in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?) After Diamonds, the original man to play James Bond was permanently replaced by Roger Moore.

 The Stag’s V8 troubles sidelined drivers so frequently that many of them permanently replaced the original with the GM/Rover motor (yes, it does fit.) I might be grasping at straws to connect the film and car, but it still feels right.



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Less than 26,000 Triumph Stags were built over an eight-year period. Still, the survival rate is much higher than expected for a car with known flaws. That’s a testament to the car’s loyal following, and many of those fans would love to get their hands on the Diamonds Are Forever car.

More than just a move starlet, this is chassis number LD14. That makes it a pre-production car and the fourteenth officially made.

The story is that it was part of the Triumph Press Fleet for the convertible’s official launch in 1970. So it was featured in publications and other British production besides just the Bond flick.

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My relationship with the Miami Auto Museum, and its extensive James Bond collection, allows me to be one of the lucky few who can spend time with the actual Triumph Stag from Diamonds Are Forever. So that’s why I’m sharing a few of the shots the public rarely gets to see (Stag enthusiasts will note the original 44-code beige paint color on the commission plate.)

There are many more famous (and infamous) Bond cars in this exhibit, so I may feel the need to highlight others in the future. But for right now, I wanted to shine the light on my unsung hero.

Photo Credit: Myles Kornblatt for BoldRide