As the 007 series transitioned out of the swinging, shaggy 70s and into the bold new 80s, the tone of the movies changed to match whatever was going on in the world in terms of society and politics as well as in pop culture. This shift was not entirely new to the franchise, having undergone radical change already during the change over from the 60s to the 70s, as well as a change in the actor who was portraying Bond. Needless to say, the shift to the 80s and the sensibilities that came with it extended to the cars the character of James Bond would use.
With the first new Bond film of the new decade, 1981s For Your Eyes Only, the move away from the more exploitation flavored plots and production of the 70s era Bond movies was immediately evident. The decade prior had ended for Bond with the sci-fi flavored Moonraker and the new decade began with 1981s For Your Eyes Only, in which Bond was pitted against Aris Kristatos, a Greek businessman in league with the Russians. The main vehicles used by Bond in this film are the Lotus Esprit Turbo, in both white and bronze, and a Citroen 2 CV. The white version is driven by Bond while in Spain, but the vehicle is destroyed when the self-destruct system is tripped by a bad guy attempting to break into the car via the driver's side window. Later in the film, the identical bronze Esprit is shown during a sequence that takes place in the Italian Alps. According to Wikipedia, although there was some speculation the Lotus' were repainted Essex-spec Turbos, they were in fact specially commissioned for the film.
1983s Octopussy is considered by many to be the best bond film of the decade, and although no one knew at the time, it would be the second last film featuring Roger Moore as Bond. The films main plotline involved a priceless Faberge egg and a plot to detonate an atomic bomb on an US air Force base in Germany. Bond takes on the Russians and an international prince and "borrows" an Alfa Romeo GTV 6 and a Mercedes 108 when he needs to make a daring escape. The Alfa Romeo is "borrowed" when Bond, being pursued by the Bavarian police, spots the car sitting unattended (the soon to be startled owner is on a nearby pay phone) and appropriates it as required. The Alfa Romeo is interesting as it went out of production three years after it appeared in Octopussy and is now a sought after collectible car on the secondary market. On the US market, the GTV-6 was sold as a limited edition model in 1982 as only 350 were produced for the United States.
Roger Moore was retiring from the role of Bond, and 1985s A View To A Kill was to be his last outing as the man with the license to kill. The plot of the film dealt with Bond going head to head with max Zorin (portrayed by Christopher Walken), a man created by Nazi experiments, who has his sights set on world domination by planning to destroy Silicon Valley, thus ensuring his control over microchips and computers all over the world. While this film does feature a car chase scene (through San Francisco, via fire engine!), and a chase scene with horses, it does not feature a "cool", gadget laden, iconic vehicle for Bond. A View To A Kill is definitely defined by the fact that it is primarily known and remembered as Roger Moore's swan song.
The next two movies, 1987s The Living Daylights and 1989s License To Kill, attained some notoriety for the simple fact that a new actor was portraying James Bond - English actor Timothy Dalton. Pierce Brosnan, who would become bond in 1995, was originally sought to take over the role from Moore but was unable to get released from his television contract (he starred in the spy series "Remington Steele"), and, as such, Timothy Dalton stepped into the role.
The Living Daylights featured two cars of note, an Aston Martin V8 Volante (convertible), and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage (hardtop). The Aston martin featured a return to the usual tricked out Bond car as it contained missiles, lasers, rocket boosters and spiked tires. The interior contained a radio capable of intercepting signals and the car had a programmable self-destruct mode. The follow up film, License To Kill, did not feature any iconic cars for Bond to use, as he employed basically whatever what was available as dictated by the plot. This approach is why Bond ends up using a Kenworth Tanker truck instead of a BMW or Aston Martin to face off against the antagonists in the film.
Although the two Timothy Dalton Bond films are no different in tone, intrigue or action from their predecessors, they are generally regarded as both inferior and the final nails in the coffin for the franchise, for myriad reasons. After so long withy Roger Moore audiences seemed to reject Timothy Dalton, even though his performances were competent, he simply did not take with fans in the lead role. It seemed as though the 007 franchise was outdated, no longer considered contemporary and no longer wanted at the box office. But all hope of further adventures was not lost entirely. It would be six long years before 007 returned to the big screen, and with his return came a return of the usual Bond staples - spy games, double crosses, exotic locations, dangerous women, super villains and, most importantly - iconic cars.
Part 5 will focus on the new Bond, the new decade of films and all of the wonderful new cars employed by the film makers.