It's known the world over for its ability to turn into a submarine — at least in James Bond films. Andrew Frankel drives the Lotus Esprit Series I.
From the moment 007 hits the gas to the moment the Lotus hits the Mediterranean adds up to barely 3 ½ minutes of screen time. But they are unquestionably the best remembered 210 seconds of any Bond film of the Roger Moore era, for it was here in The Spy Who Loved Me that director Lewis Gilbert appears to have decided to pile every single item of Bondian iconography, resulting in the best car chase in 007 history.
There are gadgets and one-liners galore, not one but two beautiful women, explosions, death and every form of transport from a helicopter to a motorcycle with a lethal, rocket-propelled side car. But what do we remember most? The car of course, the white Lotus Esprit. This not only got Bond back in his first proper British sports car since Goldfinger’s Aston Martin DB5 but, for the first time in a Bond film, it was actually driven properly.
You have Roger to thank for that. That’s Lotus development engineer Roger Becker rather than Roger Moore, the Bond who at times seemed to have trouble controlling his own eyebrows, let alone a mid-engined supercar. Becker was originally tasked simply with delivering the Esprit to Sardinia for filming.
Once it was there, however, the professional stunt driver couldn’t get the most from it, so when the increasingly frustrated director called for it to be delivered to its next location, Becker drove up the hill like only Lotus’s finest test driver could. He spent the next seven weeks doubling for the other Roger in every action scene to feature the car, at least before it turned into a submarine.