Pretty Woman isn’t the only movie to feature a Lotus Esprit. In fact, stand aside, Mr. Gere. Roger Moore is here to show you how to win a woman. Hint: It involves dodging wheeled torpedoes, outrunning helicopters and, well, driving underwater. Oh yes, and witty lines help, too.
The ‘77 Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond car to feature gadgets since the DB5, even though Moore had already done two films for the franchise. So why did the filmmakers decide on the Esprit?
First, it was British, like all Q-Branch Bond cars to this point. It was also the Esprit’s first model year, so as with the DB5, a Bond film placement held the promise of profit. The Esprit even made a return appearance in For Your Eyes Only with its turbo version.
It was also fast, though not as fast as its Aston predecessors. The 0-60 was a relatively pedestrian 8.6 seconds, and the little mid-engine two-seater topped out at 124 mph. And really, that’s all one could ask from the Esprit’s 160 hp, 2 liter straight four. It made up for its lack of power, however, with its leaf-on-the-wind handling.
See, the car was released during the golden age of Lotus, the Colin Chapman era. Chapman, who founded Lotus with the mantra of, “simplify, then add lightness,” was personally involved in the Esprit’s production. The whole car weighed less than a ton and could turn like a Shyamalan plot. This certainly came in handy for Bond during the film’s big budget chase scene, during which he managed to outmaneuver a helicopter. (Much more recently, Jeremy Clarkson achieved this in a new Lotus for Top Gear.)
Of course, stock performance wasn’t all the Esprit brought to the production. This was a Q-Branch car, after all, and came packed with gadgetry. Behind the widescreen Euro number plate sat a pair of oil jets for blinding pursuers. The car was also equipped with explosives: proximity mines, front-facing torpedoes, and a vertical torpedo/missile. Why did a car need torpedoes? Because, of course, it was also a submarine. Remember that scene in My Girl when Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin escape the swarm of bees by jumping in a lake? They probably got the idea from James Bond’s Esprit.
The crew had no easy time filming the sequence, since they actually shot it underwater. They used several different cars, one of which was fully converted to a “wet sub,” meaning there was no air in the cabin, only two men in wet suits with oxygen tanks. It had to be fully functional, too. Because if you’re driving a sports car into the ocean and transforming it into a sub, you’d better shoot an underwater combat scene.
The sequence is just one of the outlandish action-figure-selling scenes which so typify the Roger Moore Era. This light, toy-like feel is perhaps the producers’ best reason for switching from the proper, serious Aston Martins to the futuristic, mid-engine fun of the Esprit.
Next week, however, we’ll cover our third Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage Volante from The Living Daylights.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.