Like something out of a Storage Wars fairy tale, the Lotus Esprit submarine -- dubbed "Wet Nelly" on the set of the 1977 James Bond classic "The Spy Who Loved Me" -- was discovered in a Long Island locker that was purchased for less than $100. The prop, a fully functioning underwater vehicle that was revealed to be the real deal and once piloted by Roger Moore as 007, later went on to net $968,000 in an auction in London last month.
Now it's been revealed that the secret buyer, who allegedly got the best of a fervent competitor in a heated bidding war, is none other than Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, reports Jalopnik. Despite its rare function, the Esprit is not the most expensive Bond car to go to auction; the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball" went for a little more than $4 million in 2010.
We've reached out to Musk's representatives at SpaceX for comment and will update the story if we hear back.
Musk's winning bid is but one more unbelievable twist in a tale that started with an anonymous "blue collar" guy, as he described himself, who stumbled upon the vehicle in 1989 beneath a mass of blankets in his storage locker.
He didn't recognize the Esprit at first, having never seen a Bond film and having bought the locker with no knowledge of what was inside. But when others pointed out the resemblance, he rented the film on VHS, though was unable to discover how exactly it ended up in his hands for less than a Zipcar daily fee.
Years later, the Ian Fleming Foundation authenticated the vehicle as the actual working submarine from the film with the help of its original builder, who happened to be a submersibles expert and former NAVY Seal. Multiple versions of the Lotus were made, including road ones for the street shots and promotional models, but the Lotus Esprit found in the Long Island locker was in fact the only one capable of submerging, though it has no function as a road car and does not contain the ability to swap in wheels.
After its authentication, the vehicle went to RM Auctions in London where Musk, a car enthusiast who is said to have based the design of the original Tesla off the Lotus Elise, was able to muscle his way to ownership.
As for what happened to the Esprit, the studio had kept it in paid storage for a decade, but a mysterious turn of events led to the storage locker's fee going unpaid and the vehicle being forgotten until, two years later, it was found collecting dust. "It just fell through the cracks," Doug Redenius, co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, told CNBC in July.
While it was originally thought to be worth $1 million, the price Musk paid -- and the amount the anonymous Long Islander earned -- is nothing to scoff at, and has crafted a rather inspiring tale for Bond-lovers and storage junkies alike.