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Lotus Esprit: Buying guide and review (1976-1987)

Lotus Esprit JPS Lotus Esprit JPS Lotus Esprit JPS interior Lotus Esprit JPS engine Lotus Esprit JPS rear light Lotus Esprit JPS
Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, every kid used to lust after a Lotus Esprit Turbo – and there were plenty of adults who did just the same. Here was the most fantastically shaped wedge of plastic that could hit 150mph and sprint from a standing start to 60mph in less than six seconds – and all thanks to a four-cylinder engine with a displacement of just over 2.0-litres. Talk about trouncing the big boys from Italy and Germany, especially when it came to affordability – if not necessarily reliability. 
 
Few cars look as ‘right’ as the original Giugiaro-penned Esprit, and for many the Esprit remains one of the coolest James Bond cars of all time, after playing a major roll in the Rodger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me. When that white Lotus plunged into the Mediterranean, and transformed into a submarine the, a Hethel-built star was born.  
 
As it developed, the Esprit became more usable and faster, while perhaps losing some of its design purity. For this guide we’re covering the S1 to S3 cars, including the Turbo models. 
 
Which one to buy?
 
Lotus developed the Esprit a lot throughout its decade-long production run. If you can afford a minter and you’re not planning to cover lots of miles, they all make sense. But if you’re on a budget and you’re buying an Esprit to use it, you need to consider very carefully which edition to go for. 
 
American-spec Esprits are unloved as their Zenith carburettors and anti-smog equipment dulled the twin-cam’s sparkle. The raised ride height also damages the dynamics – and the looks aren’t helped either, thanks to the ungainly impact bumpers.
 
Collectors tend to want the earliest cars (Series 1 and 2), but these are suitable for professional restoration only, which is why projects are best avoided – they also suffer from chronic parts availability. As a result, you’re better off going for a Series 3 or newer, even if you’re not taking on a project. 
 
JPS cars are sought after, along with Turbos, whether standard, HC or Essex models. However, that turbocharger puts off as many potential buyers as it entices, so a boosted car isn’t necessarily the best investment. That leaves the S2.2 and S3 as the most affordable Esprits, so if you’re on a budget aim for one of these. 
 
Performance and specs 
 
Lotus Esprit Turbo
Engine 2174cc, four-cylinder 
Power 210bhp @ 6500rpm 
Torque 200lb ft @ 4500rpm 
Top speed 152mph 
0-60mph 5.6sec 
Consumption 22mpg 
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Insurance group 20
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2438mm
Length 4191mm
Width 1852mm
Height 1118mm
Kerb weight 1067kg
 
Common problems 
 
• There were three versions of Lotus’s all-alloy twin-cam engine; a 2.0-litre (type 907) or the later 2.2-litre (type 910 or 912). If correctly looked after, the engines can rack up more than 100k miles between rebuilds. 
 
• Regular servicing is the key, and any failures will most likely be due to poor maintenance. The big one is the cam belt, which should be changed every 24,000miles or three years without fail. 
 
• With turbo models, the wastegate can stick causing boost issues. Monitor the boost pressure on the test run and make sure the gauge doesn’t exceed 0.7bar, unless of course the car has been tweaked. 
 
• Oil leaking from the top end of the engine is often caused by incorrectly fitted cam covers. This can lead to rough running if oil collects in the spark plug wells. 
 
• Take a listen to the exhaust from cold. If you can hear a blow from the manifold, the chances are it has probably cracked, as this is a common problem. 
 
• Head gaskets were a cause for concern when the esprit was new, and can still be a problem today, so a fully functioning cooling system is key. The pipes that run the length of the car to the front-mounted radiator can become rusty, which is a nightmare to fix. 
 
• The steering in an Esprit should be an absolute joy, especially in the early cars, so if it doesn’t feel right it probably needs a new rack. Steering in the later S3 cars is a little heavier due to wider tyres. Racks in these later cars also wear out quicker thanks to the extra strain. 
 
• When test driving an S1 and S2 models, step on an off the throttle a few times and listen for any clonking sounds. Universal joints have a habit of wearing out, although later S3 models have a much improved rear suspension setup. 
 
• You don’t have to worry about the body panels corroding, and the shell is generally strong and long-lived. Crash damage, and poor re-spray work are really the only concerns.
 
