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Most Famous Bondmobiles

by Bonnie McGeer

The Film:The Spy Who Loved Me (1977; Roger Moore)
Worldwide Gross: $185,400,000

To escape from a menacing rocket-launching helicopter, Bond drives off a pier, plunging his white Esprit into the sea. Never fear, Bondmobile fans. This car comes with land-to-sea off-roading capability.The Lotus Esprit in its submarine form.

The Lotus Esprit can fold up its wheels and transform into a fully operational submarine—complete with fins and periscope. A monitor within the car-sub allows Bond to track the hovering helicopter still in pursuit of him. The Lotus fires off a missile and blows the chopper clear out of the air. Under the sea, this car has the ability to release depth charges and "smoke" screens. No other Bond car can top this one for amazing feats.

This highly adaptable Lotus makes an equally memorable return to land after its underwater battle, casually driving out of the sea and onto a beach filled with surprised sunbathers.

In another scene, a black Ford Taurus is chasing the Esprit over a dangerously winding road in which the Esprit's license plate rotates to reveal nozzles. A spray of cement shoots out, causing the enemy car to careen off the road.

The wedge-shaped Lotus Esprit was Britain's answer to the great sports cars of Italy — Ferraris and Lamborghinis dominated the supercar category in the late 60s and early 70s. Ironically, the Esprits made through 1988, including Bond's model inThe Spy Who Loved Me, featured fiberglass bodywork styled by a famous Italian automotive designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Esprit's angular lines are a Giugiaro hallmark.

Although Lotuses are known for their handling, the early models lacked power and their engines were weak when compared to those of the Italian supercars. A more powerful Turbo version, featured inFor Your Eyes Only, debuted in 1980 and finally earned the Lotus Esprit some much-needed street credibility.

The Special Features Available On The Lotus Esprit
• Ability to convert from car to submarine and back again
• A dashboard that can also function as a submarine control panel
• Retractable fins, rudders and propellers for underwater operation
• Periscope
• Radar-guided missiles with underwater-to-air firing power
• Heat-seeking missiles for underwater targets
• Harpoons with attached cables for underwater deployment, hidden under the front hood when not in use
• Underwater mines kept inside its own dispenser under the hull.
• Underwater "smoke screen" capability achieved through high-pressure pumps that could fire off any substance to create the desired effect
• Cement-spewing nozzles behind the license plate

The Special Features Available On The Lotus Esprit, Turbo Version
• Self-destruct mechanism to guard against car thieves


Ford Taurus: Driven by Stromberg's henchman.

Kawasaki 900 motorcycle with sidecar: Driven by a henchman of Karl Stromberg, a shipping magnate who is the villain in this film. The sidecar is a rocket-powered pod which is used to transport bombs and other explosives.

Bondmobile Facts
• The Lotus Esprit went to the Bahamas to film its scenes, even though its co-stars stayed home. Roger Moore and Barbara Bach acted their parts in a London studio, using a specially designed car in a pool.
• The submersible car's nickname is Wet Nellie.
• Some automotive insiders credit 007 with spurring the best sales year ever for the Lotus Esprit, which remained in production until last year (2004). The manufacturers produced 134 Esprits in 1976, the year that the car was introduced to the market.
• Ford sold its Taurus in Germany from 1952 to 1968; it was named after a mountain range in that country.

Lotus Esprit photos©Everette Collection

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