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Diamonds Are Forever

MOON BUGGY

 

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Diamonds Are Forever 50th Anniversary 1971-2021

The complete Diamonds Are Forever
Moon Buggy Timeline

 

Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy concept drawing by Ken Adam


Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy under construction

Constructed early 1971

The Moon Buggy was conceptualised by Oscar-winning Production Designer Ken Adam (1921-2016), and engineered and built by famed movie custom-car designer Dean Jeffries (1933-2013) in his California workshop. The 4-wheeled vehicle is constructed from a welded tubular steel frame clad in aluminium panelling, and the cockpit covered with a Plexiglas dome hinged on one side and a radar dish unit mounted behind. An arm with a claw implement is attached on each side and a red sphere at the rear. Unlike other Bond vehicles there was only one Moon Buggy ever built. Jeffries’ company Automotive Styling fabricated the Moon Buggy at a cost of $10,000.


Sean Connery in the Moon Buggy filmed 1 - 4 May 1971 Las Vegas, Nevada

1 - 4 May 1971 Las Vegas, Nevada

The Moon Buggy sequence was filmed on location from Saturday 1st to Tuesday 4th May 1971, at the ‘Johns Manville Gypsum Plant’ outside Las Vegas, standing in for Willard Whyte's Techtronics Plant.

In the Diamonds Are Forever script given to Dean Jeffries, the Moon Buggy was to burst out through a breakaway wall and drive off down a service road before turning on to a main highway and disappearing from view. It was only when film's director Guy Hamilton saw the location that it was decided to stage a chase over the rocky and duned desert terrain. Unfortunately, Jeffries hadn't constructed the vehicle to take that kind of punishment, and much to his displeasure (and the filmmakers) the Moon Buggy kept breaking down during filming. On one occasion during filming the vehicle broke down out of shot, but the rear wheel which had come off can be clearly seen bouncing back into shot. In his original concept sketches Ken Adam had proposed conical wheels, and these were incorporated in the early stages of construction. However, these wheels proved impractical, and were replaced with the more robust rubber tyres seen on the finished vehicle.


Call Sheet Diamonds Are Forever Pinewood Stusios ‘B’ Stage July 20, 1971 20 July 1971 ‘B’ Stage Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire

The Moon Buggy was shipped to England in June 1971.

The moonscape from which James Bond (Sean Connery) escapes in the Moon Buggy was filmed on ‘B’ Stage at Pinewood Studios on Thursday July 20, 1971.

For the scene where the Moon Buggy crashes through the breakaway wall of the set, the vehicle was driven by long-time James Bond stunt performer/arranger George Leech. The finished sequence in the film then cuts to the footage shot in Nevada in the previous month.


Moon Buggy appears on Blue Peter - BBC TV  9 December 1971 9 December 1971 Blue Peter - BBC TV

This edition of the popular children's magazine programme Blue Peter was broadcast live on BBC1 Friday December 9, 1971 at 4.55pm; and featured the Moon Buggy being driven into the studios at BBC Television Centre by presenter John Noakes (1934-2017), who then went on to demonstrate the features of the unique vehicle.

Blue Peter is the longest-running children's TV show in the world, having been broadcast since October 1958.


Lana Wood with the Moon Buggy in Munich 21 December 1971 Munich, Germany

Diamonds Are Forever first opened in Munich, West Germany on December 14, 1971. American Actress Lana Wood, who appears in the film as Plenty O'Toole, accompanied the Moon Buggy on a promotional tour a week later to tie in with the release.

Diamonds Are Forever then opened in the USA on December 17, 1971. Sean Connery attended the London press screening at the ODEON Leicester Square on the morning of December 29, 1971, and the film then opened to the public the next day.

In January 1972 United Artists announced in UK trade journals that Diamonds Are Forever had achieved “the greatest 7-day gross in the history of motion pictures,” when the film grossed $10,438,536 in the first seven days of its release over 23 countries (not including the UK).


February 1971 ODEON Kensington, London February 1972 ODEON Kensington, London

The Moon Buggy returns to the UK and is photographed outside the ODEON Kensington which screened Diamonds Are Forever concurrently with its West End engagement at the ODEON Leicester Square. Diamonds Are Forever played at the 1,894-seat ODEON Kensington for three weeks from Thursday February 3, 1972, ahead of its general release.

