The Car Which Defined Roger Moore in the Mind of a Young Boy from the Wirral
If any car was more closely associated with a movie star than a certain white Lotus Esprit S1 (complete with the Submarinal options pack fitted, and as showcased in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’) was with the now – sadly - late, great Sir Roger Moore, then I’m yet to be politely reminded of it. And that’s taking into account the stunning copper-hued Esprit Turbo which Sir Roger also Moore than ably made his cinematic own in 1981’s 007 franchise follow-up entitled, ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Incidentally, the S1 Esprit can be distinguished from later Esprits (inc. the above) by a shovel-style front air dam, Fiat X1/9 tail lights, lack of body-side ducting and Wolfrace alloy wheels. Just sayin’.
OK, there will be others out there (at least, those of a particular 70s/80s childhood) who will suggest that the equally revered likes of the David Hasslehoff-back-chatting K.I.T.T and the Bo and/or Luke Duke-steering General Lee deserve a look in when compiling such a one horse race/list. But I don’t really care for these people, as today (and this specific blog entry) is dedicated to the man, the actor, the character and the car which made my own youth that little bit more exciting. Give ot take 1 1970s'-spec Barbara Bach.
Naturally enough there’ll also be the purists who might argue that Moore’s Volvo P1 (or rather, his character, Simon Templar’s, from The Saint) might be slightly more deserving of the accolade of the one vehicle which defined Roger Moore’s movie car-eer more than any other; if indeed, that title had to be in some way, shape or automotive form proven. But again, I beg to differ. Plus, as far as I can recall, an arched eyebrow never made an appearance in the cockpit of the aforementioned sports coupe of Scandinavian origins; despite Moore oozing a similar degree of cool (yet with a little less tongue-in-cheek-ness).
The Spy We All Loved....
Nope, the East Anglian-born-and-bred S1 Esprit was the precise place where Moore’s resilient eyebrow, the aforementioned Barbara Bach and a rogue fish would temporarily reside, and therein the ONE place any young adolescent boy within this silver screen timeframe (thanks to perpetual repeats of Moore’s 007 outings throughout the following decade) would willingly exchange their stash of Sherbit dib-dabs for in a heartbeat. Which I did; kinda. You see, I owned a fully-functioning scale model of the exact same white Lotus Esprit when I was getting to grips with my formative years (please see Fig.1 beneath). Although I never ascertained just how many metres said toy car could be submerged to without corroding. Unlike my Seiko wristwatch, which clearly stated water-resistant for 250 metres, yet which I unceremoniously dispatched to a watery grave in my bath less than a week after it was gifted to me.
Of course, while the uniquely amphibious aspect/nature comprised the greatest sum part of Moore’s S1 total, ‘Wet Nellie’ (as the vehicle was affectionately known as) had a few more automotively-impressive tricks up her sleeve than merely wheel arches which metamorphosized into fins on introduction to H20; and a small periscope sighted on the roof (essentially enabling 007 to navigate at speed underwater). This highly tooled-up car also brandished spray cement-deploying canons, a missile launched from its rear deck, mines, sprayed black dye and torpedoes fired from the front grille; to concur, a veritable raft of state-of-the-art in-car gadgetry - dreamt up by Q - described in individual detail beneath.
• Cement sprayer — Concealed behind the rear registration plate are four nozzles, two of which spray cement in order to blind pursuers (Did you know? The effect was achieved using grey oatmeal)
• Submersible Mode — The Esprit's most talked about feature, and the one for which it is best remembered, was its ability to transform into a two-man submersible (Did you know? The underwater car was portrayed by a combination of an empty Esprit body shell – complete with two divers inside - and scale miniatures of the vehicle)
• Surface-to-air missiles - When in full aquatic mode, the Esprit could employ surface-to-air missiles to deal with enemy aircraft overhead. To this very day, it remains unclear as to whether or not this functionality was viable while the vehicle was on land
• Black dye slick — Comparable to the abovementioned cement jets, the Esprit was capable of dispensing a think black dye to blind underwater pursuers
• Mines - Another exclusively submarine weapon, contact mines could be jettisoned via a small port located beneath the car
• Torpedoes - The car could fire small, highly explosive torpedoes from a flip-up array located between the Esprit’s headlights
While earlier this very year, we tragically learned of what had become of Sir Roger himself (RIP, James), it wasn’t until I facilitated ‘the Google’ (as me mam refers to it as, making it sound akin to the Ark of the Covenant or something) that I discovered that the actual movie Esprit – Wet Nellie herself – was now in the ownership of a certain Elon Musk. Yup, him of Tesla fame and fortune and the very same bloke who’s promised to take us all on holiday to Mars in a few years from now; having purchased it back in 2013. Ah well, not the happiest of endings all round, but an ending nevertheless. At least in Roger’s case we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that NOBODY did ANYTHING better than he of arched eyebrow.