James Bond’s submersible Lotus pulls in almost $1 million at auction

This functioning Lotus Esprit was used in the underwater scenes of the 1977 Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me," starring Roger Moore as 007. The car recently sold at auction for $973,500.
(RM Auctions)

It’s a scenario we’ve all encountered. One beautiful woman is chasing you in a helicopter, while another sits next to you in your brilliant white Lotus Esprit. The bullets are flying, the road is ending, and somehow you, James Bond, need to get yourself out of this sticky situation in one piece.

So you drive the car off the nearest dock into the drink.

Such was the scene in the 1977 film “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starring Roger Moore and a unique Lotus that transformed into a functioning submarine. The very car used for the underwater scenes in the film recently sold at auction for nearly $1 million.

PHOTOS: 007 submersible Lotus sells for nearly $1 million


The sale was part of RM Auctions’ $34-million auction in London last weekend. Numerous high-dollar cars changed hands, including a 1957 Maserati 250S for $3.34 million, a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for $2.6 million, and a 1965 Porsche 904/6 Carrera GTS for $1.95 million.

But it’s this Lotus that was perhaps the most unique vehicle available at the London sale.

The car is the only functioning submarine version filmmakers made for the Bond flick, though two complete cars and six additional body shells were built by Lotus for filming.

This ocean-going version is only that; unlike what is depicted in the film, no version was ever built that could actually make the transition from road-going car to submersible.

Another key difference between “The Spy Who Loved Me” and reality is that the real vehicle is what is known as a “wet” submarine. While it can move around the underwater climes of your nearest ocean or lake, it does so with the driver fully submerged in water, wearing scuba gear.

RM said a retired Navy SEAL was hired to pilot the Lotus underwater for filming. The car turns by way of a quartet of propellers, whose electric motors were powered by batteries stored in a sealed, waterproof compartment. Climbing and descending are handled using ballast tanks.

The car has functional openings for faux missile launchers, mines and smoke screens, RM said. The rear-view prism mirror on the roof was retrofitted from a tank, while the air bubbles seen in the film were created using a mass of Alka-Seltzer tablets.

After filming wrapped, the car served a tour of duty for promotional events tied to the movie, and then languished in storage for a decade before being bought in a blind auction by a Long Island, N.Y., couple. The Lotus was then restored to original working order and displayed publicly, including an appearance at L.A.’s own Petersen Automotive Museum.

This was the first time the car was offered at a public sale, and it generated considerable interest throughout the room during the London auction, RM said.

The winning bid of $973,500, which includes a 12% commission, was ultimately placed by an anonymous bidder over the phone.

No word on whether M approved the sale.


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