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EXCLUSIVE: 1998 Lotus Esprit V8 Project

We’ve seen and featured a ton of different types of project cars, ranging from classic trucks to hot rods, but this is the first Lotus Esprit V8 project that we’ve ever offered as a Barn Finds Exclusive! As a long-time Esprit fan, this one is incredibly tempting. Unfortunately, it’s going to need an engine rebuild. Reader Robert M isn’t able to fix it, so he’s letting it go. If like me, you’ve always dreamed of owning a Lotus supercar, here’s your chance! You can find this one owner project in West Chester, Pennsylvania with an asking price of $10,000 or best offer.

I’m going to let Robert tell you about the engine. From Robert – There is no engine block damage, however, from the symptoms I would say that a big-end bearing has failed. This will require the engine being taken out of the car. The good news is that less than 500 miles ago the cambelts were replaced along with the cam seals so the top end should require very little work. The transmission/clutch is fine (no 2nd gear crunch), however, you might want to replace the clutch while the engine is out as it has 20,000 miles on it (although the original lasted 85,000 miles). While it’s a bummer that the engine needs work, with 103k miles, it would be worthwhile to give it a full rebuild anyways. Unfortunately, Lotus 918 V8s aren’t cheap to rebuild and Robert was quoted $12,500 to have it done. If you are adventurous, you could take the rebuild on yourself and save a decent amount of money, but it might be worthwhile paying to have an expert do it.

The engine is a bummer, but the rest of the car is in such great shape and makes spending the money to get it back on the road worthwhile. Clearly, the car has been well cared for and it really shows. Looking at the leather seats, you’d never guess that this car has seen as many miles as it has.

And here is the binder full of receipts to prove that the car has been well cared for! Clearly, Robert has loved and enjoyed this car since day one, so hopefully, it’s next owner will get it going again and continue to enjoy it while taking good care of it.

Being a fan of these cars, I’ve looked at quite a few over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen another that’s covered so many miles. Most have been squirreled away, but Robert has actually driven and enjoyed this one the way it was meant to be. It goes to show, if properly cared for, they can hold up well. Fixing this one’s engine won’t be cheap, but it would be well worth it. And there’s always the option of performing an engine swap if you’d rather have something a bit cheaper to work on. Heck, there are a few Esprits out there with Chevrolet LS power. You’d still have a V8 and it would be a fraction of the cost to rebuild. So, what would it be for you? Would you get the glorious-sounding 918 rebuilt or would you install something more affordable into that beautiful body?

  • Asking Price: $10,000 or Best Offer
  • Location: West Chester PA
  • Mileage: 103,000
  • Title Status: Clean
  • VIN: SCCDC0825WHA15488

Contact The Seller

List your car here on Barn Finds for only $50!


  1. TRPIV

    This is a perfect candidate for a LS swap. No joke.

    Like 15
    • Stan Marks

      TRPIV, Absolutely. Without hesitation.

      Like 3
  2. 86_Vette_Convertible

    If a LS would fit, at $12K to rebuild the original engine I’d look into that seriously.
    Beautiful car, just too bad for the engine giving up the ghost.

    Like 5
  3. Jeremy

    LS it for sure. This motor lasted only 100k miles?Thats a half life of an LS, and they are cheap, plentiful, and adding a supercharger is icing on the cake

    Like 4
    • Matt

      There was zero chance I’d be the first person to say LS, but I’m saying it anyway!

      Like 4

    I love how people think that chevy v8 just jumps in the chassis and you will have no issues.
    The transaxle on the lotus can barely handle the torque of the lotus motor. You will need a different transaxle. The porsche g50 is the obvious choice but it is expensive and it will not take drag racing starts. Even factory five has figured this out and are going away from the mid engine because the transaxle problems. The only way that the Audi or boxster transmission will survive is not to nail it off the line, which is what most people do when they drop an LS engine in a car. To get a trans that will live will require you to go to a ricardo or hewland and and those aren’t cheap.
    Rarely are these conversions done well and 90% are half assed. To do the engine conversion correctly will cost far more than the overpriced rebuild cost that is quoted. To do it cheaply will mean you can’t use the torque or you will get good at building transaxles.
    To rebuild the lotus engine is not that difficult, gasket set is pricey but bearings aren’t. Doing this yourself will not be to bad, paying someone to rebuild the engine will be expensive, paying for an LS swap will be frightening.

