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Not-Yet-Submersible 1977 Lotus Esprit Project

When someone asks you, “what’s the greatest Bond car of all time,” what is your answer? DB5, probably. Certainly the most iconic. Maybe the 2000GT for the people who want to dig deeper into the history. There was only one Bond car that was cool enough to turn into a submarine, and that is this: the 1977 Lotus Esprit. Q Branch had it outfitted with a series of defensive weapons, and among them was its amphibiousness, helping Roger Moore evade baddies in a helicopter. This Esprit is unfortunately confined to land, but is still just as cool as 007’s, and can be found here on craigslist. Thank you, Shervin, for letting us know about this one!

This is Barn Finds, and this is a barn find. The seller gives some highlights, and I’ll list the important ones in this article. Importantly: it doesn’t run. Originally powered by the Lotus 907 four-cylinder, the Series 1 Esprit had some oiling issues resulting in a decrease in road-worthy examples. These were fixed with updated seals and drains, but since this example doesn’t run, you can put whatever you like in there. As a suggestion: Lotus themselves tend to go with Toyota powertrains in their more modern cars, and Toyota’s reliability is legendary.

The seller includes no images of the frame, but it’s safe to say that it will likely need some work. How much work is unknown. The body looks to be straight, all the wheels are pointed in the right direction, but it would still be worth it to ask the seller for some additional pictures so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Engine and transmission problems can be fixed just by replacing those bits; a bad frame totals the car.

Inside has definitely seen better days. The carpet is frayed, the seats are ripped, and there’s a thick coat of grime on just about every surface. It’s a project car. If anyone who reads this has read any of my other write-ups, I like to look on the bright side of life, and this Lotus is no different. You buy this, you’re buying a project. Practicality is of zero consequence when considering a project car, so who cares if it’s a little dirty? All you need to concern yourself with is rust on the frame, and how easily you can get parts for it. Solve those two problems, and you can drive the very same car as Colin Chapman and James Bond themselves.


  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    $9.5k for this turd? Ooof. Looks like it got indirectly cooked in one of the bonfires out in wine country.

    Like 4
  2. Ralph

    Sorry but this looks like toast. There are a ton of more desirable, and reliable running cars out there for 10K. And you don’t always have to rebuild them from the ground up either. One of Chapman’s biggest mistakes was not sourcing a stout reliable engine for his cars. A decent Toyota, or American V8 would have given these cars something to build a reputation on.
    The LOTUS staff must have been on mushrooms when the interior was designed also. Wow, remember sitting in one of these new, and thinking this will be crap in 5 years. Looks like almost every other Esprit out there now, wasted…
    These were like the DMC 12, an interesting idea ruined by poor execution.

    Like 8
    • SubGothius

      Giugiaro designed the interior as well as the exterior.

      • S

        Giugiaro also designed the Daewoo Leganza.

  3. Steve Clinton

    Letting a rare car get to this condition amazes me.

    Like 3
  4. Steve Douglas

    Au contraire, HIGHLY submersible, and deservedly so.

    Like 6
  5. Joe Padavano

    Rust on the seat belt buckles doesn’t bode well for the rest of the car…

    Like 10
    • SubGothius

      Indeed, that much rust on a chromed seatbelt buckle makes me wonder if this hadn’t already been submerged in the sea…

      • SMS

        Will take a guess here. Bought in 77. From 77 to 81 was loved. In 82 was a little tired of things falling off or wearing out. It is a light car that is stiff so bits get pounded on and if you are not used to a light sports car you are not ready to deal with this. in 83 it gets difficult to shift. This is usually caused by a bad motor mount but some think it is a bad trans. The car is put into the garage instead of looked at by a mechanic. In 93 it is moved outside. The rubber seals fail or a door is left open. Rain, sun, rodents and an unloved car melts into the ground and this is what you see.

        Like 1
  6. t-bone BOB

    Located in Healdsburg, CA

    • Steve Douglas

      They can heold on to it.

  7. Howie Mueler

    This is the first year they came out, i like the look of the early ones best. But this is just a parts car, and no engine photos? No Way At That Price!!

    Like 3
  8. SMS

    The S1 is my favorite. It was like the big brother of my Europa. Light and able to go through corners flat out. Well okay, flat out was not that impressive. These are typical Lotus, lightweight with the tradeoff of being fragile. They are also a pain to work on. The S2.2 is a much better car, but it lost some of its fun factor.

    There is or was a company that sold replacement chassis and would rebuild yours. Because the S1 and S2 chassis were not galvanized one needs to look very carefully at them when buying one.

    Even if this was free it would need to be cleaned up, running somewhat, and have a poke around underneath for me to want it. The S1’s when they are right they are such fun. When they are needy, they make a Europa seem easy.

    Like 3
  9. douglas hunt

    i always liked the styling, but loved the late v8 cars …..

  10. Alan

    One of the best handling cars of all time, a little underpowered but the handling made up for that. Styling is well ahead of its time this was penned in the late 60s

  11. Big Al

    looks like alot of heat in the trans tunnel, or some kind of fire under there, it’s parts, and not 9G worth.

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