U.S. bil­lion­aire buys Bond sub­mersible

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - By W.J. Hen­ni­gan

LOS An­ge­les bil­lion­aire Elon Musk se­cretly pur­chased the am­phibi­ous sports car that ap­peared as a movie prop in a 1970s James Bond film with the in­ten­tion of con­vert­ing it into the real thing.

Musk, chief ex­ec­u­tive of elec­tric car com­pany Tesla Mo­tors and rocket-maker SpaceX, bought the car anony­mously at auc­tion in Lon­don on Sept. 9 for al­most $1 mil­lion.

In the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, star­ring Roger Moore as Agent 007, Bond drives his white Lo­tus Esprit off a pier and into the sea. As the car sinks un­der­wa­ter, he yanks on the shifter and the car trans­forms into a sub­ma­rine.

“I was dis­ap­pointed to learn that it can’t ac­tu­ally trans­form,” Musk said in an email. “What I’m go­ing to do is up­grade it with a Tesla elec­tric pow­er­train and try to make it trans­form for real.”

Musk was un­masked last week as the “mys­tery buyer” by the auto blog Jalop­nik. It’s un­clear why Musk wanted to be anony­mous.

His pro­posal would prob­a­bly be dis­missed as a fan­tasy if it were made by any­one else. But Musk has amassed a for­tune and built an em­pire through suc­cess with sev­eral startup com­pa­nies in a range of in­dus­tries.

The 42-year-old South African im­mi­grant made his for­tune when he co-founded and sold on­line pay­ment busi­ness PayPal to eBay Inc. for $1.5 bil­lion.

Armed with his per­sonal for­tune and a Rolodex full of Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists, Musk started SpaceX, or Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies Corp., and co-founded elec­tric car giant Tesla Mo­tors Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.

Hav­ing a fully func­tional sub­mersible car would be a tall or­der. For the movie, pro­duc­ers had sev­eral Lo­tuses mod­i­fied to ap­pear as a self-pro­pelled sub­ma­rine.

In the fa­mous se­quence, Bond plunges the car into the wa­ter to evade an evil­doer in a he­li­copter — black, of course. As the car sub­merges, the wheels draw into the body and it sprouts fins from the side pan­els. Then Bond launches a mis­sile from the top of the car to blow the chop­per to bits.

Musk did not say whether it would have weapons ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

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