Driving through Skid Row in a BMW Z8 – evo Archive

How a Bond-car-themed twin test left Barker and Morgan fearing they might not ‘bring it back in one piece’

In the magazine (issue 018, April 2000) the story begins in the morning at a set of traffic lights on Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles. ‘Hood down, shades on, basking in 28 degrees, we watch the reactions of people on the sidewalk,’ wrote John Barker. Picturesque. Cool. What he didn’t write about was sitting at a set of traffic lights nine hours later, mildly terrified. 

It was the launch of the BMW Z8 and evo had despatched Barker and Andy Morgan to California to cover the event. This was of course the car that James Bond was equipped with in the recently released The World Is Not Enough, so the logical thing to do was see if 007 would have been better off sticking to an Aston Martin. To this end, once they had got their hands on the Z8, John and Andy had swung by the Beverley Hills Aston Martin dealership and picked up a DB7 Vantage Volante demonstrator. Bond himself had clearly been pondering this very twin test conundrum as Pierce Brosnan was apparently due to borrow the DB7 the following day. 

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Anyway, Barker and Morgan then headed to Malibu Beach, where a man had approached them with a paper bag full of drugs.

‘I’d got off the plane with a stinking cold,’ recalls John. ‘Jerry Lieberman, who was helping us with the photos, just turned up with this sackful of homeopathic remedies. I felt just as bad after taking them.’

Any sign of CJ or Mitch on Malibu Beach?

‘Sadly not,’ says Andy.

‘It was totally off-piste from BMW’s set launch route,’ remembers John, ‘but it was a great location for the statics. Then we went up into the Canyons.’

‘Which was still totally off-piste.’

‘And by the time we’d dropped the Aston back for Pierce and started heading back to the hotel we were late.’

‘Really late.’ 

‘The latest.’ 

‘We plugged Pasadena into the satnav,’ recalls Andy, ‘and initially that took us down Sunset Boulevard, which was pretty cool. Then as we shot out of Sunset things started to looking a little bit rougher.’

‘SHOES FOR A DOLLAR!’ interjects John, before explaining: ‘That’s what it said on a billboard we passed.’

‘We crawled up to a set of traffic lights.’

‘Two white boys in a silver Z8, red leather interior, roof still down.’

‘And there was this massive gang just hanging out on the corner, looking at us. I was like: “John, I think we’re on Skid Row…”’

‘I said, “You can change them later,” and then just gunned it out of there. I’m not sure I even waited for the lights to go green.’

‘BMW were really cross when we got back,’ recollects Andy. ‘Apparently they had trackers on all the cars, so they not only knew that we weren’t on the route and had probably been twin-testing the Z8 with a rival, but had watched with mounting horror as these two Brits drove blithely into a distinctly dodgy neighbourhood at dusk.’

‘With drugs in the boot, don’t forget.’

All very Hunter S Thompson. And it adds a bit more context to the photograph on page 92 of the magazine, near the end of the feature. It seems a rather incongruous shot because it’s taken from the passenger seat at night in traffic, while the rest of the shoot is in bright sunshine on deserted roads. John doesn’t make any reference to driving in the dark in the text either. Clearly there should have been a postscript. Now, 274 issues later, here it is.

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