A Tale Of Two Lotus Esprits: 1977 & 1985

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The Lotus Esprit had an incredibly long life for a supercar, from it’s first prototype showing in 1972 to production ending in 2004 after over 10,000 were built. Charles H. sent us the beautifully preserved blue 1985 survivor car in the top picture, which is located in San Leandro, California and is listed here on craigslist for $18,000. If your budget doesn’t run that high, or if you relish a challenge, reader Paul L. sent in the red 1977 completely disassembled project car located in Edgewood, Washington that is for sale here on craigslist for $6,000.

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Let’s consider the blue car first. The Turbo Esprit debuted in 1980 and delivered a substantial boost in power over the earlier cars. At the time, I believe it had the highest power/engine displacement of any production car engine, but all the heat generated put strain on some systems and they developed a reputation for unreliability (even for a Lotus). This one has been maintained by a Lotus specialist and looks to be in absolutely outstanding condition.

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The engine looks used but relatively clean, and if the professional maintenance comes with records, this could really be an example of that elusive Esprit that doesn’t come with a set of built-in problems that have to be resolved right away.

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Even the interior looks nice on this car, which any Esprit fan will tell you is very unusual.

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On the other hand, you know exactly what you are getting with the 1977 Series I car, which is said to be the “purest” of all Esprits despite not having the more powerful turbo engine. This car has been completely disassembled apart from the drivetrain. The seller makes it clear that the car has been taken apart and stored on shelves.

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And they really mean completely apart! The seller warns that if you aren’t familiar with Esprits, this probably isn’t the car for you, and I’d have to agree that it would be a challenge for a first time Lotus owner. I’m guessing that the condition of the backbone chassis prompted this level of teardown, but there are no details in the ad. Some rusting is evident on the chassis, though.

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The seller included a few pictures of what the car looked like before being torn down to whet your imagination further.

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Ultimately, it comes down to whether you like your Lotus in kit form, or fully assembled, and what your budget is. In this case, I think if my budget stretched far enough, I’d buy the Turbo–but I wouldn’t hold it against anyone that went the other way! Which one would you choose and why?

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Comments

  1. Doyler

    If anyone knows of garage space to rent in the Bay Area, I’ll gladly buy the red one and you can all watch me go mad.

  2. RayT Member

    I think I’d go with the do-it-yourself kit. Expecting ANY Lotus (except, maybe, a Seven) to be a reliable, jump-in-anytime-and-go proposition is probably not realistic, so at least you’d have the fun of throwing the thing back together to console you on days when the finished, big-buck car went “burp!” and refused to function. I’m not all that impressed with early-days turbo cars, either; especially from low-volume manufacturers.

    The Turbo Esprits are all kinds of fun, but the two loaned to me always seemed to be on the edge of some major component failure. Both were press cars, which generally tended to have more competent servicing than you’d get from even a “Lotus Expert.” But they were a blast to drive.

  3. AXEL CARAVIAS

    I would go with the kit car if it wasn’t in the opposite coast. It is clean and the seller already put up some 100-150 hours on a frame of restoration. No surprises there.
    Also I would switch to Weber 40DCOE’s carbs, but that’s just me.

    GLWTS

    Axel Caravias

  4. Rancho Bella

    Better buy the super size bottle of Advil when shopping at Costco, you will need it.

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