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Submarine Sibling: 1977 Lotus Esprit S1

Sure, this one may not be able to transform into a submarine, but it can still make you feel like James Bond every time you get behind the wheel. Many years ago, the Lotus Esprit was made famous when Roger Moore drove one to the bottom of a watery abyss. Fortunately, the recent maintenance on this 1977 Lotus Esprit Series 1 will keep you from wanting to drive it into a lake – at least not immediately. Find it for sale at Sports Car Shop in Oregon.

Despite the affiliation with the Bond franchise, it is hard to imagine a car and shape that identifies with the 70s more than the Esprit. Even without Barbara Bach and her bell-bottoms, there are plenty of indications to this car’s birth date. The Lotus’ rather pedestrian power output of 160 b.h.p. also reminds us that it was released at the height of Middle East tension, shelving Colin Chapman’s plans for a fuel-thirsty V8 and being replaced by a 2-litre four.

The high-price and average performance were definite drawbacks, but the Esprit’s seductive bodylines and point-and-shoot handling characteristics were hard to resist. At only 37.5 inches high, the S1 was a revelation in an age of big-body family sedans. Giorgetto Giugiaro’s design is a head-turner even today, though this S1 is even more memorable for being an unmolested example with extensive recent maintenance.

The Esprit has already had an engine rebuild, at which point it was upgraded to the rare and better performing dual Delorto sidedraft carbs of the European-specification. Vernier cam gears were installed for fine-tuning of the cams, and even the venerable Wolfrace wheels were re-polished and shod with a fresh set of BF Goodrich tires. The upkeep of this Esprit remained constant in its time on the road, most recently coming from the estate of a dedicated long-time owner.

On the inside, this example doesn’t sport the classic fabric tartan pattern early Lotus’ are known for, but does make do with this very-70s chocolate brown leather. According to the seller, the car recently had new carpets installed and all the glass is presentable. The body is supposedly story-free, with straight panels and good paint. In fact, the only cosmetic issues the owner mentions are stress cracks in the bumpers. The good news is that the bumpers are one of several parts with replacements available.

The original movie car was a real submarine which could actually be submerged in the ocean. It still exists today and even showed up on eBay back in 2003, but has not been spotted since. While this S1 can’t swim, it is sure to make you feel a little more like Bond for a whole lot less money.


  1. Bear

    The same car is on eBay right now…
    Bidding is at $11.5K with just over 5 days left & the reserve already met!
    Nice looking Esprit!! 8-)

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  2. Jeff

    Nice car for a toy.

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  3. TVC15

    Nice looking and driving cars ( when they ran ) but the worst overall finish of any car in the late 70s , just look at that interior and dash !

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  4. Anonymous

    Want. I want soooooo bad.

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  5. Dolphin Member

    The interiors on cars like this look so……..1970s, especially the instrument binnacles.

    I have never driven one of these, but I hear that the later Esprit V8 gets around a lot of the limitations of these early cars. Of course, it’s a much more recent design, so you would expect lots of improvement. Has anyone driven both early and late Esprits and care to compare them?

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  6. dona andreina

    beautiful car, marred slightly by the federalized bumpers.

    The Bond car was a bathyscaphe rather than a submarine. The shutters are on the windows because it was actually piloted by people wearing scuba gear and the interior of the car was flooded to avoid complicated ballast etc issues.

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