• If there are signs of accident damage on top, then inspect the chassis with a fine-tooth comb. You won’t generally find too much corrosion, as everything after the S2.2 was fitted with a galvanised chassis. If it’s still in one piece, and not bent or damaged, then breathe a sigh of relief. If there are any issues, then it really needs to be replaced, as repairs are not generally good enough. 
 
• Another problem area can be the fuel tanks. If they haven’t been replaced (and are rusty), then it’s a nightmare of a job to carry out. 
 
• Windscreens will need to be re-sealed if hasn’t been replaced, and it’s a delicate job requiring patience. Half of the time the screen will crack during the procedure, making things even more expensive. 
 
• Lotus originally sourced it’s gearbox from the Citroen SM, meaning replacement parts are almost none-existent, and expensive. Check that the ‘box engages all gears cleanly as well as noisy bearings. It’s a fairly strong transmission though, and will last a long time if you’re a sympathetic driver. 
 
• One safety checkpoint you must make is to find out if and when a new clutch slave cylinder feed hose has been installed at any point. If not, the fluid can catch fire as it hits the rear brakes. 
 
• Interiors generally don’t wear too well, so it’s not unusual to find cars with re-trimmed seats. If looking at an early car, check that the dashboard is in one piece, as the finding spare parts today s almost impossible.
 
Model history 
 
1972: Lotus shows the Giugiaro-designed Esprit concept car at the Turin motor show, based on a modified Europa chassis. Production version remains largely unchanged
1976-1977: Series 1 car goes on sale in the UK, with 160bhp 2.0-litre alloy engine. This is the least refined of all Esprit models, but the purest in terms of design. 714 built.
1978-1980: After just two years, the Esprit is facelifted. New S2 model features Speedline alloys, and new rear light clusters from the Rover SD1, as well as a few updates that make it a little more usable. 1060 built.
1978-1979: JPS special edition built to celebrate Mario Andretti’s Formula 1 Championship win, with just 147 produced. 
1980-1981: Bigger 2.2-litre engine is fitted to all Esprits, known as the S2.2. Although power is still capped at 160bhp, the larger engine improved the car’s drivability. With just 88 built, these tend to be bought by collectors. 
1980-1981: Essex Turbo model pack a 210bhp punch, with dry-sump engine and unique paint job. 45 built. 
1980-1987: The Espirt Turbo goes on sale, now as a full production model. Stronger chassis, improved ventilation and over 210bhp made this a genuine supercar chaser. 1537 built.
1981-1987: Substantially better-developed S3 model goes on sale, alongside the Turbo. Galvanised chassis comes in at this point, and the reliability is much improved over earlier cars thanks to development of the turbocharged car. 767 built. 
1987: High Compression Turbo model launched, boosting power to 215bhp. Externally, there is very little difference, with a small HC badge the only giveaway. 
1987: Peter Stevens re-styled Esprit goes on sale, featuring a thoroughly updated interior and exterior. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites 
 
• www.clubesprit.co.uk
• www.lotusdriversclub.org.uk
• www.club-lotus.co.uk
• www.lotusespritworld.com
 
Summary and prices 

In the 21st century the Esprit is still jaw-dropping, without appearing passé. While the handling is still outstanding, turbo models are certainly fast enough to keep even the most experienced drivers on their toes. A lot of the car’s initial foibles have been ironed out since the early days, and the Esprit is a largely reliable gamble today – if you buy well. Running costs shouldn’t be too bad, and most Esprits could be covered by a classic car insurance policy.
 
Series 1 cars are by far the rarest and most valuable. A top condition example will set you back around £38,000-£45,000, with a usable car at just over £30k. Esprit Turbos are also highly sought after, with the best cars £14,500-£20,000. Early ‘Essex’ Turbos do command a £5k premium however. 
 
