1976 Lotus Esprit S1

Even if the “real”-or “other,” if you prefer-Lotus appeared in most of the
action shots, we can fairly say this car has Bond film provenance

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The Lotus Esprit was unveiled as the Silver Car concept at the Turin Motor Show in November 1972. Based on a Europa twin-cam chassis, it was developed into the first Esprit prototype, displayed at the 1973 Geneva salon.

It would be another three years before the first customer cars were delivered. Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro had wanted to call the car Kiwi, but Lotus management was intent on a name beginning with the letter E, as is Lotus tradition. A trawl through the dictionary came up with Esprit.

This 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 is one of two complete, fully functioning cars that were used for the driving scenes in the motion picture “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starring Roger Moore as secret agent James Bond, 007. Approximately nine Esprits were used in different guises, but bar these two, the rest were shells, some of which were used in filming the Esprit’s transformation into a submersible. Once submerged, the Esprit was represented by a radio-controlled model.

The Esprit offered here was used in the scene where Q drives off the ferry in Sardinia, instructs Bond in its operation, and the car is then driven away by Bond and his companion, agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach). Roger Becker, now Director of Engineering at Lotus, drove this car in the chase scene and confirmed its identity to trimmer Nick Fulcher, when he visited Fulcher’s workshop during the car’s recent restoration.

This is the only one of the two fully functioning Esprits with the missile launching button on the gearshift and the special revised housing for the clock/periscope screen. The car was taken directly off the production line and sent to Pinewood Studios, where it was trimmed by Fulcher, who removed the colorful tartan headrests, which reflected on the actors’ faces. He changed them to plain green.

As well as the quayside scene, this Esprit was converted for use as a camera car in filming the dramatic chase along the Sardinian mountain roads, there being no alternative vehicle available that could keep up with the other one.

After the movie’s completion, the car was dispatched to Lotus and put back on the production line to be returned to standard trim and sold. The mounting for the clock was removed, the seats and headrests were returned to standard, the engine was serviced, and a black Lotus badge was put on. This ex-Bond Esprit S1 later passed into German ownership, its last long-term owner carrying out a mechanical restoration.

When the current owner acquired the car it was German-registered and had an incorrect interior, so Fulcher was commissioned to return the interior to the specification as used in the movie. Fortunately, he still had supplies of the original cloth and sufficient original carpet to trim just one car. (When the interior was stripped, some of the original carpet was found stuck to the transmission tunnel). Fulcher painstakingly restored the interior, and a photographic record of this is in the file. The seats were stripped back to the bare frames, the correct extruded aluminum trim was made, an original and correct VDO clock was sourced and mounted between the sun visors, an original Motorola radio was fitted, and he even found a spare missile launch button in his stores. The $22,185 end result is a credit to Fulcher’s craftsmanship.

Of all the many hundreds of “movie cars,” none is more desirable than the exclusive band with a James Bond connection, examples of which are rarely offered for sale. This faithfully restored Esprit S1 is offered with a history file containing copies of the factory records (annotated “007”), assorted photographs of the restoration, and an owner’s manual (for a Series 2).

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

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