Let's all go deep sea driving

IT started life as the ultimate fantasy car as created by one of Norfolk's biggest companies.But now James Bond's fictional underwater Lotus, which wowed viewers of The Spy Who Loved Me, is set to become fact.

IT started life as the ultimate fantasy car as created by one of Norfolk's biggest companies.

But now James Bond's fictional underwater Lotus, which wowed viewers of The Spy Who Loved Me, is set to become fact.

A Swiss car design team are bringing back memories of the famous scene by converting a Lotus Elise to create a vehicle that can double as a boat.

The Roger Moore scene involving an Esprit was shot using animation but three decades later Rinspeed has come up with a concept car - the sQuba.

Not only is it directly inspired by the film, a spokesman for Rinspeed admitted it was modified from the more current Elise.

He said: “We had been looking for a small car with an open roof and we had been looking for a lightweight car.

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“The original James Bond car was a Lotus Esprit so it also seemed obvious to use a Lotus, although the company itself was not directly involved in the development.

“James Bond was fiction and we wanted to do reality.”

A spokesman for Lotus said the company was “honoured” to have the dream it once helped nurture now become reality and for one of its modern cars to be used for the design.

“We are pleased they have chosen the Lotus Elise because of its technological advancements and the fact that it looks good. It is a great honour for us and we wish them well on the project.”

The sQuba, to be displayed at next month's Geneva Motor Show, is an open-topped sports car that can go over land, above the waves and under the water to a depth of 10 metres (33ft).

Rinspeed took the Elise design and replaced the engine with several electric motors.

The car is not only supposed to be able to drive on roads autonomously with a push of a button - without a driver, passenger or further assistance - but the sQuba can also transform into an amphibious vehicle.

An electric motor with powerful torque drives the rear wheels, while the propulsion on the water is ensured by two propellers in the stern and two powerful jet drives in the bow propelling the vehicle underwater while diving.

Once underwater, the car occupants' breathing air comes from an integrated tank of compressed air similar to that used by scuba divers.

The company claims that the car is not only revolutionary but extremely “green” as well. It is a zero-emission vehicle and has a saltwater-resistant interior. The water itself in fact helps power the car.

Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht, 52, who is a keen James Bond fan, said: “For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water. Now we have made this dream come true.

“It is undoubtedly not an easy task to make a car watertight and pressure resistant enough to be manoeuvrable underwater. The real challenge, however, was to create a submersible car that moves like a fish in water."

He went on: “For safety reasons, we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency. With an enclosed cabin, opening the door might be impossible.”

But safety wasn't the only reason for choosing an open-top design; with an enclosed volume of just two cubic meters of air the vehicle weight would have to increase by two tons to counteract the unwanted buoyancy.