S2 and 2.2 models offer the classic styling, with many of the earlier car’s foibles worked out, so are also highly desirable at £15,000-£20,000. If you’re looking for great value, then a top S3 will likely set you back just £12,000-£14,000, with usable cars starting at just £7000.
Lotus Esprit JPS Lotus Esprit JPS Lotus Esprit JPS interior Lotus Esprit JPS engine Lotus Esprit JPS rear light Lotus Esprit JPS
Last updated: 9th Feb 2016
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Lotus Esprit cars for sale

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Lotus Esprit
10950 49995 GBP
  • 1998 Lotus Esprit

    POA POA

    Stunning! 1998 Lotus Esprit V8 SE in Calypso Red, with under 4000 recorded MILES since new! 3506cc Lotus Twin Turbo V8 Engine delivering 350 BHP Finished in Calypso Red Paint Cream Leather Interior with Red piping Air Conditioning Electric Windows Alpine 6 Speaker Stereo For Further information please call 01508 530491

    • Year: 1998
    • Mileage: 1998 mi
    For sale
    Stratton Motor Company
    01508 530491
  • 1990 Lotus Esprit Turbo S4

    £12,500 £12,500

    - UK supplied although recently imported from the car friendly climate of Japan - 60,000 recorded miles and a 'no advisories' MOT into February 2017 - Just serviced, belts replaced and recently shod with new tyres Penned by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, the super sleek Esprit S1 was prefaced by the 'Silver' concept car of the 1972 Turin Motor Show. This right-hand drive Esprit Turbo on offer was manufactured in 1990 and although UK supplied has recently been imported from the car friendly climate of Japan and features Yellow bodywork complemented by a cream interior with recent work including being serviced, belts replaced and recently shod with new tyres. Fitted with a sports exhaust and glass panel roof the Lotus has a 'no advisories' MOT into February 2017. The vendor currently rates the Lotus as follows:- Bodywork: 'Very Good' Engine: 'Very Good' Electrical Equipment: 'Good' Paintwork: 'Good' Gearbox: 'Good' Interior Trim: 'Good'

    • Year: 1990
    For sale
    H & H
    08458 334455
  • 1983 LOTUS ESPRIT TURBO

    £41,925 £41,925

    --Silver with Red leather interior and Red carpeting, 32,000 original miles, 2,174cc DOHC 16-Valve Turbocharged 4-Cylinder Engine, 5-Speed Manual, Factory a/c, Exceptional in every way. The Lotus Esprit became an instant star when James Bond and 'Q' chose it for the 007 films “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “For Your Eyes Only.” A Turbo Esprit for Roger Moore as James Bond was used in “For Your Eyes Only” with skis strapped to the back for a skiing trip to Italy's posh Cortina ski resort. What more can be said, awesome! The Esprit design was unmistakably from the pen of designed Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Esprit featured all-independent suspension and Lotus's own 16-valve, four-cylinder engine placed transversely mid-ship, mated to a five-speed transaxle. Disc brakes were fitted to all four wheels, the rears being mounted inboard. In 2.2 liter turbocharged form, the Esprit produced 210bhp and was good for a top speed of 148mph, 0-60 mph attainable in just 6.1 seconds. Hand built in limited numbers; the Esprit remains one of the most iconic and popular thoroughbred sports cars ever produced. This incredibly low mileage Turbo Esprit has been owned by a good friend of Autosport Designs, Inc.

    • Year: 1990
    • Mileage: 32000 mi
    For sale
  • Lotus Esprit Turbo Limited Edition No. 004 of 025, 1987. Just two owners from new!

    £34,995 £34,995

    Lotus Esprit Turbo Limited Edition No. 004 of 025, 1987. Just two owners from new! Stunning in original factory colours of Cherry Red over Calypso Red and original gold leather and suede interior with gold carpets. Glorious condition throughout and 47k miles only. Supplied new my Mann Egerton & Co. Ltd. in London to a gentleman in Hertfordshire in May 1987 and then registered with a Midland’s petroleum company in late 1988. Factory fitted air-conditioning and removable “targa” glass sunroof. Full main dealer service history. Comes with its original Clarion Stereo system. Complete standard throughout and comes with Certificate of Provenance from Lotus Cars Ltd. An absolutely stunning example. Fully MOT’d and serviced.

    • Year: 1987
    For sale
    UK Sportscars
    01227 728 190
  • Lotus Esprit S1, 1978. A rare chance to acquire the iconic ‘James Bond’ Esprit and the definitive shape of this great car.

