Lotus Esprit (1977-1981)

The Lotus Esprit is without doubt an admired classic British sports car

The famous Lotus Esprit was launched in 1975 at the Paris Auto Show and as we all know was a very capable machine. A few tweaks later the Lotus Esprit S2 arrived in 1978 and after two years of the series one had effectively ironed out any potential problems with this new design.

The series two model was instantly recognisable with its air duct ears sitting directly behind the rear quarter windows, integral front spoiler and Rover SD1 tail lights.

Lotus also produced a special edition in the S2 model to commemorate its 1978 Formula One world championship, with signature John Player Special colours who were their main sponsor at the time.

According to Lotus, the JPS Esprit had the same spec as the standard S2 but only 300 were ever built making this car very rare today.

The S2 came with the 2.0 Lotus 907 4 cylinder engine used previously in Jensen Healey model, but in 1980 Lotus introduced a 2.2 912 engine with a torque increase from 140 lb ft to 160 lb ft while the cars bhp stayed the same. The S2.2 was produced for just thirteen months back then, and is now said to be a rare car today.

The first Turbo version of the Lotus Esprit was introduced in 1980 and was itself a special edition with ties to current F1 sponsors Essex Petroleum and was known as the Essex Turbo Esprit with a new turbocharged dry sump type 910 engine producing 210 bhp with a 0-60 time a shade over 6 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph it was bordering on super car territory.

Years Produced1977 - 1981
Performance0 - 60mph 8.5sec / Top Speed - 135mph
Power & Torque 160bhp / 140Ib ft
Engine1973cc / four cylinder / 16 valves
Drive-train Mid engine RWD
TransmissionFive speed manual

The Lotus Esprit is without doubt an admired classic British sports car with enthusiastic owners and admirable status so if you want one here are a few tips to help you make the right choice.


A good S2 will probably have had a galvanised chassis so look for this, as early models will probably have had the original non galvanised chassis replaced by now. The only way of checking is to get the car on a set of ramps and take a look underneath. Check the metal underneath and tap with a hammer. You should hear a crisp clang, otherwise there may be some corrosion to the chassis. Body shells are strong but check for cracking.

The only problem with the shell is badly repaired accident damage, so look out for this as Lotus pioneered a vacuum assisted resin injection making the shell durable but difficult to repair.

Under the bonnet

There are three engines to choose from in the Esprit.

All are ally twin cam; the type 907 2.0 litre, the type 912 2.2 litre and the type 910 2.2 turbo engine.

All Lotus Esprit’s should have service history showing every 6000 miles and a cam-belt change every 24,000 or every two years, so check the documentation.


Watch out for oil leaks from cam carriers and covers as this collects in the spark plug recess’s causing misfiring. Heating and cooling can cause the manifold to crack so check if it’s blowing. Ensure the wheel bearings are the correct specification because cheap replacements won’t last long. Make sure the spigot bearing has been well greased as this can cause crankshaft failure.

Make sure everything electrical is working properly as once problems start they seem to get progressively worse. Interior trim is long lasting but check for any rips or tears especially the driver’s seat. One of the most important things to remember when buying a classic car is to ensure it has good history.


Lotus is currently owned by Proton who acquired it after the previous owner went into bankruptcy in 1994.

Mark Wilkinson (Managing Partner of Heritage Classic Car Insurance) says

“The name Lotus is synonymous with motor sport and has brought that racing heritage from the track on to the road with its Italian designed British sports cars, no more so than in the Lotus Esprit.”



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