James Bond & Lotus

James Bond and Lotus


The editors were very aware of the Lotus connection with the James Bond franchise and had long planned an article drawing upon the product placement connection [see A&R articles on Product Placement /The Avengers and The Prisoner].
However with the celebration of the launch and exhibition at the Barbican the opportunity has been taken to explore the subject in a little more detail. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond.

Statistics suggest that one quarter of the world’s population have seen at least seven James Bond films. [See some box office details given below]. This is phenomenal exposure and hence the privilege to appear and resultant sales opportunity. Bond reaches the audience demographics sought by FI sponsors. In this article we will explore in general the role of car in film and specifically look at the impact and consequence on the Lotus Esprit.

Ian Fleming

Ian Flemming was British .He was born in 1908. He was educated at Eton and later became a journalist and banker. Interestingly he traveled in Russia in the 1930’s with all the background on intrigue, double dealing and the lead up to the Second World War.
Flemming completed military service in British Naval Intelligence from 1939 and was later promoted to Commander. Not just an intellectual he also headed up a Commando Squadron.
In later life he bought a property and settled in Jamaica, where he wrote many of the James Bond books. In 1953 “Casino Royale” was published and it was a modest success.
Ian Flemming died in 1964.

James Bond and Popular Culture

James Bond was a fictional character created by Ian Flemming. It has been suggested that the Bond figure was partly based on Ian Flemming’s experiences character, taste and looks. Double-O- Seven [007] was portrayed as British secret agent/ Intelligence Officer with a devil may care attitude to life. MI6 and On Her Majesty Secret Service employed him. The character portrayal was representative of Post War Britain when a new action hero was perhaps needed. Bond is also used as a “barometer of early 20c culture”. Plot lines have been used to reflect the dynamics of world geo-politics since the Cold War. Some harsh critics would suggest the character as very much two dimensional and pandering to:

  • Escapism
  • Patriotism bordering on jingoism
  • Overtly macho, sexist and male fantasy indulgent
  • Promoting a consumer society
  • Paying homage to possibly outdated ideologies or excessively exaggerating
  • I.e. Sex, spies, style, stunts and stereotypes

Some would contest that the Bond films are formulistic and they have predictable contents which includes:

  • Missions
  • Gadgets
  • Cars & vehicles
  • Legendary villains
  • Exotic locations
  • Glamorous Bond girls
  • Props/Sets/stunts, special effects
  • Costume/ clothes
  • Theme music and posters etc
  • Tradition and modernity

However the success of the Bond films has been attributed to:

  • Their durability
  • Appeal to popular culture
  • Universal appeal
  • The survivor [adaptability / flexibility, technology updated etc]
  • Internationally cosmopolitan
  • Reinterpretation of goodies and badies broadly painted and easily identified
  • Contemporary forward looking technological twist

The first of the film franchise commenced with Dr.No in 1962. This action drama was accompanied by memorable theme song and musical accompaniment. An indication of the success was the imitation. James Bond spawned or influenced:

  • The Man from UNCLE
  • Matt Helm
  • Derek Flint
  • I Spy
  • Harry Palmer
  • Mission Impossible
  • Danger Man [see Patrick McGoohan &AR article on The Prisoner]

Product Placement: Guns, Gadgets and Gismos
Excusing the pun the franchise has become a vehicle and showcase of product placement. Manufactures vie for exposure but certain technologies are emerging and there is slightly science fiction content. Some of he most famous items include:

  • Walther PPK 7.65mm [& P99]
  • Attaché case
  • Folding snipers rifle
  • Wrist watch [Rolex, Omega Sea master and Seiko]
  • Geiger watch [Breitling]
  • Camera tape recorder
  • Mini breathing device
  • Bell-Textron jet pack
  • Underwater camera and propulsion devices
  • Vodka
  • “Little Nellie” portable mini helicopter [gyrocopter /auto gyro]
  • MinoxB camera
  • Moon buggy
  • Dirt bike
  • Piton gun
  • Glastron GT 150 speed boat
  • Hang glider
  • Cigarette case X ray machine
  • Mini camera
  • Radio watch
  • 3 D visual identigraph
  • Acrostar Mini jet/ micro light
  • Camera ring
  • Dentonite toothpaste
  • Parker pen
  • Bondola
  • The Ice dragster
  • Flip phone
  • Bombadier Skidoo [snow bike]

The Box Office.

The Spy Who Loved Me is believed to have taken a UK box office of £10.29 and attendance was estimated at 12.46m .It was number one film in 1977.
The TV premier is estimated to have been watched by over 20m viewers.

