James Bond's Lotus Esprit submarine from The Spy Who Loved Me
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James Bond's Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu (Credit: Creative Commons)

Elon Musk bought James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine and it inspired the Cybertruck

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Dec 3, 2019

Bond, James Bond, has had a number of impressive vehicles, but for our money, none have been as jaw-dropping as his Lotus Esprit that conveniently turned into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me. But while we were sitting around coveting said sub, Elon Musk was out there buying it. And now you can see its influence on Tesla’s newly announced Cybertruck.

Though there’s no word yet on whether the Cybertruck will eventually turn its tires into fins and launch rockets, Musk’s new truck was at least partially inspired by the oh-so-choice retrofitted 1976 Lotus, known as Wet Nellie, which the tech giant anonymously bought at auction back in 2013 for a measly million bucks.  

How the Lotus ended up at auction in the first place is a twist that Ian Fleming would have been proud of. Back in 1989, an anonymous Long Island couple spent $100 on whatever was inside an unclaimed storage unit. The couple had no idea what they’d find, but soon discovered the Lotus underneath a bunch of blankets.

The couple, who had never seen a Bond flick before, loaded the finned, undrivable car onto a flatbed and headed home. On their way, they soon found out they were the talk of the road, as CB chatter from truckers was all about the distinctive haul.

So the couple sought out Ian Fleming Foundation founder Doug Redenius, who authenticated the fact that the car was indeed Wet Nellie, the only Lotus to be turned into a submarine for the film. It was done so at a cost of some $100K (roughly $450K by today’s standards, per Popular Mechanics) by retrofitting it with those immediately identifiable fins, ballast tanks, propellers, and water-tight batteries.  

Credit: Tesla

When Musk was outted as Nellie’s anonymous buyer, he told Jalopnik: “It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater.” He also expressed his desire to turn the car into an actual working submarine by swapping in an electric powertrain.

Apparently, that didn’t take (yet!), but you can certainly see similar design elements between the futuristic Lotus Espirit and the post-apocalyptic-looking Cybertruck. And with Halo’s Warthog also serving as inspiration, Musk’s truck is starting to look like a must-drive for genre fans. 


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