When a novel written by Ian Fleming is transformed into a film you can be sure that cars will take centre stage at some point. Fleming, the James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang author, was a bit of a car fan owning several American cars including a Studebaker Avanti and two Ford Thunderbirds.

A wealth of incredible film cars might spring to mind when you think of James Bond, and one of the most unique of this elite group has just sold at auction. It featured in the 1977 Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, starring Roger Moore as 007. In the film, Bond girl Anya Amasova (played by Barbara Bach) launches the Lotus Esprit S1 into the sea from a pier.

lotus esprit submarine on display side

The expected sale price was estimated to be between £650,000 and £950,000, but maybe because the Lotus is only a fully working submarine and not a road-going automobile it eventually sold for much less. The submarine car, nicknamed Wet Nellie, took a bit of a dive from the high estimate and sold for £550,000 at RM Auctions in Battersea, London.

As Peter Haynes of RM Auctions points out though, the price, while lower than the estimate, is still pretty hefty and indicates that there is still much interest in all things Bond to avid movie memorabilia collectors across the world.

Previously, this unique Perry Oceanographic built automobile was on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu before heading to auction – minus the anti-aircraft missiles that it was equipped with in the movie I hope.

How the Lotus came to be used in The Spy Who Loved Me has become part of movie folklore. Don McLaughlin was the head of Lotus public relations at the time, and it was his idea to park a heavily branded prototype Lotus Esprit outside Pinewood Studios upon hearing that Eon Productions were still to decide on some of the cars to be used in the film. Amazingly, the ploy worked.

The transformation of the Lotus into an underwater submarine involved seven different models with each taking centre stage for their particular part of the change into the fully fledged 007 ocean-going underwater machine.

lotus esprit s1 submarine

The working Lotus submarine that sold at auction wasn’t used for all the underwater sequences that you see in the film though, some of these include models with effervescent Alka Selzer tablets being used to create the air bubbles rising to the surface.

The Esprit went to an anonymous telephone bidder who won in a bidding war with another determined buyer. Let’s hope the new owner has a large pool or is at the very least, near to a pier.

Last image – bbc.co.uk

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