The appearance was used as a photo opportunity for cinema managers and local celebrities. These photographs later appeared in various local newspapers once Diamonds Are Forever went on general release in early 1972. Pictured left in the Moon Buggy (accompanied by two ‘James Bond Girls’) is Ray Potter; motoring correspondent, ex-motor racer, and proprietor of the Hackney Gazette.


The Moon Buggy at Brands Hatch Sunday March 19, 1972 19 March 1972 - Brands Hatch, Kent

On Sunday March 19, 1972 the Moon Buggy appeared at the Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit in Kent, where it was driven by motoring correspondent, newspaper proprietor and ex-motor racer Ray Potter. After meeting the publicity director of Rank Distributors (who handled the release of Diamonds Are Forever in the UK) at a press screening, it was suggested that the Moon Buggy be given a ‘road test’ to publicise the film for a feature in the Hackney Gazette before going on general release. As the vehicle was hardly road-legal it would need to be on a test track. Through his connections in the motor racing world, Ray Potter was able to arrange for the Moon Buggy to appear at Brands Hatch, the the home of the British Grand Prix.

The plan was to have the Moon Buggy complete a lap of the circuit, driven by Formula One World Champion John Surtees (1934-2017) ahead of the STP-Daily Mail Race of Champions. The 1½-ton vehicle with its 90 bhp air-cooled Chevrolet Corvair engine, driven by Ray Potter, completed a test lap of the Brands Hatch circuit on Saturday March 18, 1972.

Ray Potter recounted his experience of driving the Moon Buggy in an exclusive article featured in 007 MAGAZINE ARCHIVE FILES Diamonds Are Forever File #1. Having already seen inside the vehicle at the ODEON Kensington, Potter wanted to take a closer look at how it worked:

“A half-dozen iron steps, similar to those found in drain manholes, enabled you to climb up to the ‘pod’ with the hinged Perspex dome. Inside, it resembled nothing like the hi-tech illuminated dashboard switchgear as in the film with Sean Connery deliberating how to start and drive the thing away from the simulated lunar landscape. In fact, there were hardly any controls or instruments at all – just an ignition switch that had broken. The gearshift was a long lever that pushed in one direction for drive and pulled back for reverse; an action that I was to discover was far from perfect.”

After completing the test lap on Saturday March 18th, Potter convinced retired World Champion John Surtees to drive the Moon Buggy the next day. However, on race day there was no sign of Surtees, and with usual Formula One race organisation and clockwork efficiency, the officials on the grid said “Either you get in and drive it NOW – or take it away!”

Rather than miss the slot, Ray Potter grasped the opportunity to have another go and climbed up the steps and into the bubble with the commentator announcing – “I have a note here that John Surtees is supposed to be driving this, but it looks very much like Ray Potter to me – what the hell he is doing in that, I don’t know!”

Ray Potter recounted what happened next:
“I set off at a faster rate than before; the arms flapping about even more and much to the delight of the huge crowd. All went well until finally going down the pits straight where the beast reached the dizzy speed of about 50-mph. The whole machine then started pitching and flexing from front to back and I can only assume that the movement played havoc with the gear-shift and took it out of drive and into reverse – and the torque converter or automatic drive didn’t like that!... The Buggy’s rear wheels completely locked up leaving huge black marks and slewed to a standstill right across the startline. Chaos ensued with marshals and officials descending on me and in no uncertain terms asked me to remove the beast immediately. I could hear the F1 cars warming up in the pit lane but with little chance of me being able to move it, the Moon Buggy made its unceremonious and rapid exit by a hastily acquired crane.”


Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire - ‘Miss Great Britain’ Carolyn Moore poses with the Moon Buggy

Following its appearance at the Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit in Kent, the Moon Buggy was then showcased at other events in England from April - July 1972 as Diamonds Are Forever was on general release in cinemas across the country.

Appearances included:
1 April 1972 Battersea Park Easter Parade, London.
12 April 1972 Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire - ‘Miss Great Britain 1971’ Carolyn Moore poses with the Moon Buggy (left).
2 June 1972 Children's Day - Festival of London, Crystal Palace [Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also appeared].
10 June 1972 Leamington Ideal Home and Trade Exhibition, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
24 June 1972 Tonbridge Community Centre, Kent.
1 July 1972 Basingstoke Carnival, Hampshire.


