A couple from Long Island, New York, bought an abandoned car in an unclaimed storage unit back in 1989 for roughly $100.
The couple attended a blind storage auction and purchased an unclaimed storage unit with no idea of what was inside.
Upon opening their new unit, the couple found a surprise. Buried under some old blankets stood a 1976 Lotus Esprit sports car. What makes it even more of a surprise is that the vehicle was used in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
The sports car was one of eight used in the shooting of the movie. However, it was the only one used in the famous underwater scene. The car was given the nickname "Wet Nellie". A marine engineering firm converted the Lotus into a functional submarine for more than $100,000 for the movie. In the film, the sports car famously transforms into a submarine that fires missiles while underwater. When it sold in 2013, it had no wheels, only "articulated fins", and couldn't drive on land, but it did work as a submarine with the use of ballast tanks which made diving possible. The car also featured "a bank of four propellers" in the back of the vehicle that let it move underwater while being powered by electric motors in a water-tight compartment.
The underwater scenes were performed by a retired U.S. Navy SEAL wearing full scuba gear with an oxygen tank.
Years later, famous billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk bought the car from them for nearly $1 million.
After the filming, the Lotus was placed in the storage unit and forgotten for more than a decade. Until the New York couple came along.
Doug Redenius, a co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, authenticated the car. He stated that "they really didn't know what it was," as the couple had never even seen a Bond film.
"They had no idea how valuable their discovery was."
According to Redenius, after the couple loaded the sports car onto a truck and set off for home, several truckers contacted the couple via CB radio. This is how they found out they own a James Bond car.
At first, the husband had planned on fixing the sports car's dented roof and making other improvements. After hearing the truth behind the car, though, he later "went out and rented the movie on VHS and saw what he had".
The couple did "cosmetically restored" the vehicle and displayed it in occasional exhibits over the next two decades. In 2013 the couple decided to put the car up for auction.
Redenius added that he had heard about the car's existence years after the couple started exhibiting it. After Redenius got in touch with the couple, he authenticated the vehicle with the original builders before putting the couple in touch with RM Sotheby's.
He then told the couple before the auction that "if [the car] sells for what we're hoping, that money will give you an opportunity to live very comfortably for the rest of your life."
The Lotus sports car was then sold to a secret buyer at an RM Sotheby's auction in 2013 for $997,000. It was only later revealed that the new owner was Musk himself.
Musk added that he grew up with James Bond movies. "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 also revealed that the Lotus was part of his inspiration for the Tesla Cybertruck. The billionaire CEO also teased fans by tweeting that the Cybertruck vehicle "will even float for a while" after fielding a question about how the Cybertruck will handle driving through shallow water.