1-Of-88: 1988 Lotus Esprit Commemorative Edition

With Lotus Engineering Ltd. being formed by Colin Chapman and Colin Dare in 1952, it seems fair to believe that if they were to produce a 40th Anniversary Commemorative model, that car would have appeared in 1992. That may have some of our readers wondering why it seems that they jumped the gun by producing the Esprit Commemorative Edition in 1988. The truth is that this model was not released to celebrate a milestone for the company but to mark the anniversary of Chapman producing his first racing car in 1948. However, such occurrences were not unusual within a company that has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Records show that Lotus produced eighty-eight examples of the Esprit Commemorative Edition, and our feature car carries a plaque that confirms that it is the seventeenth of those vehicles. It is in excellent condition for its age, and it is a classic in search of a new home. Located in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, you will find this Lotus listed for sale here on Facebook. The owner has set the sale price at $39,500, and I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Charles F for referring this rare gem to us.

The Lotus presents nicely, and this is no surprise because the seller admits that a previous owner treated it to a repaint. The supplied photos are frustrating because they make it difficult to determine whether this fresh paint is the correct color. Lotus used a shade called Pearlescent White on all examples of the Commemorative Edition, and it is very distinctive in its appearance. It is also prone to “washing out” in photos taken under bright lighting, making it difficult to determine if this is right. I guess that we need to give the seller the benefit of the doubt on that point. With the unique Lotus-designed wheels also receiving the same treatment, the overall presentation of the Esprit is hard to fault. The panels show no evidence of physical damage, and the owner doesn’t mention any rust problems with the chassis. The aerodynamic aids and plastic trim pieces are in good order, as is the glass. The owner has recently rebuilt the trouble-prone headlamp mechanisms using metal gears, so they shouldn’t cause the buyers any issues in the future.

As well as unique paint, Lotus treated the interior of the Esprit Commemorative Edition to distinctive upholstery and trim. The theme was leather, and it was a combination of two-tone Blue Connally hide and Gray pigskin. The only relief that owners received from the acres of leather was provided by the timber veneer of the gauge cluster and the carpet on the floors. This interior presents well for its age, and the few flaws that it shows wouldn’t require immediate attention. The leather on the e-brake boot looks worn, as is the leather on the side of the driver’s seat. Both of these problems are minor, and I believe that an experienced leatherworker would be able to restore and condition these pieces to as-new condition. The same is true of the leather center on the wheel, but the remaining trim and carpet are in good order. There have been no aftermarket additions, although the owner incorrectly identifies the standard Sony stereo as an upgraded unit. As well as the Identification Plaque that marks this car’s Commemorative status, the interior features air conditioning, power windows, and power mirrors.

The Chapman mantra had always been, “Simplify, then add lightness.” That is why so many of his Formula One cars had been lighter than their competition, and that philosophy translated into most of his road cars. However, the Esprit wasn’t as light as many people would’ve imagined. I mean, it was no tub of lard, but the dry weight of 2,800lbs was higher than many journalists had expected. To provide customers with a memorable driving experience, Lotus equipped the ’88 Esprit with their 910S DOHC four-cylinder engine fitted with a couple of 45 DHLA Dellorto carburetors and a turbocharger. That allowed this mid-mounted 2,174cc beast to punch out a respectable 215hp and 220 ft/lbs of torque. That had to find its way to the road, which it did via the rear wheels and a five-speed manual transaxle. If the driver pointed the little Lotus at a ¼ mile, the journey would be over in 14.2 seconds. Keeping the pedal to the metal would see the Esprit run out of breath at 152mph. It seems that this car is in excellent mechanical health. The owner has recently replaced the timing belt and v-belt, along with the thermostat and alternator. He says that there is no evidence of fluid leaks or other problems, and he claims that the car has a genuine 44,000 miles on the clock. It seems that this Lotus is ready to hit the road for some fun with a new owner behind the wheel.

When he unveiled the original Esprit, Colin Chapman said that he expected the car to remain in production for up to a decade. It proved to be a survivor because although it received styling and engineering upgrades throughout its production run, it remained in production from 1976 until 2004. It proved to be the brand’s stalwart, and Lotus enthusiasts still hold the turbocharged versions in high regard today. Values haven’t done anything outrageous or radical in recent years, but they have been climbing slowly. The asking price for this car is right at the top-end of the market, but if a Lotus is on your wish list, this one would seem worthy of a closer look.


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    This is where Lotus got it completely right. Compared to the kit car look of the early 80s this car and the ones after it are well built and reliable. You can’t deny this is a great looking car with enough horsepower to make anyone happy.

    Like 18
    • Olaf E

      “This is where Lotus got it completely right.”

      Not Chapmans first thought:

      “According to Italdesign, Chapman was disappointed with the wind-tunnel test results with the model and halted the project, but the Italian coachbuilder pressed on and built a full-size mock-up on a stretched, modified Europa chassis. That nameless prototype, often simply called “the Silver Car”, appeared on the Italdesign stand at the 1972 Turin Auto Show and the positive reception convinced Chapman to approve further development.” (Wikipedia)

      Only thanks to the stubbornness of an Italian.

    • Ralph

      This car presents well for an old LOTUS. Guess the asking price was ok to someone. But there are a ton of other choices to spend my 40K on before considering this one. YMMV.

      Like 2
  2. Mikefromthehammer

    No longer available. Someone scooted in and scooped it up.

    Like 2
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I still see it listed.

  3. Steve Clinton

    The baby blue interior is a deal-breaker.

    Like 10
    • jwaltb

      The interior looks like a cheap bordello.

      Like 1
  4. douglas hunt

    i liked these when they put the V8 in them……

    Like 4
  5. Howie Mueler

    It does not say Sold when i click on the ad, the price is now $37k, i could not handle that interior color.

    Like 3
  6. Mark

    Great looking turtle of a car.

  7. Dave

    The seller’s profile pic states “I trust my immune system”

    If it doesn’t sell soon, you can always look for it to be part of his estate sale for less 💀

  8. theGasHole

    Oh man, growing up in the 80’s I had a poster of this, a Lambo, and a Testarossa on my wall. I actually like the blue interior but that wood on the dash….ick.

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