21 April 1972 Moon Buggy appears on Screen Test - BBC TV 21 April 1972 Screen Test - BBC TV

This edition of the popular children's film quiz Screen Test was broadcast on BBC1 Friday April 21, 1972 at 4.55pm, although the programme had been recorded at the BBC studios in Manchester when the Moon Buggy was transported to Cheshire for the Jodrell Bank photo-shoot (above). Screen Test ran from 1970-1984, and was hosted by Michael Rodd (pictured far left) until 1979. The programme often featured clips from the James Bond films, and also appearances from cast and crew members.

The edition broadcast on Wednesday January 13, 1971 featured John Glen who spoke about an action sequence from On Her Majesty's Secret Service to illustrate his work as second unit film director. Desmond Llewellyn was the guest on the edition broadcast on Friday May 5, 1972 (whilst Diamonds Are Forever was on general release in the UK) and demonstrated some of the gadgets used in the James Bond films.


Harveys of Camberley, Surrey 4 November 1972

4 November 1972 Harveys of Camberley, Surrey
The last recorded public appearance of the Moon Buggy was on November 4, 1972 at Harveys of Camberley, a department store located on Park Street in the centre of the Surrey town, home to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Harveys department store (then part of the Army & Navy Group) was opened in 1964 and boasted a West End style shopping experience over its four floors, which even included a licensed restaurant. Saturday November 4, 1972 saw the arrival of Father Christmas who took part in a procession through the town in a vintage bus. The Moon Buggy did not take part in the parade but was on display for one day only in the service area behind the store. Santa was “at home” in the Grotto on the first floor of Harveys until Christmas Eve, where parents could purchase the CORGI version of the Moon Buggy (together with the CORGI Ford Mustang) from the toy department. Released in June 1972, the CORGI Moon Buggy was available as Diamonds Are Forever was on general release across the UK and proved extremely popular, selling 189,000 units before its withdrawal in 1973. Diamonds Are Forever had screened at the 1,200-seat Classic cinema in Camberley for seven days commencing April 30, 1972. Originally part of the ODEON chain this was one of 40 cinemas that were sold to the Classic Cinemas group in 1967. For the Camberley engagement Diamonds Are Forever was supported by a short DePatie–Freleng cartoon ironically titled Deadwood Thunderball. The cinema had also shown a double-bill of Goldfinger/You Only Live Twice for one week commencing Sunday September 24, 1972; and two weeks after the final appearance of the Moon Buggy in Camberley From Russia With Love (1963) could then be seen with The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) from Sunday November 19, 1972. From Russia With Love made a return visit to the Classic Camberley for one week on Sunday May 19, 1974 - this time on a double-bill with Diamonds Are Forever. The Classic would later screen the Diamonds Are Forever/Gold double-bill for one week from Sunday January 2, 1977. The Classic Cinema was tripled in 1973, with the former circle converted into screen 1 with 358 seats, and two screens located in an extension of the front of the circle with seating for 155 and 131. Diamonds Are Forever/Gold played on the smaller screen 3.


Moon Buggy Hillside Garage in Bilting | Specifications

Roger Moore was announced as the new James Bond in August 1972, by which time Diamonds Are Forever had more or less finished its original theatrical engagement, so the Moon Buggy therefore became redundant as a marketing tool. Following the promotional tours throughout 1972 the Moon Buggy then appears to have been dumped in a farmer's field in Hextable, Kent - where it fell into a state of disrepair whilst exposed to the elements for the next decade. In 1983 following a tip from a old school friend Graham Rye rediscovered the rotting vehicle parked in the Hillside Garage in Bilting, deep in the Kent countryside (pictured below left), but at that time was unable to make a realistic offer to the then owner Trevor Rose, who had literally bumped into the discarded Moon Buggy whilst on a shooting trip and purchased it from the farmer. The rediscovery of the Moon Buggy was reported in 007 MAGAZINE Issue #15 (pictured below right).

Moon Buggy when owned by Trevor Rose

In August 1985 the Kentish Express ran a small news item under the title “Colin's Bond buggy bargain”, which explained that Trevor Rose had sold the Moon Buggy, and the address of the new owner was printed in full. However, Graham Rye was unable to make contact with Colin Avenell, who had purchased the Buggy for just £300, and like its previous owner, planned to have the vehicle restored. After the rediscovery of the Kentish Express cutting during a massive re-filing exercise in the 007 MAGAZINE archive in 1992, Graham Rye was prompted back into action and visited the address published in the newspaper. However, the owner had moved away nine months earlier after his home was repossessed, and had sold the Moon Buggy.

