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Corgi 1977 & 1978 Catalogues

Following the Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy and Ford Mustang Mach 1 toys, it would be another five years before CORGI released another new James Bond related model. The Aston Martin DB5 (CORGI #270) was still widely available and promoted in every catalogue issued in the early 1970s. As James Bond did not drive a gadget-laden car that could live up to the DB5 in either Live And Let Die (1973) or The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), CORGI did not issue any models to tie in with Roger Moore's first two 007 outings. CORGI did issue an Aerocar (E2009) in 1975 as part of their ‘Super Juniors’ range which looked very similar to the one driven and flown by Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun, but this was not licensed or specifically linked to the film on any packaging or promotion for the toy. With the exception of the Aston Martin DB5 the film-related toys had a very short shelf-life and were usually withdrawn within a year of the film’s release.

Corgi C269 Lotus Esprit prototypes

ABOVE: (top) CORGI C269 - Marcel van Cleemput's brass prototype which shows the origins of the fin mechanism. The brass fins on the sides and back slide in and out and gives a fascinating insight into the construction of the final model. (left) 1st version - This prototype has a metal top and base, with clear windows, resin periscope, resin side and rear fins, the rear frame is made of plastic. (right) 2nd version - This prototype has a metal top and base, with clear windows, and contains the improved rocket firing and fins mechanism.

With the announcement that Roger Moore would drive a new model of car in his third James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), CORGI announced a die-cast scale model of the white Lotus Esprit, which once again lent itself to the many gimmicks that could be incorporated into the toy to match its on-screen counterpart. Designed by Marcel van Cleemput, the Lotus featured on the cover of the 1977 CORGI catalogue, and again in 1978 when it was joined by the Stromberg Helicopter flown by Naomi (Caroline Munro) in the film, and another new edition of the iconic Aston Martin DB5.

Corgi Lotus Esprit promotional material

Heavily advertised in the lead up to its release, the CORGI Lotus Esprit joined several other new models issued in the year that celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. At the time The Spy Who Loved Me was showing in cinemas the country was already in the grip of national patriotism on a scale not seen since the end of World War II. The same feeling was captured again 35 years later with the release of Skyfall, which coincided with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games, hosted in London.

The Spy Who Loved Me press screening/Corgi Lotus Esprit launch
Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit

The CORGI Lotus Esprit was launched at a special reception at the Pastoria Hotel, St. Martin's Street, London, following the press preview of The Spy Who Loved Me on the morning of Tuesday July 5, 1977. CORGI's Lotus Esprit designer Marcel van Cleemput and his wife Molly were invited to the preview screening at the ODEON Leicester Square. Samples of CORGI's Lotus Esprit were handed out after the screening housed in a red box, whereas the later retail packaging featured stills from the film. Two days later the Royal World Charity premiere of The Spy Who Loved Me was held at the ODEON with Princess Anne attending on behalf of the Royal Family, accompanied by her great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979). Before the screening of the film Princess Anne was presented with a special 14-carat gold-plated version of CORGI's Lotus Esprit, one of only 10 copies made. Other gold-plated editions were presented to Roger Moore, Curt Jurgens, Barbara Bach and producer Albert R. Broccoli at the after-show party held at the PLAYBOY Club on Park Lane.

Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit promotional version packaging/Bernard Lee, Marcel van Cleemput & Desmond Llewelyn

ABOVE: “Now pay attention 007” CORGI's chief designer Marcel van Cleemput shows off his new Lotus Esprit model to Bernard Lee M and Desmond Llewelyn Q at London's Pastoria Hotel following the press preview of The Spy Who Loved Me on July 5, 1977. Samples of the model in red packaging were presented at the special launch reception hosted by the directors of Mettoy.
BELOW: A special 14-carat gold-plated edition of CORGI's Lotus Esprit was presented to Princess Anne at the Royal World Charity premiere of The Spy Who Loved Me held at the ODEON Leicester Square on July 7, 1977.

Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit gold plated presentation model/The Spy Who Loved Me premiere

The retail edition of CORGI's Lotus Esprit was an instant hit when it was delivered to toyshops in July 1977 to coincide with the release of The Spy Who Loved Me, selling 660,000 units in the first six months. Consequently, CORGI had its most profitable year ever in 1978, with overall sales reaching a staggering £3.5-million. The James Bond Lotus Esprit eventually went on to become CORGI's biggest-selling model since 1973, selling in excess of 1.3-million units until its withdrawal in 1981. 


CORGI 269 – Lotus Esprit (1977)

Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit

Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit

Collectors should note that the CORGI Lotus Esprit was issued several times in slightly modified packaging between 1977 and 1982. The original box had a ‘Hammer & Sickle’ logo within the second red ‘0’ of ‘007’ on the front of the packaging, and the car itself had a 007 logo decal on the bonnet that was missing from some later editions. The model had retractable fins and spoiler, rear window missile tubes with 10 missiles, including original sprues and clips for holding car onto the inner card display. Variant editions with a larger periscope (the trigger to fire the missiles) are also in existence. Whilst all versions were issued within the models’ five-year lifecycle, later boxes also removed the word ‘New’ from the packaging, and some dropped the inner underwater seascape picture. The later issues also removed the reference to The Spy Who Loved Me once Moonraker toys were in circulation. The Lotus Esprit was later reissued in a 1980 Gift Set and became CORGI's second generic James Bond car, although it technically only appeared in one film with these gadgets. The two models of the Lotus Esprit featured in For Your Eyes Only (1981) did not have any special features, and were not issued as CORGI toys at the time of the film's release.

Corgi 269 Lotus Esprit packaging

CORGI Juniors E60 – Lotus Esprit (1978)

CORGI also issued a smaller standalone version of the Lotus Esprit as part of the ‘Juniors’ range (E60). This edition was also repackaged and issued in various gift sets starting with (E3030) ‘James Bond 'Spy Who Loved Me' Gift Set’ in 1978. The set also included the ‘Juniors’ version of the newly launched Stromberg Helicopter, Jaws’ Telephone Service van (complete with his name on the side!), and a Mercedes with concrete splash detail on the bonnet and windscreen and towing a speedboat on a trailer (not seen in the film). The CORGI ‘Juniors’ also had packaging which featured the ‘Hammer and Sickle’ 007 logo but this was not present on all versions. The ‘Junior’ version of the car had no special features and was die-cast with fixed extended fins, so was always in the underwater mode. The red 007 logo was present on the bonnet of all ‘Junior’ editions.

Corgi Juniors E60 – Lotus Esprit (1978)

CORGI Juniors E3030 – James Bond 'Spy Who Loved Me' Gift Set (1978)

Corgi Juniors E3030 – James Bond 'Spy Who Loved Me' Gift Set (1978)

In addition to the ‘James Bond 'Spy Who Loved Me' Gift Set’, the Lotus Esprit was also included as part of the ‘Crimefighters Gift Set’ (E3021) in 1978, which included TV favourites Starsky & Hutch's Ford Torino, Kojak’s Buick, Batmobile, Batcopter and Spidercopter. The Lotus also appeared in a second ‘Crimefighters Gift Set’ (E3116) in 1980 joined by other TV and film models. The CORGI ‘Juniors’ Lotus Esprit and Stromberg Helicopter were also available together as a special twin-pack (E2529), and again in 1982 with both editions of the car issued together (E1362) in order to clear the remaining stocks, this time with packaging not mentioning the film title.

Corgi Juniors E3030 – James Bond 'Spy Who Loved Me' twin packs

Next... CORGI 926 – Stromberg Helicopter



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