Surgery Forces Sale: 1990 Lotus Esprit Turbo

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The Lotus Esprit Turbo remains one of the more obtainable 1980s supercars, which is a severe outlier in a market where everything has gone sky high that could be considered a limited-production sports model. Either due to the reputation most British cars have or because it wasn’t as widely marketed as a contemporary Acura NSX or Corvette ZR1, the Esprit Turbo SE like this one here on craigslist is still a car you can buy, even if you’re not a bitcoin millionaire. This Esprit is listed for $35,000 firm.

The seller claims he is letting the car go due to a combination of issues stemming from back and neck surgery. The good news is the next owner will benefit from the current caretaker’s years of hard work to keep this Esprit in top shape. The turbocharged British sports car benefits from extensive maintenance projects, including a rebuilt turbo, full belt service, and all suspension bushings. The Esprit has 37,000 miles on the clock and the body and paintwork appears to be in excellent shape.

The interior bears more signs of usage that the outside does, so it’s a car that will need some further TLC is you’re seeking perfection. The seller resides in Raleigh, NC but the car has spent time with a shop called Claudio’s in Beverly Hills. That’s where the aforementioned work was performed, which also included fresh brakes, tires, alternator, water pump, cam cover seals, fuel injectors, fuel pump, and more.

The work was extensive, to the extent that the engine was removed and placed on a stand to make repairs easier (especially the belt service.) The listing notes that the Esprit still has some teething issues, including a faulty A/C compressor and a leaking water pump. The Lotus will come with a new compressor and a water pump rebuild kit courtesy of Dave Bean Engineering, along with all maintenance records and factory manuals. This certainly seems like the kind of seller you’d want to buy a car like this from, and the price is fair assuming the cosmetics look as good in person as they do in photos.

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    After several years working on the early ’80s model I still say it’s one of the best looking and fun to drive cars on the planet. This car here is one of the finest examples I’ve seen in awhile. Love it!

    Like 12
  2. Mark

    The owner states this car only has 37k miles on it and it has gone through that extensive amount of work, and needs more? Yes it’s 30+ yrs old but to me them are tell tale signs the car was beat on not to mention that interior does not present as a 37k mi. Car.

    Like 14
    • Michelle RandStaff

      I virtually always agree with bobhess, but this time I have to respond as a prospective owner who doesn’t work constantly on my own cars, and say these terrify me. I vetted a low mile example where all receipts were available and it never got out of the shop without spending a few thousand of the owner’s bucks, and it was in the shop often for all sorts of disparate things. The seller had a bunch of cars but elected to sell his Esprit and after reviewing the receipts I could see why.

      The interior was similarly worn despite the low miles.

      Like 2
    • Bill

      Good points, also if the car had all this service done at this fancy Beverly Hills dealer, why was the engine out on what is obviously his garage floor?

      Very nice looking car though!

      Like 0
  3. TomP

    I have one of these in my driveway. They’re the closest thing you can get to the feeling of sitting in a spaceship.

    Like 8
    • Bruce

      I also have on sitting in my driveway. One of the cars I plan to never every sell. I fit it and it is such a beautiful thing to see running from both inside and outside the car. As for the engine out repair, it is far easier and quicker to work on these engines outside the car than in. If the Turbo was needing work which can happen to any turbo car with this kind of miles the decision to do all the work out side the car makes economic sense.

      I would suggest one point of caution before you purchase check out to see if there is any gas smell. The factory used mild steel on these gas tanks and the put some foam at the bottom and I have seen some on the sides to stop a drumming sound that could come from the tanks. This foam over time would adsorb water and produce pin hole leaks. To any and all owners I would suggest that those tanks be removed and replaced. New ones are available (not cheap) in either aluminum or stainless steel. Guess which one is more expensive. Other wise you will get a smell of gas in the car. Mine has been off the road for a couple of years as I finish the restoration of my Europa S2 to fix this problem and to put in a new head liner foam and fabric.

      When I was driving it all the time I got as many looks and people asking about it as any other exotic I know of. There is a simple elegance to the design that people react too. This car is also painted in that useful ARREST ME RED color. Given how small it is that is more useful than you might think. I had a friend who had a black painted Esprit and it seems as if nobody could ever see it.

      Like 9
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        Bruce… Agree on checking the fuel tanks. Don’t remember exactly where the tanks are located but on the Europas they are right behind the firewall on either side. Before selling our second S2 we were going to have two aluminum boxed fuel sells made with bladders inside. That ensures no leaks from the tanks and will take a side hit without blowing the whole car up. The cells were only a few more dollars to have made than buying the original tanks. Painted black they look original.

        Like 2
  4. Fran


    Like 1
  5. Michael Mark Malcewicz

    It really needs to be put on a lift and gone through thoroughly and see what really needs to be done to it. If the chassis is rusted badly ( it is mostly welded sheetmetal), that is a frame off restoration. Lotus cars do not age well. I personally would not pay $35k for it, knowing more work needs to be done and how much more work will need to be done after the PPI is done.

    Like 2
    • RobertV

      Chassis is galvanised on these

      Like 2
  6. Howie

    Yes looks great, no mention of if it even runs and drives great now. I had a early Europa years ago.

    Like 1
  7. John EderMember

    RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

    Like 0
  8. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    Back in 2014 the was a car show in Wilmington, NC called ‘Brits at the Beach’. A work colleague of mine had 2 Esprits for sale at the show. Picture attached. I believe they were both late 80s. The black one was a 4 cylinder with turbo and the red one, a year or 2 newer, had a V8. He was asking $20K and $21K respectively. Since my colleague was from Wilmington himself, and the instance car is from Raleigh, I had to look closely to see if they were the same car. The wheels are different, and given the expense of wheels for this type of car, I doubt that they were swapped out. They were both low mileage cars that he had maintained with great care. Interesting how the prices have risen.
    The trip was memorable in 2 ways. I drove my 90 XJS convertible and had a blowout on the right rear heading home. After changing the tire, the car refused to start. I had to have it towed home (actually on a layback) by AAA. A sheriff’s deputy suggested that it had jumped its timing belt. As it turned out, there is a fuel pump relay in the trunk above the rear tire and it jumped out of its slot when the tire blew. The 2nd thing was that a guy had restored his 65 BJ8 Healey and had a book of pictures during the restoration, which he copied for me and sent it (I paid for it) so that I could study it for my 65’s restoration that awaits.

    Like 2
  9. John A CoreyMember

    Deifnitely a bucket-list car for me. The Townsend face lift (which this car has) that softened the original Giugiaro folded paper style actually improved the car’s looks a LOT (OK, it won’t make as mice a submarine as the early car did in that James Bond movie, but…). That said, the V-8 edition is the one to have. Much smoother and faster than these turbo fours.

    Like 1
  10. PRA4SNW

    A good question for this seller is how long ago the major service was done. Ad says it was done in Beverly Hills, yet the car is in Raleigh, NC. Area code of the phone number is in Raleigh.

    Like 0

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