Knowing that various other parties on both sides of the Atlantic were also searching for the vehicle made the quest even more urgent. Undaunted, Rye eventually managed to contact the new owner and a deal to purchase the vehicle was concluded. The Moon Buggy was found in a field in Kent surrounded by all manner of vehicles unprotected from the elements. On December 18, 1992 it was transported by trailer to Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire. 

The Moon Buggy then underwent five months of extensive restoration when Graham Rye engaged a top team of experts to return the unique vehicle to its original condition. Two decades of exposure to the elements had really taken their toll on the already fragile vehicle.

Moon Buggy is a state of disrepair in a field in Kent 1992

The Moon Buggy is transported to Pinewood Studios where it was stored before and after restoration

The restoration of the Moon Buggy was featured in several newspapers in the South of England, and on June 24, 1993 the vehicle was finally unveiled before travelling to the Heritage Motor Centre in Gayden, Warwickshire to appear at ‘The World's Biggest Little Motor Show’ organised by toy manufacturer CORGI.

Newspaper coverage of the Moon Buggy restoration

Moon Buggy photographed outside the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios 1994 1993 Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire

22 years after it was first used for filming the Moon Buggy was returned to Pinewood Studios. Before and after its restoration, 007 MAGAZINE Editor & Publisher Graham Rye was given permission by Cyril Howard, Pinewood’s then Managing Director, to store the Moon Buggy at the studios gratis before it went to the USA.


26-27 June 1993 Gaydon, Warwickshire

The restored Moon Buggy makes its first public appearance at ‘The World’s Biggest Little Motor Show’ organised by toy manufacturer CORGI. 007 MAGAZINE contributor Robin Harbour is pictured above in the Moon Buggy, which appeared alongside James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 and Lotus Esprit. The two-day event held at The Heritage Motor Centre Gaydon, Warwickshire also featured an appearance by Wing Commander Ken Wallis and his autogyro ‘Little Nellie’, in what turned out to be his final public air show.


12 December 1993 Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire - Moon Buggy at the 1993 James Bond 007 Fan Club 'Diamonds Are Forever' 22-Carat Christmas Lunch 12 December 1993 Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire

Held at Pinewood Studios and partly in aid of Guide Dogs For The Blind, the 1993 James Bond 007 Fan Club 'Diamonds Are Forever' 22-Carat Christmas Lunch was attended by Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Paul Weston, Syd Cain and Iris Rose. The recently refurbished Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever was also on display before leaving for America.


1993 - 2003 Moon Buggy at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada 1994 - 2004 Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada

Following the restoration to its original condition, the Moon Buggy was displayed as the impressive centrepiece in Planet Hollywood's restaurant at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas from 1994 to 2004.

 

 


Fleetwood Owen Catalogue | Planet Hollywood London July 31, 2001

On Tuesday July 31, 2001 the Moon Buggy was offered in auction by Fleetwood Owen at Planet Hollywood, (London) but failed to sell. After a 10-year tenure at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas the Moon Buggy was eventually returned to the UK eight months later than was contractually obligated.

Fleetwood Owen Catalogue | Planet Hollywood London July 31, 2001

14 December 2004 Moon Buggy auctioned at CHRISTIE'S, London

Offered in auction at CHRISTIE'S ‘Film and Entertainment’ sale on Tuesday December 14th 2004, the Moon Buggy sold for £23,000 and was purchased by Planet Hollywood owner Robert Earl, with the intention of using it in their then latest project the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino. For whatever reason the vehicle was not displayed at Planet Hollywood’s new venue and sat in their Florida storage facility for the next 15 years unseen by the public.

14 December 2004 Moon Buggy auctioned at CHRISTIE'S, London

September 25, 2019 the Moon Buggy sold at ‘The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction’, California September 25, 2019
‘The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction’, California

In 2019 the Moon Buggy was offered once more for auction in the USA, this time by Profiles in History located in California. The Moon Buggy was one of the star attractions in the two-day auction of Hollywood memorabilia, and sold for $400,000 + ($112,000) buyer's premium.

The buyer and current location of the Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy remains a mystery...

 

 

September 25, 2019 the Moon Buggy sold at ‘The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction’, California

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Moon Buggy at Planet Hollywood

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