Imagine buying a forgotten container without knowing its contents, only to find it contains one of the greatest movie cars of all-time. That's what happened to one couple in 1989, finding the legendary Lotus Esprit submarine, driven by Roger Moore in the 1977 James Bond flick, "The Spy Who Loved Me."
The car, known as 'Wet Nellie" during filming, originally cost around $100,000 (about $500,000 in today's money), and is now heading to RM Auctions in London. Created by Perry Oceanographic, from Riviera Beach, Fla., it was one of six Lotus Esprit body shells used in the movie, but remains the only car to be built into a fully operational, self-propelled submarine. Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Don Griffin piloted 007's rig, maneuvering the vehicle using motorized propellers.
After filming its underwater scenes in the Bahamas, the car was shipped to Long Island, N.Y., where it sat in an unassuming storage container paid in advance for ten years. After the rental eventually became delinquent, it went up for blind auction and sold for a modest fee, providing a lucky couple with a windfall and creating the greatest unfilmed episode of "Storage Wars" ever.
While the famous Bond submarine spent a brief stint at the Petersen Automotive Museum, it has mainly been kept under wraps. RM Auctions sold Sean Connery's iconic Aston Martin DB5 from "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball" in 2010 for $4.4 million, and while that particular vehicle is perhaps the most esteemed car in movie history, it provides a good indication of where 007's watery Lotus may ultimately land.
Max Girardo, Managing Director, RM Auctions, Europe, says: "Over the years, millions of moviegoers have stared in awe as the Lotus transformed itself into a submarine, and now, perhaps one of them will have an opportunity to own it." One things for sure: It'll have to be a moviegoer swimming in money.