Wet Nellie

Wet Nellie[2] is a custom-built submarine, created for the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me in the shape of a Lotus Esprit S1 sports car.[3] The Esprit was chosen to give James Bond a glamorous car to drive. "Wet Nellie" is named in reference to Little Nellie, an autogyro featured in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice,[4] which was itself named after actress and comedian Nellie Wallace.[5]

Not to be confused with the bread pudding Wet Nelly.
Wet Nellie
Name: Wet Nellie
Namesake: Little Nellie
Owner: Elon Musk (since 2013)
Ordered: 1976
Builder: Perry Oceanographic, Inc.[1]
Cost: $100,000
Laid down: 1976
Launched: 1976
Sponsored by: Eon Productions
Completed: 1976
Acquired: 2013
Commissioned: 1976
Maiden voyage: 1976
In service: 1976
General characteristics
Class and type: Customized Lotus Esprit
Type: Wet sub
Length: 14 feet (4.3 m)
Beam: 6 feet (1.8 m)
Height: 4 feet (1.2 m)
Propulsion: 4 electric motors
Capacity: 2
Crew: 2


The submarine does not maintain a dry interior, and thus is a "wet sub" that requires occupants to don scuba gear.[6] It was built by Perry Oceanographic, Inc., of Riviera Beach, Florida, United States,[7] specifically for the film, using a Lotus Esprit S1 bodyshell, for about $100,000 at the time.[8] The wedge shape of the Esprit is designed to provide downforce, so would force the submarine to dive, so was compensated for by fins placed where the wheels would be in a conventional Esprit. The sub requires a crew of two to operate. It has four electric motors that allowed forward motion only.[3] The interior bears no resemblance to that of a car, being just a platform for the scuba divers, and the equipment used to operate, drive, and power the sub.[4]


During filming of "The Spy Who Loved Me", the submarine was piloted by ex-U.S. Navy SEAL Don Griffin.[8] The fictional history of the car in the film was that it was developed by Q-Branch, and its blueprints were stolen by KGB agent Anya Amasova. In filming, six Esprits were used (tagged "PPW 306R"), though only one submarine.[3] Three of the Esprits were just empty bodyshells which were used to show each phase of the car-to-submarine transformation. Two unpowered dummy cars fitted with wheels were used to show the Esprit entering and emerging from the sea; the first was designed to be fired from an air cannon off the end of the pier, the second was towed by a rope buried under the beach with a sweeping brush fitted to the underside to cover the rope up as the car was tugged out. When an additional road car was needed for the chase sequences the producers borrowed Lotus chairman Colin Chapman's personal vehicle.

Post-film life

Upon completion of filming, the submarine went on a promotional tour.[4] Afterwards, it was shipped to Long Island, New York, and placed in storage. The storage unit was prepaid for 10 years; at the end of the lease, no one claimed the contents, so the contents of the storage locker were placed on auction. The buyer paid less than $100 for the unit.[4][8] The buyers did not know the contents when they bought it, and from 1989 to 2013 occasionally exhibited the submarine.[8] The then owner, also owner of a tool rental shop, had the exterior restored.[4] It was put up for auction as a Bond Car in 2013.[8] In September 2013, the submarine sold at auction for £550,000,[9] at RM Auctions in Battersea, south west London.[6] Elon Musk bought the vehicle, and as of 2013, planned to convert it into the functional car-submarine from the film.[10] Musk stated that he plans to use Tesla Motors' electric drive train in making his conversion a reality.[11]

See also


  1. http://www.perrybaromedical.com/company-history.html Perry Baromedical Corporation is a successor company to Perry Oceanographic, Inc., although it no longer builds submarines.
  2. The Telegraph (India), "Bond’s 'Wet Nellie' car sold", Reuters, 10 September 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  3. Auto Evolution (ae), "Wet Nellie: The Second Most Famous Bond Car", Alex Oagana, 9 May 2011 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  4. The Telegraph (London), "Inside James Bond's Lotus supersub", Leo Wilkinson, 12 August 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  5. Places & Faces, "The Name's Wallis" (accessed 2013-12-12)
  6. THM Magazine, "James Bond’s “Wet Nellie” Hits Nearly $1 Million at Auction", Matt Gergeni, 10 September 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  7. The Telegraph (London), "Billionaire Elon Musk admits he bought James Bond's submarine car", Chris Irvine, 18 October 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  8. autoblog, "James Bond Lotus Esprit submarine car headed to auction [w/video]", John Neff, 28 June 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  9. London24, "Bond submarine car ‘Wet Nellie’ goes for £550,000 at Battersea auction house", 10 September 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  10. USA Today, "Tesla's Elon Musk buys 007's sub to make it real", Chris Woodyard, 18 October 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)
  11. CNBC, "Tesla's Elon Musk wants to make sub car a reality", Paul A. Eisenstein, 18 October 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)

Further reading

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