RM Auctions lifts the gavel on the 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.
The car was designed and fitted to propel underwater, and the car being sold is the seen on screen driving underwater in the days before CGI would have instead rendered the stunt on a computer.
The white Lotus commonly tops the polls when 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, while helping Bond to another hard-won victory for Queen and country.
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 utilising its motorised 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 famed Petersen Automotive Museum -- but was mostly kept closely under wraps until now.