Friday, October 18, 2013

Elon Musk Buys James Bond's Lotus Sub to Make It Real

Nobody does it better than James Bond...but Elon Musk is going to try.

The Lotus Esprit car submarine, famously used by Roger Moore in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, was discovered in a Long Island storage locker that was purchased for less than $100 in 1989.  The fully functioning underwater vehicle prop was auctioned in London last month and went for $968,000.

According to Jalopnik, the secret buyer was none other than Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of the Tesla electric car company and the SpaceX rocket maker, who is definitely not the inspiration for Tony Stark.  "It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater," said Musk in an email response to a query from USA Today.  "I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform.  What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."

In the movie sequence which you can see HERE, Bond drives the Lotus Esprit sports car along a road when it is attacked by villainess Naomi (actress Caroline Munro) in a helicopter.  Despite concerns from Anya Amasova/KGB agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) in the passenger seat, Bond drives the car off a pier.  The car's wheels then retract, fins extend and the car becomes a submarine.  Bond then sails along, taking out the helicopter with a missile.

As for what happened to the Esprit after the film, the studio had kept it in paid storage for a decade, but a mysterious turn of events led to the storage locker's fee going unpaid and the vehicle being forgotten until, two years later in 1989, it was found collecting dust.  "It just fell through the cracks," said Doug Redenius, co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

An anonymous "blue collar" guy, as he described himself, came across the vehicle underneath a bunch of blankets in his storage locker.  He didn't recognize the Esprit at first, having never seen a Bond film and having bought the locker with no knowledge of what was inside.  But when other people pointed out the resemblance, he rented the film on VHS, though was unable to discover how exactly it ended up in his hands for less than $100.

Years later, the Ian Fleming Foundation authenticated the vehicle as the actual working submarine from the film with the help of its original builder, who happened to be a submersibles expert and former NAVY Seal.  Multiple versions of the Lotus were made, including road ones for the street shots and promotional models, but the Lotus Esprit found in the Long Island locker was in fact the only one capable of submerging, though it has no function as a road car and does not contain the ability to swap in wheels.

Apart from Musk's comment to USA Today, it's not certain how far he intends to take his conversion.  It's possible he could attempt to make it dry inside like a true submarine, like the Lotus in the movie, or make it so it continues to be driven only by those with scuba breathing gear.  Perhaps he already has Q in his cell phone contacts list...

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