Refreshed at 37,400 Miles: 1989 Lotus Esprit

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Lotus cars have always had a reputation for being cantankerous.  Sublime handling and build quality issues are the yin and yang of the Lotus experience.  It was no different for the father of the seller of this 1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo for sale on Craigslist in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Despite having just 37,422 miles on the odometer, this Lotus has required numerous repairs since it was acquired years ago with just 900 miles on it.  With all of this work now done, can the next owner simply enjoy this car?  Is the juice ever worth the squeeze on these incredibly handsome automobiles?  It is worth the $36,500 asking price for a nice example?  Thanks to Tony P. for bringing this Lotus to our attention!

The story of this Lotus is another father-and-son saga.  As previously mentioned, the father of the seller purchased this 1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo somewhere around 1995 or 1996.  The car had a scant 900 miles on the odometer.  It had left the factory painted Calypso Red with dark gray lower body accents and a rich leather interior.  The year 2000 found the Lotus and the father living their best lives in California.  In 2021, the seller retrieved the car and brought it back to Arizona to refresh everything.

That refreshment entailed pulling the engine and transmission from the car.  As exhausting as that sounds, this is often the case for mid-engine automobiles unless you like doing your finest beached porpoise imitation working through the tiny engine access area in the middle of the car.  While disemboweled, the water pump was rebuilt, the timing belt was replaced, the driveline mounts were switched out with fresh ones, and the air conditioning system components were gone through.  In addition, the transmission was resealed, the clutch and flywheel were replaced, and the shifter linkage was repaired.

As you would expect from an expensive British car, this Lotus is swathed with dark gray leather from the seats to the center console.  Even the door panels are draped in rich cowhide.  It is also equipped with power windows and locks, a built-in radar detector, and a Kenwood CD stereo with Bluetooth.  Even the air conditioning works after the refurbishment.  A replacement compressor and dryer were fitted at that time and the system was updated to R134a refrigerant.

There are still a few finish issues to address.  The brilliant red paint has started to fade on the hood and the roof, and the seller also notes an area of “checking paint” on the hood as well.  Other than that, the car seems to present well in the pictures.  In an odd twist of fate, the Esprit had just come off a styling update of the Giugiaro-designed car in 1988.  Styling duties fell to British designer Peter Stevens, who did a masterful job softening the hard-creased lines and making the car fit in better with its supercar contemporaries.  This design was enhanced over the years, but it still looks fresh today despite the car’s production run ending in 2004.

Above is the Lotus 2.2-liter turbocharged engine, which looks all the world like a race car engine.  This is what you would expect from Lotus, as this was one of the most powerful four-cylinder engines produced at the time.  While its performance was exceptional, the supercars that it competed with had the benefit of more cylinders and higher horsepower numbers to lure customers in.  This always put the Esprit in an odd position of being equally attractive, but not quite fast enough to run with the top dogs in the ubiquitous comparison tests that the magazines loved to run.  Lotus eventually acknowledged this by putting a V-8 in the car in 1996.  As far as this car is concerned, the 215-horsepower paired with a curb weight hovering around 2,900 lbs. is more than ample.

As you would expect for such a vehicle, the seller will provide all of the literature from the manufacturer, recent service records, a clean CARFAX report, and a ready to transfer Arizona title in the seller’s name.  While not perfect, perhaps the buyer of this beautiful Lotus has a chance to drive and enjoy it for a while thanks to the seller’s efforts.  Thanks to the previously mentioned car magazines and the movie “Pretty Woman,” this edition of the Lotus Esprit is a well-remembered automobile from that time and place.  Hopefully, whoever purchases it both shows the car and drives it.  They are wonderful cars, even if it takes some patience and deep pockets to own one.


Auctions Ending Soon


  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Second that write up. In the ’80s we were the Lotus dealer’s go to body shop for everything from detailing to major body repairs. Nice to look at and fun to drive. Didn’t grab the couple I lusted after that I should of before the prices headed for the moon.

    Like 5
  2. Frank TA

    Beautiful car, I’ve always admired this model Lotus Esprit.

    Like 4
  3. Howie

    Seems like a fair deal, posted 5 days ago.

    Like 3
  4. bruce

    I am the owner of one of the same year and the major difference is that mine is a slate blue gray with a tan interior. They are great fun and really require almost no work beyond the filter changes if you treat them right. I only had two failures and the only one that stoped me from driving it was a failure of the fuel injection sensor and that was about a $130 fix and my mechanic said that he was impressed after going thru the workshop books and manuals I had on the car as everything is designed to make certain that the engine will shut it’s self off before it damages the engine.

    The one big flaw is the gas tanks. they are of a mild steel and the bottoms are covered in a foam that is to deaden sound but also adsorbed moisture. I will have to pull the motor and transmission on mine to replace the fuel tanks with aluminum or stainless steel tanks that are available now. This is a problem with most of the cars that have been driven in areas of major moisture.

    Other than that everything works and even the interior has held up well with the exception of the foam backed headliner but considering it is 35 years old I am not going to complain.

    One thing even next to a Ferrari or Lambo these attract attention. There is an elegance to the design that few other cars can match. And that 215 HP will get you arrested in every state in the union. I have seen 145 MPH on mine when I had a test day on the Kansas Speedway track and I had more room to go. Oh that was by the track radar by the way. These are fun cars and can be fixed with relative ease. I know some with the current run of Ferrari and Lambo’s and a major service will buy one of these and you will have change. Something to think about

    Like 9
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      bruce, you might consider putting in a pair of fuel cells vs. the tanks. Would be a lot safer if you happened to get hit broadside. Hope that never happens. It’s one of the first things I did on one of my Europas.

      Like 2
      • Bruce

        I have thought about that and I can get the new tanks sized to hold the same amounts of fuel and a fuel bladder. Costs a bit more and I am considering it. One thing to remember is that the firewall between the passengers compartment and engine compartment is that 3/4″ Solid Marine Plywood which I have seen Esprits hit broad side and that did not move but the other car pushed the Esprit and there was no explosion or fire. Crushing plywood that thick and reinforced by both body and frame is much harder than you might suspect. But thank you for your comment. I do and I will take it to heart.

        Like 0
  5. MMAK

    I click on every Lotus listing by Barn Finds, not only for the enthusiasm for the marque, but also for the expertly-written descriptions by Jeff et al.

    Like 2
  6. Big C

    The next owner should hopefully get another 20,000 miles out of it, before it needs another teardown.

    Like 4
  7. Paul

    Yep nothing like a Lotus when it came to handling, I owned the Esprit grandfather a 73 Lotus Europa Spl (JPS) there were almost no cars back then that could out handle the Europa.

    Like 3
  8. Boo Radley

    I always lusted after the Esprit Turbo, way back when I’d see them listed in Robb Report. I love the look and performance, and back then used ones were affordable. Of course, all that perceived savings went to constant repairs and maintenance, but since I was gonna be a millionaire, those costs were the least of my concerns. Now that I’m barely a thousandaire, I’d settle for a Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ. At least I’m realistic now.

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds