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The Lotus Esprit Series 1 "submarine" sports car that starred in the 007 movie The Spy Who Loved Me is up for auction in September. Courtesy RM Auctions
The Lotus Esprit Series 1 'submarine' sports car that starred in the 007 movie The Spy Who Loved Me is up for auction in September. Courtesy RM Auctions

James Bond dreamers get the chance to play their favourite spy

In September, RM Auctions in the UK will offer for sale the classiest, coolest, most collectible multi-purpose vehicle ever made - the razor-sharp Lotus Esprit Series 1 "submarine" sports car that starred in the 007 movie The Spy Who Loved Me.

If you are at a car enthusiast's dinner party in Britain and your host asks you what you drive, do not say "an MPV".

You will, at best, be rewarded with glazed-eyed contempt. At worst, you will be forcibly ejected - with a boot-print on your rump as a memento.

The MPV, or multi-purpose vehicle, is a synonym in the West for boring, slow and ugly; it is a transport mode for dodgy cab drivers, corduroy lovers and the terminally joyless. Think Renault Espace, if you can bear to.

If, however, you can tell your host you arrived in a Lotus and you are on close personal terms with a chisel-jawed James Bond film star, you will be given the seat at the head of the table.

Fantasy? Not any more.

In September, RM Auctions in the UK will offer for sale the classiest, coolest, most collectible multi-purpose vehicle ever made - the razor-sharp Lotus Esprit Series 1 "submarine" sports car that starred in the 007 movie The Spy Who Loved Me.

The car, the only functional submersible Lotus ever built, was designed by Perry Oceanographic in Florida to propel itself underwater and starred alongside Sir Roger Moore in the 1977 smash-hit.

The white Lotus, which is fully authenticated , was known as "Wet Nellie" on the film set. At the time, the car was said to have cost more than US$100,000 to create - equivalent to nearly $500,000 today. But the story behind the car's arrival in the auction room is more Storage Wars than Diamonds Are Forever. After filming the underwater scenes in the Bahamas, it languished forgotten in a New York lock-up on a 10-year rental, paid in advance. In 1989, the contract had expired so the contents of the unit, by then long forgotten, were bought for a modest bid in a "blind" public auction. It was only when the blankets covering the vehicle were pulled off that the much-loved superstar was rediscovered. There was probably some high-fiving. After authentication, the Lotus was shown occasionally - including a stint at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles - but was mostly kept closely under wraps, until now.

"We have a great track record in selling incredible and iconic movie cars, and this particular Lotus is certainly up there amongst the most famous cars of all time," says Max Girardo, the managing director of RM Auctions, on the firm's website.

"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."

When it comes to auctioning 007's wheels, the company has previous.

In 2010, RM sold "the most famous car in the world", the Aston Martin DB5, used by Sir Sean Connery in the Bond favourites Goldfinger and Thunderball, featuring machine guns in its front wings and ejector seats operated by a button on the gear stick. It went for 2.9 million (Dh16.3m).

The Esprit probably won't make that but, given the current 28 per cent annual increase in the value of the premium classic-car market, it could pay for itself inside four years.

And who could blame a motoring enthusiast in, say, Abu Dhabi, for forking out a small fortune for it? Imagine emerging from the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf on to the pristine sands at Emirates Palace. It would be the automotive equivalent of the Ursula Andress bikini scene in the 1962 Bond film Dr No - or the similar scene inthe 2006 movie Casino Royale featuring a toned Daniel Craig as 007 that caused a fluttering of hearts worldwide.

And, when you climbed from the cockpit, feeling stirred but not shaken and dressed to thrill, the effect on the opposite sex would be the same.

As Mr Girardo says: "It surely is the ultimate beach accessory."

Whoever is lucky enough to buy the Esprit could complete the submarining superspy theme with the ultimate 007 accessory. Bond's geiger-counter wristwatch from Thunderball, used by 007 to locate Spectre's stolen atomic weapons underwater in the 1965 film, was bought last month at a Christie's sale in London. The 1962 Top Time model was picked up for 25 at a car boot sale last year after years of mystery regarding its whereabouts.

Made by the Swiss luxury watch firm Breitling, one of the hands shows the strength of radioactivity- it was the first Bond timepiece adapted by Q's team of boffins in the 007 film series. M would have been delighted when the gavel finally went down at 104,000. However, if none of the above is within range of your pocket, there is a Quantum of Solace to be had.

This week, on the website preloved.co.uk, a silver DB5 was being offered for private sale - for just 550.

OK, so the limited edition, 65cm 1/8 scale model might not have Pussy Galore purring.

But, with its fully operational boot, bonnet, doors and steering, and an engine that "ticks over and revs", if Scaramanga's midget henchman Nick Nack from The Man with The Golden Gun ever pops round at least he could take it for a spin.

And, if you're lucky, he might accidentally hit the ejector-seat button.

chnelson@thenational.ae

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