A couple from Long Island, New York paid approximately $100 for an unclaimed storage unit during a blind auction in 1989.
They didn’t know what the inside contained, so they were both surprised when they opened it.
Buried under some blankets is a 1976 Lotus Esprit sports car used in the 1977 James Bond flick, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In the movie, the vehicle transforms into a submarine that has the ability to fire missiles underwater.
The sports car is one of the eight used in filming the Bond movie, but it’s the only one that worked in underwater scenes. It was left in storage after filming and was forgotten for more than a decade until it was found by the unnamed couple that ran a rental company for construction tools.
Elon Musk purchased their treasured find for almost $1 million years later!
Initially, the couple really didn’t know what they had in their hands, according to Doug Redenius, co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, which validated the vehicle. They haven’t even seen a single Bond film.
“They had no idea how valuable their discovery was,” Redenius said of the couple in 2013.
The husband had planned on fixing the car’s dented roof and making other improvements. After loading the car onto a truck, and setting off to return home, the truckers called them via CB radio to inform them that they were transporting a James Bond car.
The man finally realized what he had when he went out to rent a VHS movie.
After cosmetically restoring and displaying the sports car in exhibits over the next twenty years, they decided to auction it off in 2013.
Redenius had only heard about the car’s existence years after the couple started exhibiting it. He found them and authenticated it with the original builders. Then, he put the couple in touch with RM Sotheby’s, telling them before the auction that if it sells for what they were hoping for, they would have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.
It did happen, fortunately.
The Lotus was sold to a secret buyer during a 2013 auction at RM Sotheby’s. Later, it was revealed that Musk was the new owner of the Lotus. He reportedly purchased it for $997,000!
Musk stated that he grew up watching Bond films.
“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 said in a 2013 interview with the auto blog, Jalopnik.
“I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform,” he added. “What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.”
A marine engineering firm converted the Lotus into a functional submarine—a process that cost more than $100,000, which is equivalent to almost $425,000 today.
The car, nicknamed “Wet Nellie,” was sold in 2013 without wheels, only “articulated fins.” It couldn’t drive on land, but it functioned as a submarine and was equipped with ballast tanks to make diving possible.
The car was also fitted with “a bank of four propellers” in its back that let it move underwater while being powered by electric motors kept in a water-tight compartment.
The underwater scenes were performed by a retired U.S. Navy SEAL donning full scuba gear with an oxygen tank during filming, as the vehicle’s interior was filled with water.
Musk said that the Lotus was part of the inspiration for Tesla’s Cybertruck. The billionaire CEO has even teased the Cybertruck by sharing in a tweet that the vehicle “will even float for awhile.”
If you think the 1976 Lotus Esprit Submarine was sold for an unbelievably steep price, it’s not actually the most expensive car from a Bond film to be sold at an auction.
In August, an Aston Martin DB5 used to promote the 1965 Bond movie “Thunderball” was sold to an anonymous buyer for $6.4 million!
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