Former Lotus engineer recalls his time as a James Bond stunt driver
It is a classic Bond car, full of gadgetry, and sleek, stylish and sophisticated.
In the mid-1970s, when the new Lotus Esprit ousted Aston Martin from the coveted Bond car slot for the film The Spy Who Loved Me, it was a massive commercial coup for the Hethel-based marque.
With Roger Moore behind the wheel – who coincidentally is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, this evening in his one-man show – suave met sophisticated and a Lotus legend was born.
For Lotus engineer and test driver Roger Becker, it also transformed his life after he was given the responsibility in September 1976 of delivering the white Esprit to Sardinia where filming was taking place.
It was an unexpected turn of events which saw him catapulted from adviser and technical expert to being the man behind the wheel of some of the most daring driving stunts from the film.
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Lotus had managed to secure the Bond slot after head of PR Don McLauchlan had been tipped off that if the company 'played its cards right' it could be in the next Bond movie, so he ensured that the Bond team got a special glimpse of the Esprit.
Roger, 66, said: 'The story went that if Don had the car parked within view of the office windows where the Bond people were having their technical meeting, things may happen.'
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Bond movie set designer Ken Adams saw the car, and soon after demanded: 'Get me that car.'
'Colin Chapman took charge of the project himself because it was such an important time for Lotus,' added Roger. 'The Esprit was the new model, he was moving the brand upmarket and he wanted to ensure that Lotus received as much positive exposure as he could.
'He sent me to Sardinia to make sure that the car was properly demonstrated and 'expressed' in all the ways that a Lotus should be in terms of performance, looks and character.'
In September 1976, Roger arrived in Sardinia with the Esprit hot off the production line. This was the actual car that Roger Moore sat in and the Esprit where Q sat in the corner telling Bond 'not to do this, not to do that, be careful of this and that'.
Initially, Roger's role was to instruct the stunt man on the driving scenes, to help him become 'at one with the car' and its handling, and advise the crew on how to ensure the car looked good on film. However, the stunt driver was not at ease with the Esprit and the film crew began to get frustrated with progress.
That all changed one day when the radio crackled and the film crew demanded: 'Get me that car up here now.' With the stunt driver nowhere to be seen, Roger jumped behind the wheel.
For more on this story see today's Eastern Daily Press.