Nobody does it better than Auto World for a submarine/car …
Rare, or should I say never, that I have seen a die-cast car that was also a submarine. But now I have.
If you’re hearing a James Bond soundtrack playing in your head right now then you’re ahead of me. The car/sub in question is the Lotus Esprit S1 as seen in the 1977 Bond thriller, The Spy Who Loved Me, with Roger Moore as Bond and Barbara Bach portraying Soviet agent Anya Amasova as they attempted to stop a megalomaniac trying to destroy the world and start a new civilization under the sea. Naturally!
If you saw it, you’ll remember both Bach (Ringo Starr’s wife) and the Lotus, the later shooting into the ocean while being chased by a helicopter (which the car’s rockets shot down). Then the Lotus’s wheels fold up and four props on the back are deployed to instantly turn the Esprit into a sub, not an easy task.
Nor was creating the Bond car in 1/18 scale, but credit Auto World for doing just that and cradling it in a beautifully crafted and designed display box complete with blue plastic packaging to make the Lotus look like it’s diving into the sea.
Let’s start with the movie. This was the tenth Bond thriller and third with Roger Moore portraying secret agent 007. It was a winner at the box office ($185 million in sales) and later Moore called it his favorite. Some consider The Spy Who Loved Me among the best Bond films after Sean Connery departed, and before the current batch.
In any case, the car played a small role, but was memorable because of its high-tech transformation. Beyond Bond’s classic Aston Martin DB5 of earlier movies, this is the car most Bond aficionados recall most often. Its nickname on set was Wet Willie and the car used in the movie’s underwater scenes ultimately was purchased by Elon Musk in 2014.
Lotus is known for creating cars of speed, style, and athletic performance and this one reminds of a Lamborghini Countach, which debuted a year earlier in 1974. And indeed, its designer was Italian, Giorgetto Giugiaro who penned the design after meeting Lotus chief Colin Chapman at a European car show.
The fiberglass-bodied Esprit debuted at the fall 1975 Paris Auto Show and featured a new 160-horsepower I4, which sounds pretty mild now. But the car was famously Lotus light, just about 2,000 pounds, so would do 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds, no rocket, but lithe and lively. Plus it looks undeniably fast. Top speed was 138 mph.
Just 718 Lotus Esprit S1 models were made from 1976 to 1978, but other versions were produced up until 2004. Esprit replaced the Lotus Europa model.
This is a fun one, but is best displayed in its original box in submarine form, as that’s what makes this one special. Besides, it requires patience and nimble fingers to fully convert it into the car, although Auto World provides all the parts. Here’s how that’s accomplished.
First, you must take off the fins, rear prop structure, and roof hardware, a relatively easy task. However, to dislodge and fold down the four wheels and tires is awkward. It’s ingenious how they are installed, but they are quite stiff to unfold, especially the front wheels. I could only get two to deploy and appear straight upright. The other two folded down, but canted slightly inward making it hard to install the two white plastic pieces meant to complete the car’s bottom for display.
Three round white stickers are included to cover the holes in the roof that accommodate the chrome roof accessories to replicate the sub’s features. More stickers are available to use for either the sub, or car’s dash gauges and others for front and rear windshield louvers to replicate the sub’s appearance.
A gray cap snaps on over the matte silver-gray engine under the rear hatch, again to mimic the submarine’s look. Like the real Lotus engine this one is canted to the left, maybe not exactly 45 degrees as in the original car, but there’s a visible lean to it. Detailing is sharp too and I’m leaving off the cover to display the sub as it’s more interesting that way.
I particularly like the black plastic tail fins and prop covers that hide the chrome props and their black rudders. All props spin too.
Those side fins look great and are easy to pop out from underneath, if you want to go the car display route. The front and rear twin fins each pop out as a unit with just a little pressure.
While the headlights don’t rotate up in front the hood can be lifted from the rear to expose a spare tire and the steering housing. Also, a tiny switch under the car/sub can be pressed to release the row of gun barrels on the nose. However, they tend to close quickly once the car/sub is on level ground.
Everything else looks realistic outside, from amber lower nose lights to red taillights along with proper licensing front and rear. The nose and tail include Lotus badging and Esprit logos are on each of the rear roof pillars beneath the gas caps.
Doors open to reveal gray bucket seats with red plaid butt pockets and red flocking for carpet. The dash is gray too with black steering wheel and shifter on the console. Naturally this is right-hand drive.
I like that the chrome door releases are replicated at the bottom of each door and the side windows are open so it’s easy to see inside. Under water you’d want these closed though, right? Windows are all trimmed in black.
It was fun taking the car/sub apart and configuring it both ways, but I’m sticking with the sub look, as that’s what sets this apart.
So, with apologies to Marvin Hamlisch the theme song’s composer, Carole Bayer Sager its lyricist, and wonderful Carly Simon, its singer, Nobody Does it Better, not in 1/18 scale.
Vital Stats: Lotus Esprit S1, James Bond 007, The Spy Who Loved Me
Maker: Auto World
Stock No.: AWSS132