8 Out Of 10? 1989 Lotus Esprit SE

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Get your rating cards and hold them up! The seller of this 1989 Lotus Esprit tells prospective buyers that his British baby averages an overall rating of 8 out of 10 – though he rates the condition only as “good”. We’ll need to take a close look at this Lotus and see if we can sort it out. It is located in San Francisco, California and is available, here on craigslist for $21,900. Thanks to rex m for this tip!

The Lotus Esprit had a long run (1976-2004) encompassing six different series and a multitude of models. This sale example is known as an “X180”, was in production from 1988 until 1994 and yielded a total production volume of about 1,900 cars. All told, about 10K Esprits, of all different stripes, were produced over its 29-year run.

This example is known as an SE which means it is powered by a 264 HP, 2.2 liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Being a mid-engined car, the motor drives through a transaxle, in this case, a five-speed manual unit. The seller ups the ante on his Esprit’s mechanicals by rating them as a 10 out of 10; he further adds, “all work has been done to it. Can take it to any professional shop and get it checked“. Additional mechanical improvements include a new exhaust system and an ATS Racing intercooler.

As for the exterior’s 8 out of 10, it looks great. I’m not sure what demerits it may have, just age and 52K miles of use, more than likely. The fit and finish are just right and the slightly off-white finish works perfectly with the gold BBS wheels (the original wheels are included in the sale). There is no evidence of damage to the spoilers or body skirts/fairings, items that sometimes suffer from road rash. This Esprit has been clearly well cared for.

Moving inside is a very clean buckskin environment, a tough shade to keep clean. And, it has been enhanced with Lotus Elise seats. The original, very worn, Esprit seats are included in the sale. The new seat upholstery shade may not match perfectly but it is similar and certainly works well enough. From the two included images, the interior, much like the exterior, appears to need nothing. As is often the case with British sports cars, there is a very purposeful instrument panel in place; we’ll have to assume that the multitude of gauges work as they are supposed to. Considering what we know and can observe, it makes me wonder why the seller only rates the inside as a 6 out of 10?

The listing opens as follows, “PRICE IS FIRM. Do not contact me unless you have the cash and are ready to buy”. And it closes with, “Price is FIRM. Lowballers and time wasters will be ignored. Serious inquires ONLY.” OK, I get it, the price is firm. But the marketplace is usually the deciding factor – it will depend on someone, with the cash, turning up and agreeing to the list price. Maybe that will happen and maybe not. Besides that, craigslist seems like an unusual medium to advertise a car like a Lotus Esprit. With the mechanicals being a 10 out of 10, the exterior an 8 out of 10, and the inside only garnering a 6 out of 10, I suppose averaging this car as an 8 is fair. So, what do you think, will the seller get an 8 out of 10 price or not?

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  1. alphasudMember

    Seems like a good price to me. You can’t touch a 911 with that kind of money and you certainly won’t see many others on the road or the car show circuit. Reliability is a little more dodgy than Porsche but on par with the Italians and these do have a beautiful balance you won’t get on a air cooled 911. Not busting on the 911 as I’ve owned several. I drove a 86 Lotus which was down on power compared to this one.

    Like 4
  2. Jcs

    She’s already gone.

    Like 1
  3. rextremeMember

    Good luck finding another this nice at this price.

    Like 3
  4. ChallengerChick

    Dang, firm price secured! I live in Reno, not a far drive from that area, and was tempted to take a trip just to go look at her.

    Like 0

    I don’t get why you knock CL? FB marketplace is the worst place to sell a car not CL. I’ve bought and sold lots of cars and found many jobs on CL so stop the lies

    Like 0
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      How in the world, do you interpret, “Besides that, craigslist seems like an unusual medium to advertise a car like a Lotus Esprit” as a knock, or worse a “lie” which is rather accusatory on your part. Did it ever occur to you that it’s an opinion, one born of reviewing hundreds of car listings a month to decide what to present to our readers?

      Certain types of cars just gravitate towards certain mediums and I have not found many in the class of a Lotus Esprit on craigslist. I will agree with you that Facebook Marketplace is not ideal but that seems to have more to do with how it’s devised to handle the particulars of a car and its images than anything to do with patronage or readership.


      Like 2
  6. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    Gone for good reason – this was a very good price. I’ve seen folks asking $45K but $22K is more in line with what they can be had for. In the attached picture from 2014 (Brits at the Beach, Wilmington, NC) a business associate of mine had 2 for sale; one a 4 cylinder turbo and the other a v6 or v8. He was asking $18K for one and $21K for the other (wished I had the jack at the time). Still would love to own one of these babies.

    Like 0

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