Desmond Llewelyn, 85, who starred as the eccentric gadget expert Q in a string of James Bond films, was killed in a head-on car crash Dec. 19, police said.

The collision, which happened near the town of Firle in East Sussex, occurred as Mr. Llewelyn was returning home alone from a book signing. He died after being airlifted to a nearby hospital, police said.

The three occupants of a second car were in stable condition. There was no immediate word on the cause of the accident.

The actor was best known for his role as Q, who equipped 007 with the latest spy tools--from toxic fountain pens to exploding toothpaste--in 17 Bond films, beginning with 1963's "From Russia With Love" through the current film "The World Is Not Enough."

Over the years, Q grew fond of Bond but could never forgive him for abusing his inventions. Q's first line in the 1997 film "Tomorrow Never Dies" is "Now, pay attention, 007," and his last is "Oh, grow up, 007."

Mr. Llewelyn was born in South Wales, the son of a coal mining engineer. He studied for a career as a chartered accountant but decided to become an actor. He made his first film, "Ask a Policeman," in 1939.

His career was interrupted by World War II, and he served as a second lieutenant assigned to the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was captured by German soldiers in France and spent five years as a prisoner of war.

After the war, Mr. Llewelyn returned to London and had a small uncredited role in the 1963 film "Cleopatra." He also appeared in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" in 1968.

He landed the coveted role of Q even though he disagreed with the director, who wanted the character to speak with a Welsh accent.

"My interpretation of the character was that of a toffee-nosed English," Mr. Llewelyn once said. "At the risk of losing the part and with silent apologies to my native land, I launched into Q's lines using the worst Welsh accent, followed by the same in English."

Mr. Llewelyn said his favorite Bond invention was a grenade pen from 1995's "GoldenEye," but despite achieving near-cult status for his on-screen dexterity with gadgets, Mr. Llewelyn admitted that he was a bungler off camera.

"In real life I'm allergic to gadgets," he said in an interview with Computer Life magazine. "They just don't work for me, not even those plastic cards for hotel room doors."

Mr. Llewelyn lived in Bexhill, East Sussex.

Survivors include his wife, two sons and two grandchildren.