Jay Leno And James Bond Both Love These Classic Sports Cars

Jay Leno is a standup comedian and Tonight Show host. James Bond is a surly secret agent with a license to kill. You might think they have nothing in common, but both of them love cars. Here are two classic sports cars that both James Bond and Jay Leno love–neither of which is an Aston Martin.

1966 Toyota 2000GT: The Most Collectible Japanese Car of All Time

In 1967’s You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery’s James Bond arrives in Tokyo and teams up with a Japanese agent named Aki. She picks him up in her Toyota 2000GT convertible. She even drives the fast car in nail-biting chases through the city’s streets. The only catch is that Toyota never made a 2000GT convertible.

When Eon Productions decided the fifth James Bond film would be set in Japan, they wanted to put the secret agent in a Japanese sports car. The production team contacted Toyota and the automaker was eager to offer a 2000GT for the movie. But they had a problem: At 6’2″ tall, Sean Connery had to hunch to sit in the low coupe. Because it would be unseemly for the world’s most recognizable secret agent to hunch, Toyota sliced the roof off two 2000GTs to make unique convertibles for the movie. After filming, Eon Productions brought one car back to England, but it disappeared and never resurfaced. In 1977, Toyota bought the other car from a private collector to display in their museum.

In 2012, Jay Leno visited Toyota’s Automobile Museum and the manufacturer offered him a drive in the only remaining 2000GT. Jay Leno was starstruck by James Bond’s sports car. He swooned over the nimble convertible and admitted, “I waited fifty years to drive this car!”

1977 Lotus Espirit S1: One of Jay Leno and James Bond’s Favorite Sports Cars

One of the most memorable moments of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me came when James Bond is being chased by villainous Naomi in her helicopter. He drives his 1977 Lotus Espirit S1 off a dock, to the shock of his passenger–Major Anya Amasova–and it transforms into a submersible. 

In the movie, the vehicle was a Q-Branch invention named “Wet Nellie.” The futuristic Lotus Espirit was the perfect car for this flashy gadget. But without a push from Lotus, the Espirit would have never been James Bond’s car in the first place.

The Story Behind 007’s Submarine: Wet Nellie

1977: Barbara Bach and Roger Moore, stars of the James Bond film 'The Spy Who Loved Me' leaning on the now-famous 'amphibious' Lotus Esprit. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images). This is a classic sports car both James Bond and Jay Leno love.
Barbara Bach and Roger Moore and the ‘amphibious’ Lotus Esprit. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to James Bond lore, Eon Productions was struggling to get Roger Moore’s Bond out of Sean Connery’s shadow. They changed Bond’s drink of choice and favorite smoke. They shifted the writing to give him a different sense of humor and dressed him differently. Don McLauchlan, Lotus’s Head of Public Relations saw an opening. He knew James Bond drove Aston Martins–but that was Sean Connery’s bond.

McLauchlan had all the badges removed from a Lotus Espirit, then he parked it outside Eon Productions. He hid and waited for the produces and staff to notice the striking sports car. Once a crowd had gathered, trying to identify the vehicle, McLauchlan emerged to strike a deal.

Today, Elon Musk owns the Lotus Espirit submersible prop used in The Spy Who Loved Me. The Tesla founder loves the movie submarine and plans to make it into a functional aquatic car.

Jay Leno has a soft sport for James Bond’s famous sports car. When Jay Leno heard about a one-family Lotus Espirit, maintained and modify by Detlef and Jason Claudius, he asked the duo to bring their car onto his show. When Jay learned that Detlef had been a certified Lotus technician and updated nearly every aspect of his Series 1 Lotus Espirit, he was full of questions. The Claudius family had upgraded everything from later rims to a more powerful 2.2-liter turbo engine, even installing aftermarket air-conditioning. Jay was impressed and concluded, “Boy, you’ve really updated it.”

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