Bond’s Best Cars: Lotus Esprit S1

Cars are as essential to the James Bond mythos as are tuxedos, beautiful women, exotic locations and shaken (not stirred) vodka martinis. From Aston Martins to BMWs to Mustangs, Bond knows how to get somewhere in style. But it’s not just the aesthetic that counts when it comes to cars for 007, what’s on the inside counts as well. Over the course of the next few articles we’ll be ranking some of the best cars of the Bond movies, but judging them solely on how well equipped they came courtesy of Q.

The next car featured is both a car and … something more.

Lotus Esprit S1

No one can quite decide on which of Roger Moore’s James Bond films are the best. This is likely because most of his James Bond films are pretty bad to one degree or another. Sure, some of them have some redeeming elements here and there, some moments of pure camp enjoyment you won’t get anywhere else but overall he just wasn’t that great of a replacement for Sean Connery.

That said, when there’s genuinely good material in his films it’s often some of the most. Take The Spy Who Loved Me, for instance. Like most Roger Moore Bond flicks it’s silly and campy. But it has arguably the best opening theme song in the entire franchise. Carly Simon’s wistful and cooing rendition of Nobody Does It Better is absolute perfection.

Likewise, one of the best and most memorable cars in the Bond Canon is the 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 that Q Division prepares for Bond’s escapades.

Taken on its own, the Esprit S1 is a formidable pocket rocket of a car. It’s only got a 4-cylinder engine, but it’s quick and agile, able to get up and go before the bad guys know what’s what. It’s a sleek little package and it’d be a fitting car for Bond, even if all he had was what was under the hood.

Thankfully, however, Q’s imagination is always vivid and thusly we get one of Bond’s most thoroughly outfitted cars ever. As far as weaponry is concerned, this is definitely a force to be reckoned with. In it’s standard driving mode, it mostly just has rear-mounted jets that spray concrete (of all things) onto pursuing vehicles. But when it becomes a submersible (that’s right, a SUBMARINE CAR) is when the Esprit becomes truly dangerous. The rear deck is equipped with a surface-to-air missile launcher. It can release a stream of dye to obfuscate the vision of pursuers. Contact mines can be released from the bottom of the vehicle, while dual torpedo launchers are found tucked between the car’s headlamps.

As for the film’s actual chase scene, it’s far from elaborate but it has some fun elements. When the first major beat is a motorcycle rider firing a rocket-propelled sidecar bomb at Bond, you know you’re in for a good time. However, given that most of the car’s capabilities are suited for when the car is submerged, once Bond careens the car off a pier is when the action really gets fun.

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