On Film Bond drives the Lotus in Sardinia while investigating the shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg with KGB agent Anya Amasova. the car’s Q Branch modifications come into play when the villain’s men, including Jaws, give chase. A rear-mounted cement launcher engages first, blotting the windscreen of a pursuing car, before a chopper picks up the hero’s’ tail and forces 007 to jump the Esprit off a pier and into the sea. Once submerged, the Lotus evolves into a fully functioning submarine, with retractable tyres that allow the extension of rudders, and fins that deploy from the side. Rear screws and a propeller system then emerge, while a periscope rises from the roof. Bond sets course for Stromberg’s underwater hideaway, Atlantis, and the vehicle’s full arsenal comes quickly into effect. A screen on the dashboard allows the aiming of a sea-to-air missile, which takes down the chopper, while front-mounted torpedoes, an ink cloud and underwater mines are deployed when Stromberg’s frogmen attack. The Lotus suffers damage, but Bond and Anya escape as 007 drives the car out of the sea and onto the beach, much to the surprise of a gang of bathers.
The Vehicle Entering production in June 1976 as one of the first of car-maker Giorgetto Giugiaro’s polygonal designs, the Esprit was powered by a Type 907, 16-valve, twin-overhead-camshaft engine that in Europe produced 160bhp – offering a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 138mph. The engine was mid-mounted at 45 degrees to maintain a low centre of gravity and was supported by a steel chassis and covered in a fibreglass body.
The Production When the Esprit was introduced to the franchise, second unit director Ernie Day and art director Peter Lamont thought that its streamlined body echoed the lines of a submarine. With that thought, a famous piece of machinery was born. As the Esprit was a custom-built machine, Lotus only granted one fully functioning road car to the production. When the filmmakers needed a second vehicle, Lotus chairman Colin Chapman stepped in and lent out his own car. Along with the two real cars used on screen, a total of seven Esprit shells were produced for the underwater action. One was fired from an air-cannon to launch it into the sea while the others were fitted with different sections of amphibious machinery. One of these shells was sent to Perry Submarines in Miami who completely motorised the vehicle and transformed it into an underwater sub, which was driven on screen by men in frog suits.
Q Branch Modifications • Front-firing torpedoes – launch from front vent in bonnet
• Sea to air missile launcher – radar-guided, surface-to-air missiles are concealed in a hatch above the rear windscreen
• Cement sprayers – two telescopic jets mounted behind rear number plate, for use in drive mode
• Rear-mounted ink jets – two small jets concealed behind the rear number plate, for use in sub mode
• Mine launcher – releases limpet mines from a magazine underneath the hull
• Bulletproof assembly
• Periscope – telescopic periscope used via the roof, gives a 360-degree field of vision
• Amphibious conversion unit – includes four fins and four rear screws as propulsion system
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