Live Auctions

Perfect Balance: 1986 Lotus Excel

We occassionally see the Lotus Eclat on these pages (or Sprint, depending on your naming preference) but the later Excel is a bit harder to find. This example, submitted by Barn Finds reader Bryan Bittner, is for sale somewhere in Belgium and has under 80,000 original miles. The paint and bodywork appear excellent, as does the interior. Find it here on the selling dealer’s website for about $14,500 U.S. at today’s rates.

One of my biggest gripes about Lotus interiors is they look completely trashed without the utmost in care (or being a completely preserved, delivery-mileage example). This car, despite having seen some use over the years, still appears excellent with contrasting cloth upholstery showing well along with the wrapped console and dash pieces. Wood dash inserts around the instrument binnacle and HVAC controls look tidy as well.

The back seat doesn’t look particularly comfortable, but the upside is that it’s likely unused. Sold overseas and not intended for U.S. roads due to our country’s stringent emissions requirements, the Excel featured a 160 b.h.p. four-cylinder, which was later upgraded to 180 b.h.p. in the SE version. Developed in partnership with Toyota, the Excel utilized a Toyota-derived 5-speed manual transmission. Light-weight and 50/50 weight distribution made it a fine handler.

The body design isn’t for everyone, as it continued the Eclat’s tradition of a hatch-style, or fastback, look. The Excel is a pleasant update on that car and bears a strong resemblance to the Esprit of the same era. I dig the 80s-style flatface alloy wheels and high mounted rear spoiler, along with the Lotus’ impressive cosmetic condition. You don’t see these on the roads in any country, but it’d be a real showstopper here in the U.S. Anyone have a buddy with a freighter?


  1. Rick

    Can’t get past the pink seats and door trim, sorry. Otherwise an interesting example..

  2. Mark

    Somebody put the steering wheel on the wrong side. I don’t know if I could get used to shifting left handed. Rick’s right on the pink.

    • mallthus

      You can. It takes about an hour. Now, depending on the car, getting used to shifting and flicking on the turn signal at the same time…that’s a challenge!

    • Adam T45 Staff

      Come on Mark, the steering wheel is on the right side (literally). It’s everyone else who has it wrong!

  3. Jeff

    I actually have one of these in Maryland, doing a home restoration on it. 1984 model and they are a blast to drive.

  4. Coventrycat

    Barbie wants her car back, but Ken is still out gathering the parts that fell off.

  5. Cbny

    First reaction, eeeeww! And remember, Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious.

  6. SMS

    Rats, I was hoping that this was a left hand drive car in the states. Don’t think that they ever made any or exported any to the States. Driving a RHD car in the states has a few issues such as paying tolls. A sports car is a different story. Well at least for me. Tried it and found that the corner apex in a left hander tends to jump out into the middle of the street during spirited driving.

    An Excel is the one to get if you can. The build quality, rust proofing, and interior materials is miles ahead of the Eclat or Elan. Rear seats are quite comfortable and hold you in well.

    @ Jeff, doing any modifications?

    • Jeff

      SMS, only things I have done so far are to the cooling system, with a electric water pump and aluminum radiator. Everything else is as Lotus designed it, and it is a fun car to drive. Lots of looks when you sit on the right side of the car.

    • PAW

      Naturally LHD exists – even Santa had one

  7. RobertV

    Sorry but the somewhat tedious “lots of trouble…..” adage just doesn’t apply here. Excels are very reliable, the model had some 10 years of ongoing development (more if you count its predecessors the Eclat/Elite). Plus a healthy dose of Toyota running gear and a virtually bulletproof motor. These provide an awesome, involuntary-smile-inducing driving experience. The balance when cornering is near perfect. Will never sell mine. One of the great unknown classics to emerge from Norwich. But that pink……

  8. John

    No pictures of the motor?? Another Lotus whose hood release is stuck. You probably have to cut a hole in the body work to fix it (seriously). Lotii are not for the occasional motorist — you really have to want one. Bring money, but more importantly, bring tools, lotsa tools, and a willingness to crawl under it. Frequently. VERY frequently. In fact, you might get used to sleeping there.

  9. RobertV

    Okay I propose new Barn Finds Rule! Anyone who wants to throw rocks at Lotus has to prove their credentials in terms of ownership and/or restoration experience!

    • John

      I had two Europas. I can tell you about its underside very intimately. They are Terrible cars that I loved dearly. Knowing all of the challenges, i’d buy another Europa S today. NOTHING handles like a Lotus — or breaks.

  10. Ol' Shel'

    The key to getting a perfect 50/50 balance is adding more and more body behind the rear axle until you hit the magic number.

  11. David

    Flying back to the US next week. I wonder what the airline would charge for oversized and overweight luggage?

  12. g r nicholson

    You can buy these in the UK for loose change and shipping to the States costs about 800 dollars – I’ve done the reverse. I restored one a couple of years ago, bits are easy to get. The engine lost its timing belt and the engine went to pieces…..

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