This restored 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible had a starring role in the classic Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Photo: Bonhams

The mark of 007 has a cachet that extends beyond the movie franchise. The creation of famed British spy author Ian Fleming, it appears to have wings of its own.

For instance, a car doesn’t need to be an Aston Martin DB5 or even driven by Sean Connery to have James Bond provenance, as a recent British auction proved.

In fact, this one was driven by Australian George Lazenby, who starred as Bond in On His Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, reported.

Someone paid £356,500 – that’s more than US$485,000, including the sale’s premium – for a 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible featured in the wintry spy film.

The car was sold on December 16 in London by Bonhams. It went for more than twice its pre-sale estimate and, not surprisingly at that number, set a new world auction record for the model, reported.

The 1969 film was the sixth in the series, and rather than Connery, it starred Lazenby as Bond, in his only performance as the celebrated spy.

In the movie, “Bond Girl” Contessa Teresa (Tracy) di Vicenzo owned the Cougar, which was involved in an icy high-speed chase in the Swiss Alps, reported.

Someone paid £356,500 – that’s more than US$485,000, including the sale’s premium – for a 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Photo: Bonhams

The character was played by the late Diana Rigg. The auction car was one of three identical convertibles used in various scenes, and its appearance was in the “barn scene” where Bond proposes to Tracy.

According to Bonhams, the car was built in February 1969 as a special order from Ford, and was one of 127 XR-7 convertibles made with a 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet Ram Air engine, reported.

It was painted red with matching red interior, and got a ski rack and French temporary-visitor license plates for the film.

The car was later sold – “not in a red-carpet condition,” according to Bonhams — to someone who wanted it for its engine, reported.

When he realized exactly what he had, the buyer slowly restored it over a 30-year period to concours condition, and added a ski rack as it wore in the movie.

The interior of the Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible used in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Photo: Bonhams

A preceding sale of auto-related memorabilia included an original movie poster featuring the Cougar, which sold for four times its pre-sale estimate at £6,375; and a photograph of Sean Connery that brought triple its estimate at £4,080.

Meanwhile, Some OHMSS trivia, for Bond fans, courtesy MI6:

  • George Lazenby wanted to do as many of his own stunts in the film that the studio would allow him to. But during one of the scenes he broke his arm and the filming of some of his scenes were delayed because of it. In the scene where Bond is taken into Blofeld’s lab at Piz Gloria to meet Blofeld for the first time, Lazenby’s broken arm in a cast is hidden by his coat draped over his arms.
  • Joanna Lumley makes one of her first screen appearances in this movie. Unlike other Avengers actors and actresses (Patrick MacneeDiana RiggHonor Blackman), she is the only one to have appeared in a Bond movie before starring in The Avengers.
  • The film performed admirably, out-grossing its nearest competitor almost two to one at the US box office where, according to Variety, it was the most popular film in the country for four solid weeks. It generated enough rentals to claim ninth position on the box-office chart for the year 1970. The persistent belief that it was a flop arises from its disappointing showing in comparison with the previous three Sean Connery Bond films, all of which made twice as much money.
  • Since George Lazenby was a virtual unknown when he was cast as Bond, initial teaser advertising for the film emphasized the Bond character rather than the actor playing him. Several ads in fact utilized an image of a “faceless” Bond. United Artists would later say that this marketing strategy was a mistake.
  • Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore were both offered the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but both turned it down. Dalton felt he was too young at the time, and Moore was still under his contract in the TV series The Saint.
  • By the time the movie was released, Lazenby had quit the role, and turned down a multi-picture deal because he was led to believe that the tuxedo-clad super-spy would become an anachronism. He would later express regrets about this decision.
When the owner of the 1969 Cougar XR-7 seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service realized what he had, he had the car completely restored before auction. Photo: Bonhams
  • Lazenby was previously a car salesman with a part-time job as a male model. He was also well known in Britain as “The Big Fry man,” after the chocolate-bar commercials he starred in, carrying an outsize bar on his hunky shoulder.
  • The search for a new Bond was compared with the search for Scarlett O’Hara; 413 actors audition for the role. Lazenby was determined to get the role; he spent most of what money he had on a Saville Row suit and a Rolex watch, then while having a Bond-eque haircut Albert R Broccoli walked into the same salon, made the connection and later offered him the part.
  • For the pre-titles sequence, railway sleepers (tracks) were buried under the sand to allow Bond’s Aston Martin to drive on the beach.
  • Actors considered for the part of Tracy Draco included Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Diana Rigg was finally chosen partly because of her appearance as Emma Peel in British TV’s spy series The Avengers.
  • Lazenby and Rigg were rumored to have had a bad relationship on set. This was a rumor started after Rigg joked to Lazenby over lunch one day before filming a love scene that “I’m having garlic – I hope you are too!” Further evidence of this bad blood was an exchange of open letters from the two in the British press after filming finished.
  • Lyrics were originally intended for John Barry’s main theme, but were later rejected. Instead, Louis Armstrong’s memorable rendition of “We Have All the Time in the World” closes the film.
  • Bond’s sliding along the ice while firing a machine-gun in the attack on Piz Gloria was a spur-of-the-moment idea from director Peter Hunt.
  • The “body” of a villain that gets minced inside the snowplow during Bond’s and Tracy’s ski flight from Blofeld’s assassins was actually a dead goat.
Poster for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Handout