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Solid Series 2: 1979 Lotus Esprit

The early model variant of any iconic car or truck is going to be sought after for a few different reasons each time, but there are some consistencies model-to-model. In the case of the Lotus Esprit, it’s a matter of purity, with the cleaner body lines free from aerodynamic enhancements beyond the naturally slippery shape, reminding us how simple Colin Chapman’s sports car philosophy was. This 1979 Lotus Esprit listed here on craigslist is a Series 2 model, which accounts for just over 1,000 models produced between 1979 and 1982, and the seller is asking $30,000.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Mitchell G. for the find. The Esprit would go onto become a formidable super car, with a beefier shape and more pronounced profile as it marched into the middle 90s. But early cars like these are so slight, so lightweight even in physical appearance that they almost seem delicate by comparison. Certainly, this was before turbocharging became the norm, so any perception of being light on its feet was necessary to offset the relatively humble power output. The Esprit shown here likely has a DOHC four-cylinder engine, good for around 144 b.h.p. One key change with the S2 cars is the adoption of ribbed taillights taken directly from a Rover SD1.

The seller isn’t particularly generous with photos, and the listing strikes me as being written by someone who has lived with this car for some time. Call it a hunch, but someone who talks about the car being “…painted once, could use more buffing,” and describes running condition along the lines of “…I just started it and pulled it out,” feels like an owner for whom this Lotus is exceedingly familiar. The seller also notes he isn’t sure of the actual mileage but opines it can’t be much more than 100,000. Also, given this Esprit is located near Niagara Falls way up in upstate New York, we aren’t exactly talking about the New York metropolitan area where flippers abound.

The seller’s asking price is also that of an individual who isn’t exactly eager to sell. $30,000 is a tall ask even with the condition as presented, which seems decent. Early Esprits are indeed pretty cars, but I wouldn’t say they are a bucket list sports car for many enthusiasts. Even the last version of the Esprit, which was by all accounts a severely underrated model, still struggles for recognition in today’s collector car marketplace. Still, if this Esprit has been in the hands of a longtime caretaker, it’s at least worth a phone call as there aren’t many left that have been looked after decade after decade.


  1. Clay

    At least it’s a four cylinder. Far easier to maintain or repair than an 8 or 12. Probably a pretty sweet little ride, but $30,000 seems a bit optimistic. Still, it would look great in my garage! Right, Honey? Oh. Never mind.

    Like 4
    • Steve

      Need photos of the interior & the engine. Exterior looks to be in good shape but nothing up close.

      Like 1
  2. D Drifter

    I had a 70 Esprit. Bought for $16K, sold it for $16K in 1990. Bought a Pantera. Rode well, good gas mileage with that 907 Four Cylinder Engine. Not much torque, but good revs.

    Like 0
    • Neil R Norris

      A Pantera is one cool ride and on my bucket list. An Esprit? Not so much.

      Like 1
  3. Howie

    I like it. No not many photos, and the photos they do have are very poor.

    Like 3
  4. justpaul

    When I read the ad, I get a totally different vibe; this seller knows nothing about this car. Can’t really offer any comment about its mechanical condition other than “I just started it and pulled it out”. Pulled it out of where? And how long had it been sitting there? He’s been buffing on it? That suggests the paint was looking less than lustrous, which again raises the question of how long it’s been sitting. And he doesn’t know the mileage: is that a sly way of saying the odometer is broken, or an indirect admission that he doesn’t know the history of this car?

    I’d want to take it to a shop who knows what they are looking at and give it a careful once over, with a price list, before I considered even $20K. There’s just too much potential to start out upside down and end up totally underwater.

    Like 2
  5. FreeSC Member

    I think I talked to this guy about the car a few weeks ago. He bought it a year ago when the previous owner was asking $22k for it. I remembered because I had talked to that guy about the car then.
    Looks like the bumpers need to be replaced with Euro bumpers and the interior needs some work. I really think it’s still worth about the same $22k being asked for the car a year ago.
    I want an early Esprit like this. The problem is they are somewhat half-baked. They are very slow in today’s terms; the heaters don’t work; the handling and braking performance wasn’t even competitive back in the day. Personally, I’d love to do a restomod: put in a turbocharged Honda K20 with about 400hp; use a Porsche 6 speed transaxle; firmer coilovers and bigger brakes; and modern HVAC; DIN2 radio; remote locking; etc. Let it LOOK original, but have modern performance and convenience features.

    Like 2

      I like the way you think! This Esprit, with a turbo K-series would be an absolute animal on a twisty road. Along with the other suggested mods but leaving it bone stock looking, would definitely surprise a lot of newer, “better” cars. I’d also love to have a TT V8 Esprit, but the prices have gone way up in the last few years, probably something I won’t get to enjoy.

      Like 0
  6. John.d

    I have 1979 s2 25k miles. Nice fun car for sale soon

    Like 0

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