Most car collectors would relish the chance to buy the submarine car prop from a 1970s James Bond film and keep it for their eyes only. But mere ownership is not enough for Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, who wants to make the Hollywood sci-fi dream into a real working vehicle.
The submarine car prop is a car only in name with fins, propellers and no wheels. It represented the working submarine version of several prop vehicles used to depict the Lotus Esprit that served as 007's transforming ride from the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me—a fantastical vision that inspired Musk to secretly buy the vehicle for US $967,120 at auction in September. Musk has now revealed his plans to upgrade his purchase in an attempt to make a vehicle capable of driving on roads as well as traveling underwater, according to USA Today.
"I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform," Musk said in an email to USA Today. "What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."
That sounds like an appropriate side project for Musk, who has made headlines in recent years with his SpaceX private rockets, popular Tesla Motor electric cars, and dream of a "Hyperloop" transportation system that would send passenger pods whizzing along through tubes. The latest news came after he was recently unmasked by Jalopnik.com as the mystery buyer of the 007 prop.
Still, Musk was not the only person to have the idea of turning 007's submersible car into reality—nor will he be the first to make it happen. Swiss designer Rinspeed unveiled its "sQuba" concept car inspired by the James Bond vehicle during the Geneva Auto Show back in 2008.
The sQuba can chug along at 3 kilometers/h underwater at depths of about 10 meters. But its open top design means that passengers must resign themselves to wearing goggles and underwater breathing gear. Perhaps Musk's version of the submersible car will go one better by keeping its passengers dry.
Photo: Tim Scott / RM Auctions
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.