    Like 37
    • Kurt Member

      Thank you for a very informative post. I wonder if the same would be true about rebuilding a Jaguar straight six versus putting a SBC in its place.

      Like 4
      • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

        I have 3 Jags, 2 6s (carbureted and injected) and a 12(injected). They’re great engines. I frankly don’t understand why people swap in SBCs. I have never seen a good swap myself, although I’m sure they exist. The only swap I like was an XJS roadster with Viper V10 and a 6 speed, seen at a Douglasville, GA car show in 2005.

        Like 3

        It makes more sense only because you don’t have the transaxle issues. But it is still kind of silly as there is nothing really wrong with the jag 6. They are not hard to rebuild, the engines are strong and parts prices are not outrageous. They are also much smoother than the v8 and that is what you want in these jags. The biggest issue I have with older xj6’s is the transmission. The old BW8 is a piece of crap designed for a rambler. There are a ton of better trans options.

        Like 2
    • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

      I’m with you on building the Lotus engine. I’ve rebuilt 10 engines or so, from 4 cylinders to 8. I could understand if a high end machine shop does the job it costing 5 figures, but as long as you don’t have to bore the block or replace the crankshaft, how much can bearings and rings cost? I don’t know the prices on the gasket kits or if you have to replace the rods and pistons, but still I would expect to spend well under $5K on parts. Frankly, there’s no satisfaction like rebuilding an engine and having it start on the first crank and purr like a kitten.

      Like 9
  5. BarnfindyCollins

    I’d have to second Kevin’s opinion on keeping the Lotus V8. Unfortunately this like the Triumph V8 was only used in one production car and really should be retained. There are plenty of other cars you can have fun with and not drain your money down a hole that can fit a Chevy or Ford V8.

    Like 6
  6. alphasud Member

    I also agree with Kevin. The Lotus deserves to keep its original power plant. You will spend more than 12K if you need to swap the transaxle and the engine. Do the work yourself and you will save a good chunk of money or sit on it until you find a replacement from a salvage car.

    Like 4
  7. scott

    Mind Blown! I just would have assumed… Barnfinds has presented such a variety! I decided not to comment on the SAAB Sonnet the other day, but I saw one recently, and with all of the car shows, and the local Fantasy Junction, I realized I had never actually seen one in person. That’s how I feel about this post! Keep up the GREAT work, I appreciate you guys so much more than BATQ. (Yep, Bring A Trailer Queen)Happy car hunting and Happy New Year!

    Like 4
  8. Bigbird

    These cars must be driven everyday. If you rebuild it, fix everything, and park it in the garage you will be doing it all over in 2 years. I think these odd cars have a ” I have one of those, don’t use it, just have it” flair. They do go up in value the more they change hands….a deal at a good price. I once had a TR7, so I was told “why do the English drink warm beer, because they have Lucas refrigerators”. It was a electrical nightmare $$.

  9. Stangalang

    Once you hear that Lotus V8 at full song you’re never gonna forget it…definitely rebuild the engine

    Like 6
  10. jimmy the orphan

    Lotus built this car with a V8 engine. Plus a transaxle to go with it. I get a kick out of the “LS drop in crowd” Kevin is 100 % right. Someone might get this car, cram a chevy motor in it, tear up the gear box then park it because no one knows how to fix it. Then it will just rot away like to many classic cars do. Fix the engine yourself. drive it. this car is well worth it. Most of the engine rebuild $$ is in man hours. I’d love to work on this engine but my feet and legs are to swollen from diabetes these days to let me do very much. My engine guy is pointing at himself. So maybe……………….Later……………….JIMMY

    Like 2
  11. Wayne

    One of the all time most beautiful cars! (GT40, XKE,etc.) I would love to own this car and rebuild the engine myself. Too many projects and too little space at the moment. But maybe someday!

  12. E Morris

    Wow, getting over 100k on an Esprit of any kind should get you a metal from Lotus, like Volvo used to do.

    I am a serial Esprit owner, and I am firmly on the LS side of the fix or swap debate. It would be nice to be able to rebuild the original engine and expect another 102k miles without major issues. But if the rebuild is not done perfectly it might not make it 100 miles (ask me how I know). Lotus engineers did their best on the V8, but when you design an engine for a production run of ~2,000 cars it is not going to be as reliable as a GM engine design put in hundreds of millions of cars.

    As others have mentioned, an LS swap is not cheap if done correctly. But it gives you a chance to drive the car without the $20k+ time bomb of a powertrain weighing on your mind.

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