Back in 1977, in the James Bond Movie "The Spy Who Loved Me," Roger Moore's agent 007 had a very special Series 1 Lotus Esprit that converted from a sports car to a submarine. The Lotus had propellers and rudders and even a battery of harpoon launchers to help Bond fight off the bad guys. The submarine Lotus was more than just a prop; it did go underwater and the rudder and propellers worked. However, it wasn't actually water-tight, and so a stuntman with Scuba gear operated it inside behind the dark glass. The picture to the right shows a scale model of the submersible Lotus.

Well, now there is a real diving Lotus. Rinspeed, a Swiss tuner and builder of exotic concept cars and other futuristic vehicles built the Rinspeed sQuba, a drivable, divable concept car that really works. Based on a Lotus Elise, the electric-powered sQuba is the brainchild of Rinspeed founder Frank M. Rinderknecht, who never forgot that submersible car from the James Bond movie. “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,” Rinderknecht said.

How did they do it? First, there had to be some practical thinking. For example, even though the Lotus Elise is a very small car (only about 150 inches long), the enclosed volume of about 70 cubic feet would have required adding 4,400 pounds of weight. The necessary ballast tanks would have made for a large, bulky vehicle that didn't look anything like a sleek sports car. So Rinspeed decided to build the sQuba as an open vehicle with its passengers using built-in rcuba gear while underwater. The car floats on water, then sinks when the doors are opened and water enters the car. However, without passengers it surfaces on its own.

What all did Rinspeed do to make this possible? Well, they removed the combustion engine and replaced it with a variety of electrical motors. For operation on land, the main electric motor makes 73 horsepower and 118 foot-pounds of torque at 4500 rpm. Rinspeed estimates the top speed to be "over 75 mph," but given the weight (less than 2,000 pounds) and power it's probaby over 100 mph. Floating in water, the sQuba uses two propellers in the back, powered by an 800 Watt electric motor each, good for a speed of about four knots. Underwater, propulsion is via two electric 5-horsepower Seabob jet drives that breathe through rotating louvers and expell the water through light but twist-resistant Carbon "nano tubes." That gives the sQuba an underwater speed of about two knots. Power is supplied by rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries. Rinspeed states "the sQuba's filling station is the water reservoir,” referring to the electric hydropower the Swiss are experts in. Operating diving depth is around 33 feet.

When going under, the car's occupants use an integrated air supply system with two gas tanks -- one 15 liters, the other 18 liters -- and Scubapro regulators, specifically Scubapro's classic and very reliable air-balanced G250V second stage. The Scubapro gear and the tanks are mounted behind the passengers.

The sQuba is chuck full of interesting technology, and not only for underwater operation. On land, it uses a laser scanner system to essentially drive itself. For underwater operation, Rinspeed and its partners designed a cockpit and instruments that's inspired by the elegant shape and lines of a Manta Ray. Individual instruments seem to float and have dials that are lined up like lenses. The main control cluster is futuristically lighted and sits behind a protective sheet of glass with a fisheye effect. Controls can be operated even with diving gloves.

How real is the Rinspeed sQuba? Real enough for an impressive video of its operation on land, floating and diving. You can see the movie as well as pictures on Rinspeed's website. It works. But it's also a concept and not meant for production at all. For that, it'd need a more powerful motor, and the market for diving cars is likely very small. But none of that matters. Concepts are limited only by the imagination. "For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water," said Frank Rinderknecht. "Now we have made this dream come true.” Very cool.

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Following the successful testing in selected events of the 2007 World Rally Championship (WRC), the Suzuki WRC Team has begun an assault on the 2008 championship with the SX4 WRC which is derived from the SX4.

Developed as a driver-friendly World Rally Car by Suzuki Sport, Suzuki’s motorsports division, extensive testing on many different types of surfaces was carried out when the team entered two events during 2007. Using the valuable experience gained last year, the SX4 WRC has been improved for full-scale competition and among the major changes are a new differential and new suspension settings as well as other improvements under the skin.

The SX4 WRC has a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (developed from the J20 unit) with full-time 4WD and a 5-speed sequential gearbox. The 1997 cc engine delivers 320 bhp between 4000 and 4500 rpm while maximum torque of 590 Nm peaks at 3500 rpm.

The SX4 WRC’s powertrain features a carbon 3-disc clutch, electronically-controlled centre differential and mechanical front and rear differentials. Its well-balanced chassis and rigid structure allow the front and rear MacPherson struts with coil springs work to their full potential with Reiger shock absorbers fitted for dynamic, responsive handling.

For tarmac events, the car uses 20/65-18 tyres fitted on 8X18-inch wheels; when racing over gravel, 17/65-15 rubber is mounted to 7X15-inch wheels. The SX4 WRC sits on a wheelbase of 2500 mm, stands 1450 mm high and weighs 1230 kgs (the minimum permitted by FIA regulations).

The WRC effort builds on Suzuki’s success in the JWRC, where the Swift Super 1600 has enjoyed an excellent record. Commenting on the first full season of competition for the team, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, principal of the Suzuki World Rally Team, said: "As we embark on our full first season, our goal is to make steady progress by taking one step at a time. Results are obviously important, but we cannot get ahead of ourselves either. In our debut year, it's only natural to expect a few minor problems and we're grateful to have a driver of the calibre of Toni Gardemeister to help us improve. P-G Andersson is at the very start of his career, so his job is to learn as well. We all share the common objective of performing to the best of our abilities, and increasing the profile of Suzuki's compact cars all over the world."

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