    £49,995 £49,995

    Lotus Esprit S1, 1978. A rare chance to acquire the iconic ‘James Bond’ Esprit and the definitive shape of this great car. Glorious paintwork throughout and many small detail fittings replaced during the re-painting process to make this a very sharp looking S1 indeed. Fitted with the very rare and original Wolfrace Alloys and re-trimmed in 2013 to a high standard. Has spent the last two years in Monaco in a private collection and we are delighted to have it back in the U.K. Drives exceeding well and has had all of the belts changed during the last service. A fabulous Esprit with it’s dashing good looks and performance to match. Full MOT and service.

    • Year: 1978
    For sale
    UK Sportscars
    01227 728 190
  • Lotus Esprit S3 1986D

    £17,995 £17,995

    Lotus Esprit S3 finish in calypso red with tan half leather upholstery. air conditioning, 52,000 miles, C service including belts just completed by us. This is a very nice example which is now appreciating in value.

    For sale
  • Lotus Esprit ON SALE NOW

    £15,895 £15,895

    Lotus Esprit presented in Monaco White comes with a full specialist service history and the following specification; Blue leather interior, leather steering wheel, JVC stereo, heated rear window, glass targa roof and 15" OZ Route alloy wheels. This example comes with all original book packs, service book and a detailed service history. All of our vehicles come with a 120 point vehicle check and warranty. Body: Coupe Transmission: Manual Mileage: 71,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 1989 (F) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 2.2 Finished in: Monaco White

    • Year: 1989
    • Mileage: 71000 mi
    For sale
    Maundrell
    01235 762033
  • Lotus Esprit S3 Turbo

    £10,950 £10,950

    Lotus Esprit S3 Turbo. 1986. Calypso red with champagne half leather. This is a really good car with loads of history with a leading specialist who has maintained the car over the last 11 years. The paintwork has deterioration in places so sold as seen at a bargain price.

    • Year: 1986
    For sale
  • Lotus Esprit

    £14,995 £14,995

    *SIMILAR QUALITY CARS ALWAYS REQUIRED PLEASE CALL 01733 425140* SOLD Thinking of selling? Our proven commission sale or SOR (Sale or Return) program is a great way to utilise and access our professional services and facilities while still maximising the return from your vehicle with minimal hassle, stress and time, If you’d like to take advantage of this then please get in touch for further information. Alternatively If you’d like to move your vehicle on quickly and efficiently with minimal delay then we can make an offer on an outright purchase basis with payment and collection arranged soon after. A Lotus Esprit Turbo owned by the Hon. President of the Lotus Drivers Club. EQUIPMENT GRFP composite body, rigid zinc-coated steel backbone chassis, tilting roof panel, front and rear stowage areas, rear pane spoiler, rear wing spoiler, front fog lamps, electric windows, leather steering wheel, electrically adjustable door mirrors, centre console with stowage compartment, turbo pressure gauge, twin fuel tanks. Factory options; Hide interior, stereo equipment. EXTERIOR The Peter Stevens redesign was unveiled in 1987 with this early 1988 example being one of the first revised cars and essentially identical to the car used in the iconic movie Pretty Woman. Stevens, who later went on to create the McLaren F1 was responsible for the radical restyling to a more rounded shape and the switch to a buttressed rear pane. This sensational example is finished in the original colour of Lotus Silver (code A40) which boasts a bright polished shine and uniform finish throughout thanks in part to a paint refresh. Only minimal markings to the finish can be seen and all trim sections, Lotus decals and badges are damage free and remain just as Lotus intended. The identity plate in the windscreen remains in place. Low slung, mid-engined and the vehicular star of a classic 1990’s blockbuster movie, your very own Edward and Vivian experience! INTERIOR Having covered such low mileage under absolute enthusiast ownership, the original Connolly hide upholstery individually cut and hand sewn has remained clean and largely wear free. Once installed low down in the anatomically sprung seats, the occupants are exposed to a traditional supercar environment which is not the most ergonomically advanced by modern standards but still surprisingly comfortable and demonstrates characteristic Lotus quirkiness! The original trimming to the fascia is fully intact and both front and rear storage compartments are clean. The carpets have been protected by genuine Lotus carpet mats. All functions and controls operate well including the period Pioneer DEH-770 stereo cassette. The sense of occasion and excitement is ever present to any occupant of this legendary Esprit, even before the key is turned! ENGINE & TRANSMISSION Fitted with the Lotus 2.2 Litre 910S 16v DOHC engine, this powerplant is turbo charged with two twin choke Dellorto carburettors, a set up that has remained true to the manufacturers design. A power output of 215bhp at 6250rpm achieves the 0-60 sprint in just 5.3 seconds with a top speed of 152mph. The five speed gearbox operates exactly as it should. Mid engined with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the perfect recipe for the exhilarating classic supercar experience! WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES The stunning seven spoke alloy wheels with Lotus stampings clearly defined are in superb order with only the faintest markings. Matching Toyo Proxes tyres all round of size 215/45 R15 front and 245/45 R16 rear have masses of tread remaining. Benefitting from a recent complete overhaul, the braking system incorporating 10.2in ventilated front discs and 10.8in rear discs offer assured stopping power to match the performance. HISTORY FILE Supplied new by Lotus selling agent JCT Specialist Cars of Bradford on the 9th March 1988 this example has led a cherished existence under true enthusiast ownership. Owned from 1999 to 2014 by Laurie Barton, co-founder of the Lotus Drivers Club the origins of which began in 1976. Holding the position of Chairman/Vice Chairman for 16 years, click on the following link to learn more about the Lotus Driver Club. http://www.lotusdriversclub.org.uk/?page_id=17 A large comprehensive history file houses countless receipts and invoices throughout the life of the car from the supplying Lotus agent and other marque specialists including respected Paul Matty Sportscars. A considerable sum of money has been lavished on the car with supporting records and invoices. The original grey padded Lotus folder incorporates the handbook and maintenance record housing a number of stamps including several from the supplying dealer JCT Specialist Cars. Service records and virtually every MOT certificate fully document the 60,344 miles covered. A documented cambelt change was carried out in 2014 at 58,198 miles by Paul Matty Sportscars. An original 1988 Lotus Esprit sales brochure completes the history file. Representing a very genuine example enjoyed in the hands of true Lotus aficionados, this iconic 1980’s supercar must be seen. MOT November 2016. To see a video of this car please click on the link below: https://youtu.be/z5Bf3GIhy0A To see a complete set of photographs of this car please click on the link below: https://flic.kr/s/aHsko7VyZW 'Like us' or 'Follow us' for exciting new cars coming soon at KGF Classic Cars: https://www.facebook.com/KGFClassiccars https://twitter.com/KGFClassicCars