James Bond Box Office Statistics etc
US release Title Star US No ticket WorldW’Gr’


“The Spy…” Roger Moore 21.0million $202.7

The Actors
Each of the actors have been able to “interpret” the role. Many students of popular culture might acknowledge that Bond has reflected societies values and that the ongoing portrayals constantly evolve and mirror changing world geo-politics. The primary actors include:

  • Sean Connery
  • George Lazenby
  • Roger Moore
  • Timothy Dalton
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Daniel Craig

The Bond Films Include:

  • Dr.No
  • From Russia With Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Thunderball
  • You Only Live Twice
  • On Her Majesty Secret Service
  • Diamonds are For ever
  • Live and Let Die
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Moonraker
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Octopussy
  • A View to Kill
  • The Living Daylights
  • Licence to Kill
  • Golden Eye
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The World is not Enough
  • Die Another Day
  • Casino Royale
  • Quantum of Solace
  • Skyfall [due 2012]

The Bond Cars [brief selection – driven or appeared]

  • Sunbeam Alpine
  • Aston Martin Vanquish
  • Aston Martin DBS V12
  • Aston Martin DBS
  • Aston Martin V8
  • Aston martin DB5 [Reg.No. BMT 216A]
  • Aston martin Volante
  • Lotus Esprit
  • BMW Z Roadster
  • BMW 750iL
  • Moonbuggy
  • AMC Hornet X

The Aston Martin DB5 [Goldfinger]
The plot line to the film was that Bond had to investigate a gold smuggler .He was given by Q Branch an Aston Martin DB5. It was equipped with an arsenal of gadgets and defence mechanisms. For many this is the most iconic of cars to appear on film. Its specification included:

  • Machine Guns
  • Bumper rams
  • Revolving No. plate
  • Tyre scythes
  • Bullet proof screen and windows
  • Caltrop dispensers
  • Oil jet pipes
  • Smoke screen pipe
  • Dashboard map navigation
  • Passenger ejector seat
  • Gun draw under drivers seat
  • Radiotelephone.

Nb classic merchandising was the Airfix kit with features mentioned above.

The Spy Who Loved Me & For Your Eyes Only

The Spy Who Loved Me appeared in UK in 1977. Roger Moore portrayed Bond for the third time in an assured David Niven style; suave and sophisticated with a light comedy touch. The Spy Who loved Me is generally considered Roger Moore’s best Bond film. It’s believed that the budget was £14m. Memorable also for the song “Nobody Does It Better” written by Marvin Hamlisch and sung by Carly Simon.

Briefly the plot pitted Bond against the villains Stromberg [Curt Jurgens] and “Jaws” [Richard Kiel]. Bond teams up with Russian agent Anya Amasova, played by Barbara Bach to save the world from annihilation.
The tenth of the Bond films it was part filmed in the Pinewood Studios, near London GB. Other locations included Egypt, Sardinia, Malta, Switzerland, Canada and Italy. The underwater scenes involving the Esprit were filmed in the Bahamas.
The editor notes the registration numbers OPW 678W and OPW 654W were used. Moore drove the first of the two cars in Sardinia.
The film contained the entire eye-popping extravaganza along with the traditional elements. It has been rated a success on all levels and the film in which the Lotus Esprit rivaled the Aston Martin DB5.
It received critical acclaim.
For Your Eyes Only of 1981 the Esprit was not given such a prominent role.

The Lotus Esprit

The Esprit was launched at the 1975 Earls Court Motorshow.The body was designed by Giorgio Giugiaro. It was a stunning contemporary and rather aggressive wedge look sports car.
The appearance of the Esprit in the Bond film has been attributed to Donovan McLauchlan [Colin Chapman’s PR man at Lotus]. Becoming aware of the Bond movie to be filmed at Pinewood he took an Esprit over to give it exposure in c 1975. The car rather matched requirements and perhaps seemed to offer a complementary reflection of the film its stars and the epoch.
Lotus is rumored to have spent £18,000 on the film; lending two Esprit’s, five body shells and two Lotus staff.
“The screen role of the Esprit in this film did more for the Esprit sales than anything else Lotus attempted to do”
Following the film it’s believed that a three-year waiting list developed for the Esprit.

“Bond” Esprit with “Q” Branch Modifications.
The car created was multi role combat vehicle mini-submarine. It included these features:

  • Cement sprayer
  • Front firing torpedoes
  • Ink jet
  • Amphibious features including periscope and propeller
  • Limpet Mine and radar guided surface to air missile launcher
  • Bullet proof windows

UK DVD Rental LoveFilm Poll and Film Appearances.
The most memorable car in film history was:

  1. Esprit
  2. DeLorean
  3. Torino [Starskey &Hutch]
  4. VW Beetle
  5. Batmobile.

Taken from films including Bullitt, The Blues Brothers, Grease, Ghost busters, Thelma &Louise. In addition to James Bond the Lotus Esprit is also memorable in “Pretty Woman” and” Basic Instinct.”

