Daydreaming: 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 Project

Taking over someone else’s stalled project is always a risky move, but if too much hasn’t been done yet, it’s fun to daydream about the directions you could take it in. That’s where I find myself with this 1977 Lotus Esprit S1: my first reaction is that I wouldn’t touch it, even if it could be had for its $2,500 opening bid (it can’t), but then….Let’s stop by Horsham, Pennsylvania, where it’s listed here on eBay, on our way to dreamland, shall we?

But first, the cold, hard reality. What you see here is pretty much what you get, so you don’t get what you don’t see: there’s no windshield, no front or rear decklid, and no engine or transmission. What’s left of the fiberglass body seems to be in good shape, but the once-brown and beige interior has been slathered in cream-colored vinyl that looks terrifying in its current condition. Whether the original teddy bear-like covering was any better is up to you. So what to do with such a canvas?

This car was originally painted Lotus Lemon Yellow, like my little Hot Wheels friend here, so if you wanted to go for a stock look, a return to the original color would really make it pop. To go to a truly stock look, you’d need to remove the air intakes behind the rear quarter windows—the 718 S1 Esprits built between 1976 and 1978 didn’t have them—but you might want to keep them depending on what powerplant you decide to stick behind the seats. Sourcing an original-spec Lotus 907 four would be for purists only, I think, as it was neither particularly powerful nor reliable. The seller suggests the ever-popular LS swap, which would be a lot of motor (read: fun) for this roughly 2,350-pound car. I think I might take it to the mad geniuses at Electric GT and EV West and back up its Giugiaro lines with some sneaky-fast electric power!

If you’re no fan of electromobility, this Esprit could also be a vessel (pun intended) for taking down that smug Elon Musk by building a replica of the Esprit submarine from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, thereby robbing him of the satisfaction of owning the only one. He’d still have the original, of course, and you’d have an undrivable sculpture (hey, no need to find an engine or transmission, though! Also, no need to worry about that nasty interior—just tear it out and black out the windows), but throw that baby on a trailer and take it to every car gathering you can find and I guarantee you’d be swamped! Just don’t try to take it for an underwater pleasure cruise, okay? That part was pure movie magic, not a designed-in feature.

Where does your imagination take you in this Lotus?


WANTED 1958,1959,1960 Chevrolet Corvette Looking for body and interior for a resto mod project 1958-1960 corvette Contact

WANTED 1968-1970 Dodge Charger Project car with papers for export to South Africa $20K Contact

WANTED 1979 Subaru DL Looking for a 1979 Subaru 4 door DL, blue with blue interior, automatic. Good/excellent condition. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad



    There might not be a more perfect “electromod” vehicle out there. Juice it…and then go kick a Ferrari in the ‘nads.

  2. Scott

    This has parts car written all over it. Now if there were any parts left…

    • SSPBill

      Judging from all the other Espites in the photos it appears this thought already occurred to the current owner.

  3. Steve Visek

    Corrected heading:
    “Nightmaring: 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 Money Pit”

  4. OA5599

    The Esprit Submarine picture is appropriate.

    Because if you buy this, you will be underwater.

  5. Pa Tina

    The best thing about an Esprit Submarine is that thanks to British fit and finish you could get out in a hurry without having to open a door or window.

  6. Sam

    $750 for the Lotus. Find a 6 banger Fiero. Re-skin the Fiero with Lotus body panels. ShaaaaZaaaamm…Lotero!

  7. David Miraglia

    too risky a move, no matter how smitten I was with Roger Moores Lotus in TSWLM back in 1977. Money pit

  8. John

    This is not a “parts car”. It is a “part”. Having owned two Lotuses (Lotii?) in the past, I can attest to the fact that it would be very likely that the parts to put this shell back on the road would be more expensive that a brand new Exige. Its a pity. These are beautiful when they are complete.

    • John Walsh

      On a quick count and knowing prices for these parts. 10k US would cover it for a car which would come in at over 20K US when complete.

  9. UK Paul

    I used to have a 79 in black with Gold wheels and a Andretti signed steering wheel. (JPS edition)
    It was probably not in as good a shape as the one above when I sold it. Life got in the way of me restoring it.
    Sad story also, I was offered the back up 007 Spy who loved me Esprit Turbo in 1998 but had just bought my first house. It was really cheap .. now worth a fortune .. I really wanted it but just didn’t have the spare cash.
    I do have a soft spot for Esprits ..
    Edit … wasn’t Spy who loved me .. it was the Bronze one … having senior moment! (For your eyes only)

  10. Sirpike


    Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

  11. Bruce Best

    The easiest engine swap is a turbo RX-8 Engine as the weight is almost the same and it fits very easily with much more power. The remaining parts are available especially the glass as for the interior there are a few Lotus Esprit sites where you can pick up a complete interior from one that has been totaled either in Europe or the U.S.

    A V-6 or worse a V-8 will give you more power but will also give you a car that has horrible road manners. That is the best thing about a lotus, light car, great road manners and faster than you might think. MY 238 HP Esprit will do 0-60 MPH in under 5.5 seconds and I have seen a 5 second time a couple of times in cool weather. Top end is at or near 150MPH which is enough for most people.

    As for the Lots of trouble Usually Serious is far from the truth. Especially in the later lotus including this year. They have many features that if you know them and understand them make the cars simple to work on. A few things I would suggest however. A overhead crane type of engine lift. That engine is farther in there than you might think. The only other really big thing to do is since the engine is gone to replace the fuel tanks with Stainless Steel Replacements. The fuel tanks sit on a foam piece that can get wet and cause rust in the tank. Design flaw but Stainless Steel tanks are available and solve the problem forever.

    I have both a Europa and a 1989 Esprit Turbo and very few cars attract as much attention or are as much fun to drive. Not for the shy but in smiles per miles they are at or near the top of a very short list.

    Like 1
  12. John Walsh

    Bruce Best. You have just made the most genuine statement yet on here about any Lotus listed in this site.
    Lots Of Time Usually Sublime.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.