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With the exception of the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 the most famous James Bond car must surely be the white Lotus Esprit which famously featured in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me. The big Lotus chase sequence in that picture immediately made it an iconic vehicle in the world of Bondage with Roger Moore and Barbara Bach involved in an outrageous action sequence involving all manner of mayhem, huge lorries, motorcycle riders ("All those feathers and he still can't fly!"), winding coastal roads, Caroline Munroe flying a machine gun equipped helicopter and Richard Kiel's steel toothed Jaws in dogged pursuit with a collection of baddies and goons. The sequence and the Lotus is best known though for the bit where the car turns into a submarine when it crashes off a jetty into the sea and engages in some underwater action shenanigans before allowing 007 to snoop on Carl Stromberg's Jules Vernesque undersea base. Yes, I must say I miss the days when Bond villains wore a cravat and were intent on taking over the world. I have often wanted to drive a Lotus Esprit out of the water onto a beach and comically hand someone a fish like Roger Moore but short of robbing a bank and being arrested for endangering sunbathers and paddlers the closest I'll get is owning this 1:36 scale range Corgi toy die-cast replica.
These Corgi Bond vehicle replicas are nicely detailed and quite durable and sturdy. It's more of a collectible really but whether this is a gift for someone who is actually going to play with it or merely a purchase by a James Bond collecter to sit on the shelf with the other Corgi Bond vehicles this range is of a high standard. It certainly looks pleasantly nostalgic and fun too on first sight in its see through box. The dimensions of the Underwater Lotus are 30.5 x 38.1 x 7.6 cm and it weighs 454 g. The detail is on the whole impressive with Sub-aquatic fins on the side and Surface to air missiles located in the rear window shutter just like the real thing. A button makes the Sub-aquatic fins pop in and out and the missiles can be made to fly out too - although not to tremendous effect. Sadly they aren't real missiles though because that would be grossly irresponsible. It is possible to lose the missiles if you aren't careful and this feature is probably why the Lotus Underwater replica is recommended for ages 14+ on Corgi's official website. Although I was sorely tempted I obviously would not recommend trying to test this car out in the bath either.
The best thing about owning the Corgi James Bond Lotus Underwater is probably having it alongside the other replicas in this range like the red Ford Mustang Sean Connery drove in Diamonds Are Forever and the Aston Martin replicas from several of the Bond films. This is hailed as the most comprehensive Bond vehicle collection ever by Corgi and James Bond collectors will certainly find this range of interest. The Lotus Underwater retails for about £14 at the moment so isn't the most outrageously expensive purchase anyone will ever make although it will obviously all add up if you are intent on buying more of these as part of a collection. I don't have the Corgi Aston Martin replica Pierce Brosnan drove in Die Another Day but it would be really impressive I think if that could turn invisible like it did in the film. I would take my hat off to Corgi if they included an invisibility option with that or ever had a stab at the amphibious Venetian gondola that converts into a hovercraft from Moonraker!
I think there is something about the Cubby Broccoli era of James Bond though that lends itself more to collectibles/toys with their fantastical larger than life approach and gadgetry where each new film tried to outdo the previous one. The Underwater Lotus is a prime example of the enjoyably daft largesse that typified the old Bond films and owning a toy replica car that old misery guts Daniel Craig drove for about five minutes in one of his charmless Jason Bourne clones just wouldn't feel the same really as a replica of a car that Roger Moore drove in The Spy Who Loved Me - and underwater no less. It is of course rather difficult to sharply replicate the high-tech gadgetry of the real thing with something this small but the detail is good and it's obvious that a great deal of care and affection for the source has gone into this model. The Lotus also includes Sub-aquatic propellers and a little number plate. The black grill style shutters over the windows are quite nice too and double up as a cheese grater.
The Lotus Esprit Underwater is a fun little collectible/toy and just looking at it evokes funky seventies Bond music by Marvin Hamlisch and Roger Moore dispensing quips and karate chops in a blazer and a pair of cream flares. It does make you feel like adding some more of these to the collection once you have one or two of these and the Corgi range of Bond vehicles is a good one on the whole. Although the toy is well made and can be whizzed up and down the hall as you pretend to be chased by a buxom Caroline Munro in a helicopter it obviously won't hold up forever if handled too roughly or sent in the general direction of a wall or something. I would also not recommend trying to recreate the moment when the Lotus is propelled off the jetty in Sardinian waters as tempting as it might be to try. I like these Corgi Bond cars and I think James Bond collectors would certainly find them interesting and enjoyable. I'm not sure if they would ever have any great value like some collectibles you can pick up but they are fun to own and you do have the added option of adding more of these to your set from the Corgi range.