In honour of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise and the release of the 23rd Bond film Skyfall, Richard Hammond paid tribute to some of 007’s greatest moments on wheels with an hour-long Top Gear special, looking at some of the famous, and not so famous, cars used by the world’s favourite spy. Carried along on a heady wave of nostalgia, Hammond even decided to make a couple of amazing real-life Bond cars on a budget.
One of these budget creations was based on the unforgettable Lotus Esprit S1 ‘submarine’ car used by Roger Moore’s James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. The Top Gear version of this iconic aquatic vehicle uses the never-popular Excel model (because 007-style Esprits were too expensive) and features extendable rear dive planes, electrically-powered rear thrusters, a double skinned passenger compartment, a roof hatch for access and a cunning ballast system which involved filling the tyres with concrete.
Amazingly, this is one of the few cut-price Top Gear projects which actually worked, and this ingenious creation can truly claim to be the world’s first fully functioning submarine car. Although perhaps its biggest achievement is that it has made it to World of Top Gear at Beaulieu, and isn’t lying at the bottom of the lake in which it was tested!
The Lotus Excel Submarine joins a growing collection of cars at Beaulieu created by the Top Gear presenters for some of their most ambitious challenges. Latest additions include the mobility scooters which the presenters raced against wounded servicemen, the cars which they drove through India in the Christmas Special 2011 and Jeremy Clarkson’s TGV12 sports train.