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Lotus Esprit

Lotus Esprit Published: 1st Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit
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The first true Lotus supercar, launched 20 years ago, that got off to an indifferent start but eventually came good. Based upon the Europa chassis but now with new Lotus power, it elevated Lotus into the Porsche market and gained iconic status in several James Bond films notably as a submarine. But is it still a case of sink or swim with this Lotus?


Given its Europa underpinnings, the Esprit should have been an even better car but original S1s were criticised for their lack of performance and refinement. What was never in question was the Esprit’s incredible handling and roadholding which set new standards 40 years ago and still greatly impresses today. By the time the S3 came along, in 1981, Lotus had transformed the car to justify its prestige prices although it’s still quite a harsh and noisy car for touring in yet, in contrast, the ride is typically Lotus; supple and refreshingly comfortable for a sports car.


Logically, it has to be the S3 not least because it sported the lustier 2.2-litre engine to answer criticisms of a lack of pulling torque. Better sound insulation is said to have reduced cockpit noise by 50 per cent yet it’s the uncouth S1 which attracts the most interest. Turbo models elevated Lotus into the supercar league and the Essex Petroleum liveried cars are highly sought after. Post 1984 S2 models gained revised suspension, with Toyota components replacing the old Triumph Vitesse bits. Without doubt, condition is the overriding factor when looking around and a good S2 is better than an average S3, for example but S1 are being snapped up whatever their state they are in.


According to leading Lotus lights Paul Matty and Barry Ely, Esprits have gained enormous interest over the past year and prices have subsequently rocketed with cars worth, say, £8000 a few years back now well into double figures. S1s, unbelievably can touch £50K which is more than double what a similar S2 or S3 achieves! Average-to-good S2s and S3 Esprits are likely £12-£15,000 buys and rough cars can be bought for four figures – just! Projects can start from around £4000 (or around ten grand for an S1) but beware as restorations are complex and costly and you’ll only see a meaningful return on overpriced S1s.


Best take those rose-tinted glasses off because most Esprits will be in a pretty tatty state mainly because – until recently – they were relatively worthless. Look for badly corroded and accidentdamaged chassis (galvanised for 1980) as if bad a new frame may be the only answer. The body’s quality is better than the Europa’s but look for poor repairs and crazing – interiors can be pretty ratty and the plywood rear bulkhead is normally rotten. Mechanically, the Elite’s engine was sorted by the time the Esprit came along but still prone to leaks, oil burning and camshaft wear. Exhaust manifolds fracture, especially on turbos, and cooling is usually below par. The Citroën gearbox leads a hard life and if unhealthy is costly to repair. The running gear is a mishmash; Triumph front suspension, Opel brakes, etc, depending upon year. Most average Esprits handle poorly because the rear suspension is worn and badly out of adjustment – it takes an expert to get it right and most owners wouldn’t stomach the costs involved yet it transforms the car’s handling.

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