Lotus Esprit Series 1 ‘Submarine’ Car
Bids were flying around the room at the RM Auctions when the iconic Lotus Esprit Series 1 Submarine Car went on to the open market. Many car collectors were in attendance including Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, eventually the hammer fell and the Submarine car was sold for £550,000. Max Girardo, Managing Director, RM Auctions, Europe said “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.” 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.
The Lotus Esprit in question is the one and only fully functioning car especially designed and built for the famous underwater sequence seen on screen in the 1977 James Bond film ‘The Spy who loved me’. Known as ‘Wet Nellie’ on the set, it was developed from one of six Esprit body shells used in the making of the film. It was the only car to be built into a fully operational, self-propelled submarine. The driver of the car was Don Griffin, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and test pilot from the company Perry Oceanographic who developed the ‘submarine’. He operated the vehicle utilising its motorised propellers while manoeuvring with levered steering mechanisms. Over the years, millions of moviegoers have stared in awe as the Lotus transformed itself into a submarine.
It is believed the Lotus was left in storage by the production company which paid for the container for ten years. But when the payment ran out and nobody came to collect it, it was put up for sale. The previous owner, who has chosen to stay anonymous, found the car after buying a storage container in Long Island in 1989. He did not recognise the car for what it was as he had reportedly never seen a Bond film at the time. But as he drove the car home on the back of a truck, other drivers who recognised the vehicle radioed him to tell him what it was.
The car cannot be driven on the road, although it is said to be a fully operational submarine. At the time the car was said to have cost over $100,000 to create which is equivalent to nearly a half million dollars today.
Peter Haynes, from RM Auctions, said the auctioneer was pleased with the price despite it coming in at under estimated prices of between £650,000 and £950,000. He said “we are very happy with that price, it is very strong money for what is an important piece of movie memorabilia, bearing in mind it is not a car that can be driven on the road, the price just goes to prove the draw that all Bond-related memorabilia has.”