Clothes-Rack Special: 1979 Lotus Esprit

basement lotus 4

So, my wife and just bought a house. We tried to last year, but it ended up being a real bear of a project so we passed. This place we’re moving to is in much better condition, so there’s that. But it’s missing something I desperately wanted, which was a full, drive-in basement. I always thought it’d be pretty sweet to have my TV room shared with my project car, but that’ll have to wait for the next house. The seller of this 1979 Lotus Esprit here on eBay, however, is living the dream right now. 

basement lotus

At first, I thought it was stored in a clothing store. Then, I thought maybe the Lotus had been donated to Good Will and just hadn’t been parked in the proper aisle yet. But no, it simply appears as if among the dress shirts and mannequins, this seller has an engine-less, transmission-less Lotus sitting among the detritus of basement storage. But it does have an unusually-nice interior for a vintage Lotus, a definite highlight of this project despite the rather large task of sourcing a new drivetrain.

basement lotus 3

Even more interestingly, inside the car is a license plate indicating past ownership by a member of Congress. Oh, if this car could talk. Maybe it would tell us of nights parked on the Hill while awaiting the results of a society-shifting vote, or adult beverages consumed at a watering hole for White House staff in Foggy Bottom. Or, maybe it would tell us what happened to its numbers-matching engine and transmission before ending up a roller in a crowded Washington State basement.

basement lotus 2

The seller is asking $8,500 or best offer for this rolling Lotus, which does seem to have a nice body and interior. The seller opines that you can easily swap in a motor from a Buick, Ford or Rover, but that the car’s high-levels of originality demand that an OEM drivetrain be sourced. I’m not sure where I stand on the matter, as I think the Lotus is more enjoyable as a conversation piece in someone’s rumpus room than as a project that will consume copious amounts of time and money. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Doyler

    I’ve seen this one for sale more than twice now. I wonder what the real scoop is

  2. Francisco

    Wrong Washington. There’s no Foggy Bottom in Olympia that I know of. But I’m sure there are plenty of politicians having dalliances with their interns in cars all over the country.

    • araknid

      The plate does say “U.S. Congress Staff” so I would suspect it might have seen time in D.C.However, it could have ben a local staffer for a U.S. Congressperson (we do have female members of Congress here in the ‘other’ Washington).

  3. RayT Member

    Even though this one looks like a real prize, it’ll be costly to put back on the road. There’s the Lotus engine which, if you find one, will either need rebuilding (expensive) or come rebuilt in a crate (EXPENSIVE!), and the transmission — don’t know if Lotus was still using Renault transaxles as they did for the Europa, but in any case you’d have to get it from the UK or Europe) — plus whatever smaller bits have gotten broken or gone missing. All the existing systems will need to be rebuilt for safety’s sake. Oh, and it appears there may be some rear suspension damage, or maybe it was partially unbolted to facilitate engine/trans. removal.

    I don’t know what these are worth now, so I hope whoever takes the plunge does so because they love the car and want to drive it.

  4. Bob Hess

    Perfect car for an engine transplant. Wide open choice of ideas. Could be fun.

  5. Jeff

    There are places in the states that have used motors and transmissions in stock. Plus they used the motors in Jensons and they are exactly the same. Great Find

  6. Gary Merly

    Who’s the pale nude dude??

    • Neil

      That would be me. Understand, I’m Irish and it was verrrrrryy cold the day the photo was taken.

  7. Bruce Best

    If you bite check the frame for the early ones can rust. The comment about the Jensen engine is largely correct but I am not certain about mating to the Renault transmission. This would have been a 5 speed car with about 140 to 150HP on hand. Not really fast but tremendous fun and will still have amazing handling compared to almost anything.

    The fiberglass body is a near masterpiece in these cars. Since the engine is out I would most certainly remove the existing gas tanks (2) one on either side and replace them with Stainless Steel copies for those tend to rust out. Check the electrics to see if someone has been foolish there.

    There are many sources of parts but I would suggest The Esprit Fact File for much of the information you need. I have a 1989 version of the same car and engine with the turbo set up in my garage as I type this and it is not for sale at any price.

    As for switching engines. BAD IDEA the car will be about worthless and I have seen a few and driven two that were off balance and a total pain in the ass to shift. These are mobil works of art keep then original as possible to get the maximum fun out of them.

    The only bad thing when you get it back on the road is how your face feels from smiling all the time.

  8. Bruce Best

    Second comment there are many of these early cars that caught fire because of plastic piping between the carbs so getting engines and transmissions might not be as difficult as you might expect. All the other bits are almost all from something else and the Esprit Fact File has a major list of those. The rear end with the engine and trans out will look just like this one does so I would not expect suspension damage but I bet someone shotgunned the engine or the transmission.

  9. Curtis

    Has something changed? Granted the engine is easy but 10 years ago you could not get even a well used, hopefully good for rebuild,transaxle for these without spending more than $3500 then. I know because I needed a case to fix my Lotus then. These are Citroen transaxles. The next gen/1st turbo models actually shared transaxles with the Citroen Maserati and I think the Merak. It’s common for the shift rails to wear out the alloy case where they slide back and force and it’s very difficult to fix. I hope I am wrong and they are available now, just wondering.

    Really really good looking cars though. Gorgeous in my opinion.

  10. Glenn MacArthur

    is it forsale as of 07/20/2020 and where is it?

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