Of course, there are dozens of Bond cars floating around out there in collections, but none as unique as this Lotus, which ended a chase scene in the movie by taking a long walk off a short pier and transforming itself into a submersible. Since CGI was a meaningless collection of letters back then, the producers of the film actually built a fully functional Lotus Esprit submarine for the shoot. They hired Perry Oceangraphic in Florida to turn one of their six Esprit body shells into a fully functioning submarine, and former US Navy Seal Don Griffin was tapped for piloting duties. RM Auctions claims the Esprit submarine cost over $100,000 to build at the time, which is about $400,000 in today's dollars.
The submarine car comes with a incredible story, too. After filming in the '70s, it was shipped to Long Island, NY where it was kept in a storage unit that was paid in advance for ten years. When the storage contract ended in 1989 and no one claimed the contents, they were sold off in a blind auction to an area couple who had no idea what they were getting. The car has been shown occasionally in the years since, but its value remained purely speculative, until now. To date, the most valuable Bond car we know of is the original Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger and Thunderball that sold for $4.6 million in 2010, but when the gavel falls at RM Auctions' London sale in September, we'll find out if the car nicknamed "Wet Nellie" on set can beat it.
Check out the car in its current condition in the gallery above, and scroll down to watch the underwater scene that made it famous.
- RM Auctions lifts the gavel on the one and only functional submarine car, used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, at its eagerly awaited central London sale, 8–9 September
- Fully functioning submarine car was designed and fitted to propel underwater
- The actual car seen, on screen, driving underwater; one of the most famous movie cars of all time
- Never before offered for sale
- Amazing story of 'lost and found'
LONDON (at a top secret location) 28 June, 2013 – "Pay attention, 007, RM Auctions is about to sell one of my most ingenious creations and we wouldn't want it to fall into enemy hands". Well, 'Q' might be a little concerned that his incredible Lotus Esprit Series 1 'Submarine' Car is due to be sold at auction, but for millions of movie fans out there, the appearance of this iconic Bond car on the open market represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
No Bond car has ever done anything as outrageous as transform itself into a submarine. Used to incredible effect in the film The Spy Who Loved Me, starring Roger Moore, the white Lotus commonly tops the polls when generations of movie fans are asked to vote on their favourite film cars of all time. Like all the best Bond cars, the Lotus was a veritable war chest of weaponry and gadgetry, all designed to fox and foil the enemy, whilst also helping Bond to another hard-won victory for Queen and country.
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 U.S. 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. After positive authentication, the Lotus was shown occasionally – including a stint at the Petersen Automotive Museum – but mostly kept closely under wraps, until now.
Max Girardo, Managing Director, RM Auctions, Europe, says: "We have a great track record in selling incredible and iconic movie cars, and this particular Lotus is certainly up there amongst the most famous cars of all time. Over the years, millions of moviegoers have stared in awe as the Lotus transformed itself into a submarine, and now, perhaps one of them will have an opportunity to own it. Her Majesty's Secret Service aside, it surely is the ultimate beach accessory"!
RM Auctions sold "the most famous car in the world", 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.
For further information on RM Auctions' forthcoming London sale, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, visit rmauctions.com or contact RM's London office at +44 (0) 20 7851 7070.
About RM Auctions
RM Auctions is the world's largest auction house for investment-quality automobiles. With over three decades of experience in the collector car industry, RM's vertically integrated range of services, from restoration to private treaty sales, auctions, estate planning, and financial services, coupled with an expert team of car specialists and an international footprint, provide an unsurpassed level of service to the global collector car market. RM proudly holds five of the top ten all-time records for the most expensive motor cars sold at auction. RM's restoration division has achieved unprecedented accolades, earning Best of Show honours at the world's top concours events. For further information, please visit rmauctions.com, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @rmauctions.
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