76, 77 Lotus Esprit S1

I have always been a big James Bond fan, so the next choice of a car for me was the 1976 Lotus Esprit S1. The S1 was first seen worldwide in the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me, with Roger Moore as James Bond.

offloading lotus for movie I was lucky enough to find two Lotus Esprit S1’s. They are very hard to find because all were hand assembled and production numbers are low. Only 134 Lotus S1s were produced in 1976, and about 340 in 1977. The majority of the 1976 models were strictly made for the UK and Japan markets so almost all are right hand drive.

Production for US models began in 1977. The Lotus Esprit design is from Giugiaro, all 76 and 77 S1s feature the Wolfrace aluminum slot rims. The engine is a 4-cylinder dual overhead cam twin carb motor, known as the "torque-less wonder". Lotus styling and handling is what made the Esprit so popular. (The James Bond franchise did not hurt either.)

Bond admiring car I ended up with two Esprit S1 cars. First I purchased the 1977 black S1. It is complete, but right now I am in the middle of getting it running. It has been sitting for approx 10 years; it should be running in the next couple of days. My goal was to restore the 1977 black S1 to a Spy Who Loved Me tribute car. The only difference would be it would be left hand drive. Well, after I closed the deal on the 1977 S1, I caught wind of a 1976 factory white Lotus Esprit S1 for sale. I quickly made a deal on it and now am the proud owner of both. I would like to thank Tony K from Ohio who helped me greatly in getting these projects up and going. Tony is the "Lotus Guru" of the USA!

The 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 is not in running condition; it has been in storage for the last 30 years. It was illegally brought to the US, and became a "grey market car". It’s an all-European spec car, which means it did not have to have the federally mandated safety bumpers and sidelights, it has a greater horsepower motor, and the best feature: right hand drive!

action shot So right now I am going to use the 1977 the get the 1976 up and running. From what I am told and research I have done, they only produced about 10 white exterior and tartan interior 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 cars. For those of you who do not know what tartan is, it is Scottish style plaid interior. The interior of my 1976 has seen better days. I luckily was able to find a man by the name of Nick Fulcher. He is a coach trimmer over in the UK who used to work for Lotus and who did the original interior work on the Spy Who Loved Me Lotus Esprit. Well, cool thing is, he had all the interior I needed to redo the car with exception of the tartan seat inserts. Those are very hard to find, but again as luck would have it I found some of the exact tartan used originally from another individual and was able to purchase enough to trim the car correctly.

My 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 is an early production car because it is a real "gel coat" car which means its finish is just like the white hull of a boat. Only the early cars where produced this way.

Tartan interior Another tidbit of trivia on the car is that there were 9 incarnations of the car used in the movie The Spy Who Loved Me. From what we know, 2 of them were the "hero" cars, which means the ones that were actually used and driven in most of the films shots. Two others were used in different stages, one which was actually air shot off of the pier and into the water, and the other which was waterproofed and pulled out of the water with Roger Moore behind the wheel. The other 5 were shells which were used to create the "Submarine Lotus". From what I know the original main hero car ended up in a museum in the UK right after production wrapped on the movie. The other hero car was sent back to Lotus decommissioned and converted back to original Lotus specs, sent to a dealer, and sold without anyone ever knowing its famous past.

I do not know what happened to the other two "water cars". Well in 2008 the supposed 2nd hero car resurfaced and the auction house, Bonhams, advertised it as the lost James Bond Spy Who Loved Me Esprit, the hammer price was $162,000, and it was purchased by a collector in the US in Atlanta. He wasn’t about to hand over that kind of money sight unseen, of course, so he flew to England to inspect his acquisition. The inspection proved him a wise buyer: the car was a 1977—not a 1976. No way could it be the original movie car. So that other "hero" car is possibly still floating around out there.

Now I have started doing some investigating on my car and noticed some strange things:

  1. there are several unnecessary, drilled mounting holes at the front and rear underneath my car, and
  2. the license plate frame has two holes drilled out behind it where cement gun ports could have been installed.

If you watch the movie, the rear license plate flips down and two machine gun style barrels shoot cement at the windshield of the villain’s car, causing it to crash into a house. Now, I am not saying right now that this is one of the hero cars but a lot of the evidence this car has on it and it having a weird and somewhat secret past sure makes it a candidate. Either way, this car will look the part when finished.


Bond admiring car A friend sent me this rare production photo showing both cars during shooting in Sardinia. Is one of them mine? Note how one is doing double duty as a camera car.

Work in Progress

Here are some pix of the car in the shop.

Moore to come............
(sorry. couldn’t resist)

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