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Lotus Esprit

Lotus Esprit Published: 11th Jul 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit
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Lotus’ first true supercar, launched more than 40 years ago, may have got off to an indifferent start but eventually came good. Based upon the Europa chassis but now with new 16-valve Lotus power, it elevated Lotus into the big time plus gained iconic status in several James Bond films. The days of bargain buys may be gone but all are fast appreciating classic – if you get a good one that is.


Given its aging Europa platform, the Esprit should have been the better car but original S1s were criticised for their lack of pace (the 2.2-litre engine fares much better) and refinement. What was never in question however was the Esprit’s handling and roadholding qualities which set new standards 40 years ago and still put many moderns to shame. By the time the S3 came along, in 1981, Lotus had polished off the rough edges to justify the prestige prices asked although Esprits are still quite a harsh and noisy car for touring in yet, in contrast, the ride is typically Lotus; supple and refreshingly comfortable for such a sports car.


According to leading Lotus lights, Esprits have gained enormous interest over the past couple of years and prices have subsequently rocketed with cars worth, say, £8000 a few years back now well into double figures. Blame it on the Bond effect, but S1s, unbelievably can touch £50K which double what a similar S2 or S3 achieves (although Turbos are worth around 10 per cent more) even though they are better cars. Better value too: tidy S2s and S3 models are likely £12-£15,000 buys and rough cars can be bought for four figures. Projects can start from under £5000 but hold on here as restorations are as complex as they are costly and you’ll only see meaningful returns on S1s.


1975 Launched; based upon 1972 Giugiaro concept with stretched Europa chassis and Elite engine

1978 S2 signals much needed improved build quality and better engine cooling. Also, a commemorative special edition celebrated Mario Andretti becoming the 1978 World Champion but only 100 were made

1980 Galvanised chassis and torquier 2.2-litre engine installed. Also the sizzling 210bhp Turbo was introduced, initially as a limited edition in strident Essex Petroleum livery 1981 S3 is essentially the Turbo but with a standard engine plus a revised sound-proofed interior

1985 Toyota Supra running gear incorporated

1987 Turbo HC (High Compression) slightly ups power to 215bhp while a limited edition model was also offered to commemorate Lotus being based in Hethel for 20 years

Best models


In value terms the original is streets ahead even though later cars are better; some details and trim parts are becoming harder to find


Overall the better all rounders with the S3 by far the best sorted and handling Esprit and most refined yet cheapest. Longer stroke engine most welcome


Fast and easily tuned for more go, plus later cars gains Excel’s running gear to replace old Triumph components. First 104 Turbos wore special decals

Top five faults


Don’t be shocked to see some shocking cars. Condition counts far more than model and spec


Chassis galvanized by 1980 and most rebuilt cars will use later type. Look for patch repair work, the result of any shunts and ‘offs’ and be worried if the car doesn’t run straight and true


Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection (VARI) system means that the quality is far superior to Europa and the famous ‘spider’s web’ crazing isn’t so common. Check panel gaps for alignment and ensure the pop-up headlights operate smoothly, uniformly

Engine oil

pressure should be between 35-45lbft and listen for groaning crank bearings. Apart from sticking wastegates (which lead to abnormal turbo boost pressure) the turbo installation is fine but the engine’s pistons will eventually melt down

Running gear

Citroën transmission parts are scarce, suspension bushes and dampers are probably clapped out plus geometry needs to be spot on – the majority aren’t

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