Iconic Bond car surfaces

Ever wanted to live out your James Bond fantasies? Now the Lotus Esprit Series 1 ‘Submarine’ Car used in the “The Spy Who Loved Me” is up for auction you can…if you have enough money. But don’t bother trying to change the tyres.

The vehicle to be offered by RM Auctions at its forthcoming London sale, 8-9 September, in Battersea Park, is the one and only fully functioning car especially designed and built for the famous underwater sequence seen on screen in the 1977 film. Abundantly authenticated, and known as ‘Wet Nellie’ on the set, it was developed from one of six Esprit body shells used in the making of the film. As the only car to be built into a fully operational, self-propelled ‘submarine’, by Perry Oceanographic, based in Riviera Beach, Florida, it is the vehicle which claimed the most screen time in the film.

The driver of the car was Don Griffin, a retired US Navy SEAL and test pilot for Perry, who operated the vehicle utilizing its motorized propellers while manoeuvring with levered steering mechanisms. At the time, the car was said to have cost over $100,000 to create (equivalent to nearly a half million dollars today).

Subsequent to filming the underwater scenes in the Bahamas, the vehicle was shipped to Long Island, NY, where it was kept in an unassuming storage unit on a ten 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.

The only real drawback about this car is that, owing to the fact that it has been converted into a submarine, it won’t work on dry land. Why? Because it hasn’t got any wheels or tyres.

Perhaps the only other barrier to owning such a vehicle is the price tag. The Aston Martin DB5 used by Sean Connery in the enormously popular Goldfinger and Thunderball movies, for an incredible £2.9 million during its 2010 London sale. What the Espirit will go for is anyone’s guess, but considering its half a million initial cost and the provenance attached to it – a seven figure bid seem likely to win.

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