|To Find A Spy(car)|
Rumors. The best way I know of to get started. If it wasn't for persistent rumors about discarded James Bond film props I don't know where I'd be.
In this case, it started about 1988. I'd heard that one of the Lotus Esprit submarine cars from "The Spy Who Loved Me" was still down in the Bahamas. Exactly where in the Bahamas I wasn't sure. All I had to go on was that some tourists had driven past it one night, and the cab driver told them it was one of the actual submarine cars from the film. As it later turned out, it was a very important Lotus used for the "gadget" shots.
After filming on TSWLM had finished, Cubby Broccoli asked Mr. Roberts of Roberts Used Car Lot & Scrap Metal Co. Ltd. if he would like to keep this particular car, as a momento from the film. (Mr. Roberts had supplied the cranes used to raise and lower all the film's equipment into and out of the ocean each day.) As you might have guessed already, Roberts said yes.
When I finally confirmed that the Lotus was indeed still there, I located a man named Donald Griffin.He was working for a company called Perry Technologies at the time, so I rang him up. Donald was the stunt driver of the motorized Lotus one sees underwater during the film. I thought, what better person could there be to take with me to confirm the car's authenticity. We spoke and he agreed to go along as long if I paid the airfare, hotel, and meals. I said I would, so off we went in mid-July 1992.
Upon arriving into the Bahamas, we were faced with one of the hottest days I have ever endured. It was 115 degrees, and as still as a rock. We made our way through the airport and got a taxi to take us to the Roberts car lot. Mr. Roberts had passed away several years prior, so his widow Rosie was expecting us.
As we wound our way through the narrow dirt roads, I began to wonder how in the hell I would ever get the damn thing out of the country, if it was still in one piece. I couldn't imagine how it had ever found its way into the back roads of such a deserted place. As we turned the last tight corner and began to slow down, I saw a small hand-painted sign which read "Roberts Used Cars". We pulled into the stone drive, drove about 75 yards past a small single-story house and through a wire gate hanging as if it were ready for the scrap pile itself. As we came to a stop and sent the taxi driver back on his merry way, I noticed that Don and I were the only two people around. This was not good; I began to ask myself what had I gotten us into.
We walked over to a building which looked like it could possibly be an office of some kind, and went through the door. Inside we were met by a young man named Tony, who couldn't have been nicer. He got us a cold beverage and asked if we had any trouble finding the place. I wanted to say "what place, where the hell are we?" I managed to restrain myself, and told him all we told the driver was that we were looking for the car lot that had the 007 car. He knew immediately where to take us.
As it turned out, the car was sort of a national treasure on the island. This is probably why Rosie always said NO to anyone who asked about buying the car. I asked to see Rosie and was informed that she wouldn't be back in the country until after 10:00 that night. I about died when I heard that news. Don and I had to leave early the next morning, and I couldn't imagine coming to some kind of agreement over the phone. So be it, I thought. I asked if I could finally see the car we had traveled so far to see. Tony looked dumfounded. "Didn't you see the car when you pulled in?" I thought to myself, how in God's name did I miss it? I said, no, we must have been talking when we drove up. He turned and pointed to a patch of overgrown weeds about three feet tall. "It's right there. Can't you see it"? Don and I walked down the lane and up to what Tony had pointed to.
I couldn't believe what I was looking at! Right then I thought the whole trip was a waste of time and money! We had failed. Under all the grass and weeds and bugs and bees was what looked like a red smashed-up Chevy Camaro strung with colored Christmas tree lights.
After Tony had walked away, Don and I began to piece the puzzle together. We both agreed it was the gadget car, and not the motorized car he had driven. I guess at that point I began to feel a little better about the situation and wondered how I could convince Rosie that we wanted to buy the car and put it back together. We finished inspecting the car and walked back to the office where Tony had retreated from the heat. Inside it was at that point Tony turned and looked me in the eyes and said, "do you want to look at the other one now"?
You could have heard a pin drop. My first thought was we were about to see a beautiful Lotus sitting inside a well-protected shed with all its glory still intact. I couldn' t have been more wrong. As we walked farther into the recesses of the junkyard, I got this sick feeling I was about to see another wonderful treasure left for dead. Up on top of an old milk truck sat what looked like a white something-or-other. I wasn't quite sure of what I was looking at. I climbed up to get a closer look.
