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U.S. billionaire buys Bond submersible

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RM Auctions assistant Hannah Fairclough with the white Lotus Esprit used in the James Bond movie 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. The car was sold on Sept. 9  for 550,000 pounds ($865,000).

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RM Auctions assistant Hannah Fairclough with the white Lotus Esprit used in the James Bond movie 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. The car was sold on Sept. 9 for 550,000 pounds ($865,000).

Los Angeles billionaire Elon Musk secretly purchased the amphibious sports car that appeared as a movie prop in a 1970s James Bond film with the intention of converting it into the real thing.

Musk, chief executive of electric car company Tesla Motors and rocket-maker SpaceX, bought the car anonymously at auction in London on Sept. 9 for almost $1 million.

In the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, starring Roger Moore as Agent 007, Bond drives his white Lotus Esprit off a pier and into the sea. As the car sinks underwater, he yanks on the shifter and the car transforms into a submarine.

"I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform," Musk said in an email. "What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."

Musk was unmasked last week as the "mystery buyer" by the auto blog Jalopnik. It's unclear why Musk wanted to be anonymous.

His proposal would probably be dismissed as a fantasy if it were made by anyone else. But Musk has amassed a fortune and built an empire through success with several startup companies in a range of industries.

The 42-year-old South African immigrant made his fortune when he co-founded and sold online payment business PayPal to eBay Inc. for $1.5 billion.

Armed with his personal fortune and a Rolodex full of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Musk started SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp., and co-founded electric car giant Tesla Motors Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.

Having a fully functional submersible car would be a tall order. For the movie, producers had several Lotuses modified to appear as a self-propelled submarine.

In the famous sequence, Bond plunges the car into the water to evade an evildoer in a helicopter -- black, of course. As the car submerges, the wheels draw into the body and it sprouts fins from the side panels. Then Bond launches a missile from the top of the car to blow the chopper to bits.

Musk did not say whether it would have weapons capabilities.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2013 F8

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