007's submarine car surfaces at RM auction

Six Esprit Series 1 body shells were used in The Spy Who Loved Me, but only one of them was built to be a fully functional, self-propelled submersible.

James Bond underwater Lotus

Barbara Bach and Roger Moore, on the set of The Spy Who Loved Me.

The actors who’ve portrayed James Bond on film have been able to drive some pretty wild cars over the years, but perhaps none so wild as the Lotus Esprit “submarine car” that Roger Moore, as Agent 007, drove in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

And that car is being offered for sale - for the first time ever - without reserve at RM Auctions’ upcoming London sale Sept. 8- 9, 2013.

Although six Esprit Series 1 body shells were used during filming, under the hammer will be the only one of them that was built to be a fully functional, self-propelled submersible by Perry Oceanographic of Riviera Beach, Fla.

On the set, this Esprit earned the nickname “Wet Nellie” and was operated by Don Griffin, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and Perry test driver. He piloted the vehicle underwater utilizing its motorized propellers and manoeuvring with levered steering mechanisms.

RM says that when it was built the car reportedly cost over $100,000 (equivalent to nearly a half-million dollars today).

After filming of the underwater scenes in the Bahamas, the vehicle was shipped to Long Island, N.Y, where, RM’s sales catalogue says, “It was kept in an unassuming storage unit on a 10-year rental, paid in advance. Fate later intervened when, in 1989, the then rent delinquent unit was put up ‘blind’ for public auction. A modest winning bid from an area couple brought surprise and wonder when the blankets were removed to reveal the iconic 007 submarine car.”

Once its authenticity was verified, the Lotus was shown for a while at the Petersen Automotive Museum in California, but mostly it was kept out of the public eye. Until now.

The Lotus will be offered for sale minus the missile that could be launched from under the water, and which shot down a pursuing helicopter to end one of the greatest movie chase scenes of all time. Nor will you get actress Barbara Bach (Mrs. Ringo Starr since 1981) in the passenger seat she occupied in the film.

But it really can be operated underwater - if you dare.

No estimated price has been announced, but RM Auctions, with headquarters in Blenheim, Ont., sold the iconic Aston Martin DB5 used by Sean Connery in the Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball for $4.64 million Canadian at its 2010 London sale.


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