The Goldfinger DB5 disappeared in an audacious robbery
In an elaborate heist worthy of a Bond villain plot, 007’s gadget-laden Goldfinger car disappeared from a Florida airport hangar in June 1997. The iconic DB5, valued at $25m, boasts an ejector seat, smoke bombs, machine guns, and tire slashers. It hasn’t been seen since. Or has it?
Pay close attention to this story because the car’s insurer is now offering a $100,000 reward for intel leading to the DB5’s return.
Christopher A. Marinello, the detective who’s been hunting for the legendary Silver Birch DB5 for more than a decade, told SPYSCAPE he has clues to the location of the most famous car in the world. Marinello spoke exclusively to SPYSCAPE’s The Great James Bond Car Robbery podcast series, hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, and gave us a peek into his case file.
"I’ve had reports that it was in Bahrain - it may have been lent to Bahrain - and I’ve had reports of it being in Kuwait,” said Marinello, a lawyer and art detective originally from New York who specializes in finding missing treasures.
“We are focusing on the Middle East… possibly Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain - that general area,” he added. “I’m of the impression the current possessor would like to show it off and has attempted to show it off.”
Marinello said he didn’t want to risk compromising the investigation by naming a specific country or the person he believes has Bond’s DB5. The car - identifiable by its original Chassis DP216/1 - may have been acquired in good faith, so whoever is holding 007’s car may not even know it is stolen.
The daring heist
It was the perfect getaway. The DB5 vanished during a well-planned and executed robbery in Florida sometime between 4pm on June 18 and 7am on June 19, 1997, when there was only one guard on duty at the Boca Raton Airport.
The airport, north of Fort Lauderdale, stores dozens of private jets and vintage cars owned by millionaires who enjoy the city’s front-row Atlantic Ocean views. Although numerous hangars were safeguarding jets, yachts, and other rich men’s toys, thieves knew exactly which one held the DB5.
They sawed off the padlock and sliced through the chain-link fence to gain access to the airport without being spotted. They disabled the alarm then headed to the private hangar where the DB5 was stored. Was it an inside job or was pre-9/11 airport security simply too lax?
Adam Luck, an investigative journalist, told The Great James Bond Car Robbery that - as impossible as it sounds - there was no paper trail. The Boca Raton Airport had no control tower. The runway lights were automatic so there was no operator working that evening. Pre 9/11 security was almost non-existent. The airport manager and investigators couldn’t find a report even if it was issued.
“Planes landed and left as they saw fit,” Luck said.
One of the more glamorous theories is that a cargo plane - the type the military uses to haul tanks - landed at the Boca Raton Airport as the getaway vehicle for thieves who loaded the DB5 on board. Mary Seelhorst, a museum exhibit developer and writer, told The Great James Bond Car Robbery that she heard about the cargo plane theory from one of the original investigators and it is still a possibility.
Air traffic controllers in the rest of Florida wouldn’t have necessarily picked up on an unscheduled landing because the Boca Raton Airport was in uncontrolled airspace, not tracked by radar or monitored below a certain flight, so it was an ideal set-up for flying drugs into Florida - or stealing the most famous car in the world.
Insurance investigators, police, and private detectives have all considered a cargo plane caper as well as other theories, including whether the DB5 was carted away by truck or other means. No plot - no matter how twisted or ingenious - would shock Marinello.
“I’ve seen it all,” Marinello told SPYSCAPE. “I’ve seen alarms turned off. I’ve seen alarms not work at the time you need them the most. I’ve seen smash-and-grabs. I’ve seen cars pulled away by their axles. I’ve seen almost everything so nothing surprises me.”
Following the 1997 heist, insurers paid the DB5’s owner, businessman and car collector Anthony Pugliese III, more than $4m for a car he’d bought for $250,000 in 1986. Today, the car’s value has soared and could be worth $25m.
No other car has played a more important leading role in movies or pop culture than the Aston Martin DB5, ensuring the classic vehicles fetch a premium price during rare auctions.
Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery International, was hired by the Goldfinger car’s insurer to find the stolen vehicle. For Marinello, a car collector himself, this search is more than just a job, this mission is personal and he views the DB5 as his ‘white whale’. “This is obviously one of the most important - and probably the most famous car in the world,” he said.
The DB5 was the centerpiece of Q’s workshop in Goldfinger (1964), with an ejector seat that even impressed Bond. In addition to its bulletproof windows, the car could spray nails, pump out an oil slick, and disorient evil enemies with smoke bombs. Bond used the homing device and remote radar tracker to tail Goldfinger across Europe. It’s a car Marinello can’t let go.
“Every day involves me waking up to my computer and turning the dial - kind of like you’d open a safe - and every day I turn many, many dials one or two ticks until the safe opens and the case is cracked and the item can be recovered,” Marinello said. “We never give up.”