Sure enough, it was another gadget car from the film. This was the one you see retract its wheels and close the shields which then push out the dive rudders. It had a small close-up part in the film but none the less it was one of the original cars. I didn't think it was worth sending all the way back to the states, so I asked if I could just have a few parts from the car. Tony agreed, and I decided to put this car out of my mind. I had enough to worry about as far as how to get the other one out of the country. Don and I said our goodbyes and called a taxi. I told Tony I would call Rosie later that night and we would negotiate if indeed she would agree to sell.
At around 10:00 that evening, Don and I were at the casino when I decided to make my first call to Rosie. I called and was told she had just gotten home, could I call back in ten minutes. I said yes and went back to the blackjack table for a while. Ten minutes later, I rang again and Rosie answered. Without hesitation, she said she had to have a good price or she would not sell. We made small talk for a while and at that point I told her I had to call the company in Boston that was backing us, to see what kind of offer they were willing to make. I called Reed Exhibitions with my thoughts and told them I thought $2000 was all it was worth at that point. They said okay, so I proceeded to call Rosie back with the offer.
When I rang her back for the third time she sounded very tired. I felt this was it; either she was going to say yes to the offer, or tell me just to forget it. When I made the $2000 offer she hesitated a moment, as if she were remembering all the stories that went along with the car in her front yard. All the tourists that would pass by, and ask about what they had just seen all lit up with Christmas lights. After what seemed minutes Rosie said we could have it, as long as I would promise to put it back together the way it was when she first saw it. I promised, and made the return call to Boston a few minutes later.
The next day as Don and I were about to leave, I called Tony once more to remind him not to forget the parts from the "milk truck" Lotus. It was a big surprise to hear that Rosie told him to get the car down and pack it along with the car we had just bought. As it turns out, we got both cars for $2000!
Back home in my office, I kept tabs on the cars on a daily basis. It was frustrating to hear that the US Customs would not release the cars to our restorers because of the weeds, bugs, and God knows what-all that had come over inside the cars. I told them to just have someone clean them out so we could get to work restoring the car for our fall debut in Boston. We had less than six weeks to completely refurbish this car and ship it to the show in Boston. The opening date was Halloween! How appropriate.
I had made arrangements with Mike Staehle of Submersible Systems Technology before I left for the Bahamas to get ready for a major undertaking. We were going to need his entire crew to work around the clock to see this task completed. He informed me that my timing was perfect because he would be between projects and had the time to devote to getting the job done. I sent all the diagrams I had along with what I wanted to see done with the car. I told Mike to call me only if he ran into trouble. I had become stressed out at this point and wanted nothing more to do with this car until it was finished.
Weeks later I flew to Boston several days prior to the shows opening to make sure our other vehicles were in good shape. We had a total of five, not counting the Lotus.
The day before the show was to open to the media, I received a call from Mike at Submersible Systems telling me that the car should be there any time. He told me something else I will never forget. He said we had to make sure we used soft cloths to push the car around with because the beautiful white Lotus paint job which now adorned the car wasn't even dry yet!
When the call came in that the truck was backing up to the loading dock, and that they wanted me to be the first to open the doors, I couldn t stop my knees from shaking. I was so nervous, excited, apprehensive, and just plan scared; not knowing what to expect.
As the doors came open and I could see the back of the car, tears started to roll down my face. Here was what I had hoped to see on my trip to the island. This unbelievable automobile that flew off the pier and became this fantastic underwater sensation. A car to rival even the Aston-Martin from "Goldfinger". It was back. And this time the public was going to be able to stand next to it, to really appreciate what they were seeing.
Mike had outdone himself. The car was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Everything had been put back to its original condition. After I stopped sobbing like a little boy who had just gotten his long lost puppy back, I made sure everyone knew just how delicate the car was. We needed to make sure it was now treated with the respect it truly deserved. You won't find Christmas tree lights on this baby ever again!!
Hopefully someday soon these vehicle will be displayed for all to see here in the United States.
I'd like to end by informing all of you who read this web page that you can now order James Bond checks for your personal or business checking accounts. A company called Deluxe Corporation, which any major bank will be familiar with, can order these 007 checks for you. They show great scenes from seven different Bond films on each check. You can also add different sayings to the check fronts as well. The check books come in different styles with the 007 gunbarrel logo. To find out more about this wonderful product contact your local bank. If your bank does not carry Deluxe, search until you find one that does. Good hunting.
Always remember: "The World Is Not Enough"