Tesla’s Cybertruck was inspired by this ’70s Bond submarine movie car

According to another of Elon Musk’s Twitter revelations, the polarizing look of the Tesla Cybertruck was partly inspired by the Lotus Esprit-based submarine car from the Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me. Of course, Musk bought the actual movie car and has promised to endow it with a Tesla drivetrain.

Musk bought the Bond submarine-car back in 2013 after a building contractor and his wife uncovered it in a Long Island storage shed—a shed they had just bought along with its contents for $100. The contractor hadn’t even seen The Spy Who Loved Me, CNBC reports; not until truckers hailed the couple via CB radio as they trailered the car home did he realize the car’s identity. RM Sotheby’s listed the car in September of 2013 and Elon Musk brought it home for close to $1 million.

“It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button, and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real,” Musk told Jalopnik. Musk’s conversion would, it turns out, likely apply to the movie car’s road-going capability; this particular Esprit starred exclusively in the underwater scenes.

007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' front head on
007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' Tim Scott / RM Auctions
007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' rear view
007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' Tim Scott / RM Auctions

007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' front 3/4
007 Lotus Esprit 'Submarine Car' Tim Scott / RM Auctions

Musk isn’t shy of co-opting some movie street cred, if the many Blade Runner references in the Cybertruck’s debut are any indication. From a filmmaker’s perspective (for marketing reasons, especially), adding slinky sports cars to any action movie is a proven strategy. The Bond movies, in particular, have lent even multi-million dollar bonuses to their most famous movie cars.

Other British manufacturers have snuck in screen time in Bond films, as well—in 2015’s Spectre was the stillborn Jaguar CX-75, replicas of which were manufactured for filming and up at RM Sotheby’s Abu Dhabi auction this year. In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, it was the Lotus Esprit—albeit one outfitted with fins instead of wheels, and sporting four electric motors housed in a watertight casing and powering quad propellers. However, Musk’s Cybertruck hardly profits by the comparison to the most elegant wedge of the ‘70s. Just add ugly, and comparison becomes obvious.

Both designs feature rising waistlines and a cabin shoved almost over the front axle. The Esprit’s and the Cybertruck’s C-pillars cut down nearly perpendicular to the vehicle’s waistline to form a trapezoidal cabin silhouette. The proportions of the front and rear overhangs, however, are nearly opposite. The Esprit shoves its nose far forward, door-stop-style; the Cybertruck, as a purportedly off-road truck and not a sports car, features a chopped-off nose. But they’re both pointy in places, and that’s apparently all Musk took away from the Esprit’s elegantly minimalist design. Clearly he didn’t draw inspiration from the classy DB5… or its bulletproof glass.

Tesla Cybertruck

Should Musk succeed in converting his Bond-submarine car to Tesla power—presumably, a road-going drivetrain to supplements its propellor-spec—the truck and the sub may share some actual hardware. We’re guessing the Cybertruck won’t follow the sub-car into the sea without some significant waterproofing—but, unlike with the fiberglass-bodied Esprit, ballast shouldn’t be an issue. 

For now, though, the two radical designs share space in the Twitter-verse and advertise Musk’s fascination with all things out of the box. Sort of.

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