    • Year: 1988
    • Mileage: 60344 mi
    • Engine size: 2.2
    For sale
  • Lotus Esprit V8 GT

    £28,990 £28,990

    A really terrific V8 GT, with exceptional history and with some detail upgrades that make it a very fine example.

    • Year: 1999
    • Mileage: 36600 mi
    For sale
    Scott Walkers
    07889 405 071
  • LOTUS ESPRIT HC. CLASSIC (G) 1989

    £17,995 £17,995

    UNDER OFFER.;Peter Stevens X180 Lotus Esprit HC. An Original Monaco White Car with Blue Full Leather, Black Leather Dash and Steering Wheel, Glass Roof, Air Conditioning, Period Stereo and Immobiliser, Route OZ Alloys, Stainless Exhaust System. Low Ownership and Covered Only 33,000 Miles with Previous Keeper 13 Years and Stored In Heated Garage. ;;Rarer and More Reliable HC Model, Supplied New on 15-9-1989 by Motorway Sports Cars Ltd Kent. Complete with Original Supplying Service Book / Owners Manual, History File Including Previous MOT Certificates, Original Tools and Spare Wheel. Serviced and MOT September 2016 with No Advisories. Looks and Drives Superb. Perfect Colour Combination and Lovely Condition Throughout. Super Rare In This Condition and Miles. Great Investment!;;;Please Call For Appointment to View. 01542 850445 / 07770 940044.;;Nationwide Delivery / Shipping Available.;;;

    • Mileage: 33000 mi
    For sale
    March Motors
    01542 850445
  • Lotus Esprit

    $28,500(£19,995.60) $28,500(£19,995.60)

    Originally from Texas USA. The car has 57,076 original miles, has been adequately maintained over the years, but not restored. For more information and photo's please visit http://www.bramclassauto.com/classic-car/1979-lotus-esprit-series-2/

    • Year: 1979
    • Mileage: 57100 mi
    For sale
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