October 18, 2013
Billionaire Entrepreneur Elon Musk Wants To Build Submarine Car
[ Watch the Video: Elon Musk Wants To Take The Plunge With His New Toy ]
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineLast month, the Lotus Esprit submarine car featured in the 1977 film “The Spy Who Loved Me” sold in an auction for $866,000 to a secretive and unknown buyer.
Gawker Media's Jalopnik weblog yesterday reported it has uncovered the buyer — none other than entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder/co-founder of several companies including Space X, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and PayPal.
Shortly after this news was released, Musk confirmed the news himself and, in typical fashion, said he has bigger plans for the sub-car than simply letting it sit in his private collection.
According to a press release from Tesla, Musk’s electric-car business, the billionaire and Internet tycoon has plans to slap his electronic drive train on the car and convert it into the real thing -- a car that can operate both on land and underwater.
It’s somewhat of a surprise that Musk bought the car, since these kinds of props and prototypes often sell to collectors. Yet, given the fact that the first Tesla car he produced was based on a Lotus Elise, it makes sense that he would be interested in this expensive prop.
"It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in 'The Spy Who Loved Me' drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater,” writes Musk, as cited by the Jalopnik weblog. “I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform. What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."
The submersible Lotus was feared lost for years after the production of the James Bond movie. Then, in 1989, a man in Long Island had the ultimate in good fortune and bought the car for $100.
After production came to a close, the car and several other items were stored away and ultimately forgotten. Twelve years later the man bought the contents of the storage shed for $100, a la the reality television show Storage Wars. When he opened the bin, he found a “giant lump” covered in blankets which turned out to be the Lotus in question.
Since the new owner never seen a Bond movie, he was clueless to the significance of the non-functioning car, but thought highly enough of it to put it on a trailer and haul it to his house. When other people saw him carting the submarine car back home, however, they clued him in. Years later a collector heard about the car and sought out the owner. It was authenticated as the real deal and put up for auction. At the time it was assumed the car could sell for one million dollars, but the $866,000 it finally went for is still a tidy return on $100.
The Lotus was only one of many used to shoot the film. Other units of the car have also been found in the Bahamas, though supposedly in much worse shape. The film company used multiple cars to shoot different scenes for the movie. The Bahamas models, for instance, are said to be “gadget cars,” meaning they were used for closeups during submarine transformation, a process by which fins came from the side of the panels and the wheels tucked underneath. Musk’s new car is said to be permanently in submarine form and was used for the underwater shots.
Musk is something of an enigmatic figure in today’s world. The billionaire started PayPal and has since concentrated his efforts on taking people to the moon, supplying high-performance luxury and electric cars, and moving people quickly between LA and San Francisco via a Hyperloop High-Speed Transit System.
If anyone is able to make a movie prop into the real deal, it’s likely Musk is the man for the job.