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Lotus Esprit - The Spy Who Loved Me

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Sink or swim, this was one cool Lotus

Everyone has an opinion about Roger Moore’s depiction of Fleming’s Bond. Purists baulk at the one-liners, eyebrow gymnastics and near-slapstick approach (pioneered by Connery in Diamonds Are Forever), but everyone else loved them.In reality, though, Moore’s first two Bond efforts, Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, lacked the inspiration of the Connery or, indeed, Lazenby films. During this period his vehicles represented all that was bad in Bond’s universe – an AEC Regent bus followed by an appalling AMC Hornet in Thailand (a market this car was never sold in).

Thankfully, The Spy Who Loved Me came along in 1977 and re-energized Bond. The story goes that Lotus’s PR officer left a pre-production Esprit on show outside Ken Adam’s production office, knowing it would captivate the talented designer. Adam then approached Lotus and agreed a deal with Colin Chapman to supply a pair of Esprits for filming (one of which was Chapman’s own car). Given that the lightweight, 16-valve, mid-engined Esprit was good for 30mpg and handled like a thoroughbred, it was the perfect choice for the troubled 1970s.

However, the Esprit was supposed to work underwater. And that’s where filming became complex. Six models were used to create the land-to-sea transformation, including a full-sized car and a fully functioning, three-foot-long, remote-control submersible.On screen, the Esprit looked utterly convincing – a credit not only to Ken Adam but to special effects man Derek Meddings. An Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction and a BAFTA for Best Production Design were richly deserved.

Sadly, on the road, it could have been represented more accurately – in Bond’s hands, it initially struggled to pass an HGV before failing to lose a Ford Taunus 2.3 Ghia packed with heavies (including Jaws) on a twisting back road. Lotus enthusiasts must shudder every time they see the sequence. All is redeemed by a show of nimbleness in attempting to evade a chasing Jet Ranger helicopter, before famously landing in the drink.

Now regarded a close second to the Aston Martin DB5, the Esprit was nearly eclipsed: before the chase in Sardinia, Bond and agent Anya Amasova (played by Barbara Bach) were brought together in the back of a brand new Leyland Sherpa van. If any cameo were going to steal the show, it would have to be a gasket-blowing product built by BL…

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