Although not expressly stated, for many the Lotus Esprit ranked almost with the Aston Martin DB5.

Other interesting Film with car /Lotus content are:

  • The Fast Lady.UK 1962
  • The Young Racres.USA 1963
  • Grand Prix.US 1966
  • Winning.US 1969

Brands, Bond and Cars as Metaphors

Objects have always had the possibility of taking on metaphorical character and reflection. This tends to increase when placed in memorable iconic film that enters folklore. The Bond franchise has he capacity for this resonance.
Manufacturers recognize this and compete for the privilege.
However the A&R has explained there is two-way exchange and that the object / product/ brand requires existing credibility that provides reputation and momentum.
In the 20c the car has acquired a particular status as a metaphor for power, freedom, advance technology, status, exclusivity and hence to sex and glamour. Increasingly the messages become more psychologically complex interwoven with nuisances and subtly. It is what sells cars in many respects, i.e. the image transcends the technical specification.
The Aston Martin DB5 and the Lotus Esprit have taken the mantle of the supreme motoring idol of their times. They have spoken and been amongst the best of their era and perhaps rather like a good suit of clothes reflected and enhanced the character of the owner.
Cars are not automatically induced into the hall of fame. They require inherent qualities and reputation even to be considered. Of course in case of the Bond franchise many of these qualities are accentuated or added to with regard to the “attachments”.

It is interesting to note that many manufacturers would not provide a car for “Pretty Woman”. They were zealous of their reputation and the connotation of the story line. It seems that Lotus did not hesitate and enjoyed the enormity of commercial success. It was not demeaned in the process; on the contrary its reputation and metaphorical conceptual imagery may have only increased.


The Bond films exist as merchandising opportunity. Listed are some of the typical examples. For some major manufactures there is double take promotional opportunity.
For in the example of Lotus; the Esprit reaches a direct buying audience that might be created into sales but also the toys reach a younger audience and might become owners at later date as result of the planted mystique.

  • Magazine covers
  • Posters
  • Comics
  • Stickers
  • Licenced merchandising
  • Stationery
  • Clothes and fashion
  • Corgi, Matchbox and various die cast models etc
  • Games
  • Action figures
  • Space, gun and related toys
  • Records
  • Alcohol

Corgi merchandising of the” Spy Who Loved Me” Esprit was an enormous commercial success. It’s believed to be the single biggest selling item in their range since 1973. In the six months following launch 660,000 model cars had been sold. By 1991 this had increased to 1.5 million. Corgi also introduced the “The Spy Who Loved Me” Gift Set.

The Proposed CCM&EC

The proposed museum believes that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.
For these reasons our Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. Its suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.
In particular the museum presents unique opportunity for Bond Lotus themed events and interpretation ranging from film nights, recreations involving public participation exhibitions relating to cars / technology, technology cross overs, comparisons and evaluations, popular culture and marketing techniques. There are commercial opportunities relating to existing Bond merchandising and that commissioned by the museum to explore new interpretations, dimensions and facets.


The fictional James Bond concept has been cool and a very impressive style/ design [for male and female] icon since its inception fifty years ago. Bond has evolved and provided inspiration to fashion, technology and consumer products placing Britain at the forefront of design.
The enormity of world wide demographic exposure has made its actors and cars worldwide stars. They have made and sold brands. The reputation glowing within and traveling through time and memory.

When we analyse how few cars are able to earn this iconic status and to be instantly recognized we ought have a greater appreciation of Colin Chapman and Lotus. It was his aesthetic judgment and technical ingenuity that brought the Esprit to the market place. Its film appearance perhaps secured its emerging reputation. Neither should we overlook the essential Britishness of the Bond franchise and the technological content. The Bond franchise on its internationalist cosmopolitan stage has done much for British design, manufacturing and tourism.
The editors consider that Lotus having achieved such worldwide status deserves the promotion, Interpretation and accolade that a museum would accord. Furthermore this is not mere indulgence or boastfulness it has the very real intention of advancing British engineering skills and design inspiration thus ensuring they remain at the forefront of a world audience.


Cars in Films. Martin Buckley with Andrew Roberts.Haynes.2002
ISBN: 1859606822
The Essential James Bond. Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall. Ted Smart.1999.
Bond Cars and Vehicles. Alistair Douglas .2010.Dorling Kindersley.
ISBN: 9781405355353
Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style. [The Barbican 6th July- 5 September 2012] barbican.org.uk
James Bond Experience at The National Motor Museum
The Cars of the Bond Movies. Red Dot. Bar code: 5017559109035

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Pictures courtesy of