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Special Edition Survivor: 1979 Lotus Esprit

1978 was an important year in the history of Lotus: Mario Andretti won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship in the Lotus 79. With teammate Ronnie Petersen, Lotus also won the Constructors’ Championship. To celebrate the “double,” Lotus built a limited edition of 100 Lotus Esprits in their iconic John Player Special livery: the 1979 Lotus Esprit JPS Commemorative Edition. This particular Esprit, number three of 100, is said to have been sold new in Arizona and is now listed for auction here on eBay with a current high bid of around $11,000 and six days remaining.

While presented well in certain photos, and with only 15,000 miles listed on the odometer, the car has spent the last 15 years stored outdoors in a covered carport. This subsequent exposure to the Arizona heat has taken its toll on both the exterior and interior. Outside, the body panels and the decal striping seem to have suffered the most.

On the inside, the trim on the dashboard, a-pillars, and doors all appear to have buckled in the desert climate with the seats and the rest of the interior not doing well either.

The JPS Esprit differed little from the “standard” Esprit. The only differences being primarily cosmetic with its commemorative livery and badging. Both Esprits had two-liter, 4-cylinder engines producing roughly 140 HP which was sent to the rear wheels. Videos on the eBay listing show the engine runs but the seller says the car has trouble starting when cold and needs five minutes or so to warm. The seller also mentions the water pump is leaking (which is very evident in some of the listing’s photos) and should be replaced.

Even with these issues, the JPS Esprit still represents the iconic history of Lotus both as a race team and a brand. 1978 was the last time Lotus would win either of the two Formula One World Championships. It would also mark the beginning of the end of the glory days for the British marque. Being one of a limited edition of 100, to me at least, makes it special enough. If it finds a buyer who appreciates the racing heritage of Lotus, and can give it an elite level restoration, it surely would be a grand addition to someone’s private collection and to the dream garage of every Lotus fan.


  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    It’s located in Tucson,Arizona.

    Like 1
  2. JoeNYWF64

    Odd that even with those gigantic unopenable “vent” windows at the front of each door, that the rest of the glass does not roll down all the way! – especially considering the door has a frame for the glass! Considering the astounding curve of the side glass on 2nd gen f-bodies, i bet GM could have fitted full door glass to this car without a frame that rolled all the way down.

    Like 2
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Used to be the service company for the dealer’s bodywork. That big one piece “vent” window and frame is actually the prime support for the door hinges. The rest of the door fiberglass is hung on that support. The doors were large, and for fiberglass pretty heavy. This engine is pretty good if not very powerful. When they added the turbo things went downhill for a couple of years until they got the basic engine right.

    Like 4
  4. Joe Machado

    Why do people put cars in the oven. Well Done.
    Bought the wife the Mario Andretti, if memory serves, and maybe not memory 100%, Edition.
    Black, hot inside, no air.
    Flew to Ohio, paid cash, drove to California in Summer 1978.
    Walked thru water sprinklers along the way to cool off.
    Facing the afternoon sun, 122 in Needles.
    Two 8 gallon fuel tanks, one filler each side on the C-post.
    Don’t park on the side of a hill, or fuel leaves the car.
    Was only a toy for her.
    Had to buy her a new 1979 Chrysler 300 so she had all the comforts and air, and Sunroof to get her outta my 69 Hemi Charger 500. She just had to burn to the corner every time. Kids.
    Design was such that no air flow got inside it. Even hotter.
    We really had fun with it.
    She always washed it in a Bikini. It’s a wonder we had only 2 children.

    Like 13
    • Motorsport Whse

      this car has AC. my understanding is all the cars sent to the US (and prob lhd cars) all were fitted with a/c too.

      Like 1
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Above comments all occurred In Oklahoma City. Guarantee you there wasn’t one of these cars in OKC that didn’t have AC. Without it you can cook hamburgers along with yourself.

    Like 5
  6. Clayton Bryant

    I wonder how hard you had to hit something to rip the frame around the front suspension? Average out around 200 bucks per restoring each piece big stack of denyaros…

    Like 0
  7. SDJames

    Seriously, who DOESN’T want a car that says “World Champion” on the door?!?!

    Like 4
    • Clay Bryant

      Who doesn’t want a car that says world champion on the door? I got some t-shirts for sale. writing doesn’t make a car…

      Like 0
  8. Lawrence (Larry) smith

    This car is in rough condition for $14000+,even though it says world champion ,the inside is bad roof liner ripped also seats .I think the price should be $14.00

    Like 0
    • John Walsh

      This car back in the UK would be snapped up for big bucks. I’m in the middle of a full restoration and to date, interior and quality paint job has cost me 10k. Pretty good on a car which could potentially sell for around 70k.

      Like 2
      • Howie Mueler

        But this would be a LHD in the UK.

        Like 2
  9. Howie Mueler

    One of my favorite cars, and even better a early one. Sad that people let any car get in this condition. The bid is over $14k now.

    Like 2
  10. RetroRick

    I once owned JPS #002. Fun to drive, great looker, a bit quirky. Mine was the one actually presented to Mario by Lotus. I miss it , but not enough to really want another one.

    Like 4
  11. Healeymonster

    I have only driven the later turboed version of the Esprit and I felt that car was underpowered. But it was fun to drive on hwy 17 to Santa Cruz and back.

    Like 0
  12. John Walsh

    Yep Howie. I have had 2 imported from the states over the last 3 years, both in far worse condition than this one. Restored the first one which is now in France. The 2nd one is currently under restoration by a friend of mine who has also just purchased another S1 in Australia and she is being loaded on a ship in two weeks time. Again for restoration. That Black special is still a bargain at its current price.

    Like 2
  13. PRA4SNW

    SOLD for $20,650.

    Like 0
    • Krista Zelt Caraway

      My father, Al Zelt, owned this car, and put quite a bit of work into it, in the 90’s. He passed suddenly this year. I’d love nothing more than to see pictures of this car. I have very fond and cherished memories in this car. Thank you so much!

      Like 1

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