007 History

The Giugiaro Esprit, distinguished by its sharp angles and a wedge shape, was hugely popularised by the James Bond films "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "For Your Eyes Only"

Lotus PR Manager Don McLauchlan cleverly had a pre-production Lotus Esprit parked right in front of the James Bond movie producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli's office at Pinewood Studios in a forthright and successful bid to get the car a role in the forthcoming 007 adventures

The Spy Who Loved Me

Lotus provided 9 Esprits in total - well more accurately 2 production cars, with metal undertrays to protect the radiator in the chase scenes and 7 body shells, one shell being sealed for conversion into a submarine for the underwater scenes 

The "The Spy Who Loved Me" chase was filmed in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, and the underwater footage was shot in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas

A compressed air cannon was used to fire a mock-up shell from the jetty and actually a miniature model was filmed in a water tank to give the first shot of the car underwater

As is clear from the diver visible to the right of the car in this photo, the full size shells were also used in filming

These photos are of framed drawings in the corridor of the 007 Sound Stage at Pinewood Studios

The early artist's impressions of the underwater car are present, along with some other memorable Bond sets

The builders of the Esprit submarine were Perry Oceanographics, of  Riviera Beach, Florida, just outside Miami and about 200 miles from Nassau - Perry had a reputation for excellent marine engineering and had built notable submersible vehicles, such as the Reef Ranger, which also appears in the underwater scenes

Although minature models were also used, amusingly with "air" bubbles produced by using Alka-Seltzer tablets, and three of the full sized bodyshells were used also employed to give the illusion of the road going Esprit transforming into the submarine, the photo below should leave no doubt that filming with divers and the Esprit submersible definitley took place

The craft was a fully functioning wet submarine - so unlike all the subs produced in attempts to recreate the Esprit by the likes of Top Gear, it was not water proof and the "passengers" had to wear wet suits and use SCUBA - Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

As these photos show, it was equipped with ballast tanks to adjust buoyancy and, of course, the electric motor driven propellors and dive planes visible from the exterior - two crew were required to operate all the systems

Here are more shots of divers helping with filming of the Esprit submersible, or "Wet Nellie" as she was affectionately known



The wedge profile of the Esprit also worked like a dive plane, causing the craft to descend and the wheel arch mounted planes would have been used to counteract this

Wet Nellie was obtained by Fred Stevenson, the distributor of  Lotus East USA after filming finished - he reportedly said that sand and seaweed was very apparant inside when the shell arrived and was sent to the New York Auto Show "!

Lotus West USA in Los Angeles took over custodianship after shows in Cleveland, Chicago and  Denver and then the story goes that Wet Nellie ened up lost in an unmarked storage unit in Holbrook, New York on a 10 year long rent and was not rediscovered until an unknowing local couple won a blind auction in 1989 for $100 and were amazed to see what the unit contained!

They exhibited the Esprit on a customised trailer, as seen in the photos below

In September 2013, Elon Musk bought Wet Nellie at an RM Sotheby's auction for £550,000

He has reportedly said that he will use Tesla electric motors to convert it to a fully functioning and transforming submarine/car as seen in The Spy Who Loved Me

These are my own photos from a visit to Beaulieu Motor Museum to see one of the other "submarine Esprits" used for shots in The Spy Who Loved Me... This Wet Nellie would be one of the other full sized shells that wa used for filming the transformtion to a submarine but it wouldn't contain any submersible equipment

For Your Eyes Only

In 1980 filming began at Sylva at Kanoni, near Corfu Town and Lotus provided two Esprits to continue the car's role as James Bond new preferred vehicle, this time in the guise of the updated and more poweful Turbo Esprit

One of the cars was the original prototype of the turbocharged version of the Esprit, which had to be repainted in white with red decals, as the prototype sported the blue and chrome striped Essex Motorsport, like all of the first Turbo Esprits - the second car was a production car in the same matching colours

This photo shows two Turbo Esprits in the correct appearance for the movie and a third car on truck from Datchet, which is quite near to Pinewood Studios

The car on the truck was reportedly being used for the explosion scene

Here the effects crew in Corfu are preparing a white Turbo Esprit, bearing the UK number plate OPW 654W, with explosives

This plate matches the white car being driven by Bond in the early scenes but differs slightly from Bronze car with OPW 678W in the later scenes

It is said that the strength of the Esprit's GRP body was more than proven in the staging of the explosion scene, in that several attempts were made to completely destroy it with explosives but that, in the end the crew had to resort to using hammers...

In 1981 production moved to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, the famous ski resort, and the cars were returned to Lotus for repainting in Bronze (or more accurately Copper Fire Metallic) with gold decals, at the Producers's request to provide a contrast against the snow. Amusingly, the snow had failed to appear that year and lorries had to be used to bring snow in from the Dolomite mountains!

The iconic look was also completed at the Hethel Lotus factory when "ski racks" were fitted over the louvres on the tailgate

In the movie, Q shows Bond the "rebuilt" Esprit from the explosion at MI6 HQ in London

Here is Carole Bouquet, who played Melina in For Your Eyes Only, demonstrating how to exit an Esprit

The Bronze Turbo Esprit was used for promotional events and was still owned by Lotus until 1998 when it sold for £25,878 in the Coys auction at the Silverstone Historic Festival

The bronze car, pictured on the right (minus the skis) in an eBay listing was sold for $210,000 - making it world's most expensive Lotus Esprit at the time

I did also see Wet Nellie, the original submarine Esprit, listed on eBay with the internal buoyancy tank and external electric propulsion - it did not exceed the reserve price

I emailed the American who listed it and ascertained that the reserve price was $1,000,000 and that they had already been offered this amount by a museum, althugh as previulsy stated, it sold at auction to Elon Musk for £550,000

007'S ESPRIT STILL NO 1 Tuesday 27th July 2004

Official Press Release

It's the most popular car from the big screen

Despite Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls-Royce from Thunderbirds dominating recent headlines, a recent survey has revealed it is James Bond’s classic Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me, which is the nation’s most desirable screen vehicle.

Over 1,000 people voted for their favourite screen vehicle in the Yahoo! Search survey and the white Lotus Esprit car was the clear favourite securing almost a third of the vote followed by David Hasslehoff’s car Kit from Knight Rider (17%).

Patrick Oqvist from Yahoo! Search commented: "Although there’s loads of classic film vehicles out there, our search for the favourite has shown James Bond’s modified Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me a worthy winner. With rear firing mud sprayers, an underwater kit that changes the car into a fully operative submarine, surface-to-air missiles, underwater smoke screens and torpedoes the most desirable screen vehicle has to be Bond’s."

The full results were as follows:

1 - Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who loved Me (29%)
2 - Kit from Knight Rider TV film (17%)
3 - De Lorean from Back To The Future
4 - Batmobile from Batman (10%)
5 - Mini from The Italian Job (9%)
6 -Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch (6%)
7 - A-Team Van from The A-Team TV film (5%)
8 - Danny Zucko’s Greased Lightning from Grease (2%)
9 - Herbie from Herbie Goes Bananas (2%)
10 - Reliant Robin from Only Fools & Horses TV films (2%)

Top Gear on Bond Esprit(wmv)Full scene (wmv)
Underwater scene (wmv)