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Elon Musk has become one of the most controversial celebrities, especially in the automotive world. He’s responsible for designing the Tesla Cybertruck, an oddball of a pickup that promises segment-leading towing capacity and speed. While some say the Cybertruck looks futuristic, others think it’s a downright eyesore.

So what might those haters say if they knew that the Cybertruck was modeled after a classic James Bond vehicle? CNBC shares that the Cybertruck’s design pays homage to a prop version of the Lotus Esprit. What made this car special enough for Elon Musk to drop $1 million on it?

The story behind the James Bond submarine car called “Wet Nellie”

The white James Bond submarine car in front of a blue display indoors.
James Bond submarine car | Getty Images

The modified Esprit made its appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted in 1977. The car surprised first-time watchers because it could be converted into a submarine at the push of a button. HotCars says eight Lotus Esprits were used in the film, but only one had amphibious qualities.

No, it’s not a post-production effect: this Lotus Esprit was modified to function as a mini-submarine. Four propellers were installed into the Esprit’s rear tray, operated by electric motors. The Esprit could only be propelled forward, and its brakes were removed. For added safety, twin mirrors were added so the driver could see the ocean floor.

All of these modifications cost a little more than $100,000. The crew named the Esprit “Wet Nellie” during filming. The car was driven by a retired Navy SEAL named Don Griffin in the underwater scenes.

Can you spot the similarities?

Boss Hunting shows us that the Lotus Esprit could pass as a smaller Cybertruck shadow. The shape of the windows looks eerily similar, and both body shells taper off toward the end. The only difference is that the Esprit has a tapered nose while the Cybertruck has a tapered rear.

The Lotus Esprit also shares a slim headlight bar with the Cybertruck, though Tesla’s design is more modern. Compared to the rounded designs we see in many cars today, both cars also have sharper angles.

Elon Musk actually owns the James Bond submarine car

Years after falling in love with Wet Nellie, Elon was able to purchase the car at an auction. Even though it’s nonfunctional, Autoblog reports that the car was sold for $997,000. If you can believe it, the couple that offered Wet Nellie for sale only paid $100 for it.

In 1989, the couple purchased a storage unit at a clearance sale without knowing its contents. The old Lotus Esprit was discovered under a pile of blankets, where it had been resting for twelve years. The couple had never even seen the movie where it appeared, so they had no idea of its value.

After other drivers informed them of the car’s history, the couple organized a complete cosmetic restoration for Wet Nellie. Before it was put up for auction, the couple showcased the vehicle at special exhibits, as seen on Avtotatchki. Since they weren’t car collectors, they eventually decided to sell the vehicle at RM Sotheby’s.

Elon Musk won the auction in 2013, and it has been part of his car collection ever since. After seeing the film, Elon wasn’t the only one enamored with Wet Nellie. In the 70s, Lotus Esprit’s sales increased to the point where it had a three-year waiting list.

An actual Lotus Esprit has no hidden water-fording abilities, but Elon Musk teases that the Cybertruck just might. He also has plans to turn Wet Nellie into a functioning amphibious car in real life, complete with a Tesla motor. With his billions of dollars and innovative design techniques, we wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility.


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