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April 12, 2024

The Lotus Esprit S1, Known as “Wet Nellie,” That Was Used in the James Bond Film “The Spy Who Loved Me”

The Lotus Esprit S1 was used in the filming of the 1977 James Bond classic film The Spy Who Loved Me. During the filming process, the Lotus Esprit S1 was affectionately dubbed Wet Nellie. The famous car is the holy grail of all the Bond cars, and that says quite a lot. Wet Nellie became the first “car-submarine” to appear on the big screen and people immediately fell in love with it.

The idea that you could drive your car into the ocean and use it as a submersible was one of the reasons the car became so popular, it was something that people had not seen before. Wet Nellie got its name from an autogyro named Little Nellie that was used in another James Bond classic film, You Only Live Twice. Little Nellie was named after actress and comedian Nellie Wallace.

One full-proof way of turning your newly developed car into a cultural icon is getting it to feature in a James Bond film. That is exactly what happened to the Lotus Esprit. Everyone from children to grown folks wanted a car that turned into a submarine.

A total of eight Lotus Esprit S1 cars were used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Of those eight Lotus Esprits, six were just bodyshells, while two were fully functioning vehicles that were provided by Lotus. To take it even further of the two functioning Lotus’ one was built as a semi-functioning submarine that was used in the filming of the underwater scenes and a cost of around $100,000 to construct.

The Lotus Esprit S1 was affectionately dubbed Wet Nellie by the film crew. In the movie, the car serves as James Bond’s multi-role combat vehicle. Wet Nellie could do just about anything. It had cement dispensers in the rear to get rid of any pursuers, it had vertical missile racks just in case you needed to get rid of those pesky helicopters, and if any of those weren't enough to help you get away, the car could turn into a working submarine. All of these high-tech features made Wet Nellie the ultimate getaway vehicle.

The film producers sought the help of Perry Oceanographic to construct the submersible. Perry fitted four electric submersible drive units to the Esprit's retractable rear tray, each with steering vanes in the propeller stream. The vertical fins were blocked off and only functioned as stabilizers while the car's center section was packed with oil-filled battery units to avoid pressurization and sealing problems.

Wet Nellie was fitted with twin-mirrors to help give the driver a view of the bottom. The car had no reverse thrust and no brakes, this put the underwater film crew at risk of being hit by the 15-knot submarine. To stop this from happening the crew would switch off the car's motors and pray that the divers could haul it in before a coral head loomed up.

The film was a great success and the Lotus Esprit sold like hotcakes after the movie was released. The demand for the car was so great that people had to be put on a three-year waiting list just to buy the car.

After spending a decade in a storage facility in Long Island, New York, Wet Nellie was sold to its unsuspecting owners for just $100. The owners that bid on the storage locker were not allowed to see the contents inside and in a fortunate stroke of serendipity, the new owners found Wet Nellie just parked inside the storage locker.

Researchers were needed for authentication, and when the results came in confirming that it indeed was the Lotus Esprit S1 used in The Spy Who Loved Me, the owners could not believe their luck.

In 2013 Wet Nellie was put up for auction once again but this time it was worth almost 10000 times more than when it was first put into auction. Wet Nellie was sold for $997,000 to none other than Elon Musk.

Elon Musk said that he plans on turning the Lotus Esprit S1 into the car-submarine it was meant to be. With everything that Elon Musk has done over the past decade it wouldn’t surprise many if he did manage to turn Wet Nellie into a working submarine and the proceeded to shoot it into space.

“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. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real,” Musk said in a statement to Jalopnik after buying the car.

(via Hot Cars)


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