UK Supercar! 1980 Lotus Esprit S2

Barn-bound for 30 years, this still futuristic-looking 1980 Lotus Esprit S2 seeks a new owner with the energy and resources to put this British-built supercar back on the road. The mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive two-seater gave drivers a nimble, handling-centric driving experience, a Lotus hallmark. This S2 (Series 2) in Dundee, New York is offered for $19,000 in as-is condition. The engine “turns over,” according to the spartan description. Hopefully that means “cylinders lubed and crank rocked gently with a wrench” not “randomly hooked a battery up and forced the starter to scrape the dry pistons up and down in the cylinder bores.” Nevertheless it looks fairly dry and complete. Thanks to reader Jamie G. for spotting this long-stored British classic.

The 160 HP inline four propels the sub-2300 lb Esprit S2 to 60 MPH in 6.8 seconds, according to Encycarpedia, and, yes, a number of today’s family sedans can beat that number, but who will care about that when you park those cars next to this one at the local Piggly Wiggly? Take to your favorite twisty back road and the let the Esprit show its racing heritage. There was also a Turbo Esprit that gets most of the glamour on YouTube, and would garner an even higher asking price.

“And the prize for “Most Awkward Parking Brake” goes to…. E-brake location aside, the Esprit cockpit delivers pure ’80s Cool, with the possible exception of what looks like a K-Mart shift knob. The switch gear may show its age a bit, but it’s easy to imagine saying “Fire Thrusters” or asking your passenger “Can you swim?” with the calmness of James Bond.

With an entry-level Ferrari demanding $50,000 or more, the Esprit comes in as something of a bargain. Your neighbor’s Challenger will take it down in a drag-race, but who cares? You could drive this Lotus for months and never see another one, and while Bob next door’s modern muscle car depreciates every day, your running, well-maintained Lotus will at least keep pace with inflation. Do you count this ’80s Lotus as a real supercar?

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Comments

  1. CJinSD

    I believe that a 160 horsepower S2 would have had Europe’s non-existent smog equipment and a pair of Dell’Orto two-barrel carburetors. This car has US bumpers and Strombergs. It probably has some power, but not 160 net horsepower by any stretch of the imagination. I believe that adults fit better into an Esprit than they did into a Europa, but the price on this project car still seems optimistically priced. I tried to find the listing to look for more details, and instead I found this same car listed on Barnfinds almost a year ago for less money. I suppose the dollar is worth a fraction what it was during 2020, but I’m not sure the market for project cars priced in the realm of people who have to care about the prices of food, energy and housing has improved.

    https://barnfinds.com/parked-for-30-years-1980-lotus-esprit-s2/

    Like 8
  2. Randy

    The engine is more like 140 Hp with the Strombergs. The Dells added about 20hp. My Elite had the conversion. The danger is that the starter is directly below that fiberglass breather box. Fumes or gas drops onto the starter and boom. Ask me how I know. Sad story with a bad end.
    I would consider a 350 conversion. Sorry to purist but a better result. The interior is probably roached. The original is fragile at best. This will cost 2x the price to do any kind of resto. Maybe a parts car. They don’t do well sitting for long. The round gear knob is most likely original. It actually feels good in the hand. Only thing to keep. RJ

    Like 5
    • John

      If you’ve not looked one of these over, you might be surprised if you try dropping an SBC into it. These have a backbone chassis made of very thin gauge sheet metal. The motor, suspension components and body structure are also very light weight. I’d be very surprised if the chassis could actually hold the weight of a larger motor or contain its torque if it did. Try launching the car and it’s likely that the car will stand still while the motor will twist itself loose from its mounts. Most Lotii are delivered in a maximum performance configuration. Trying to wring anything more out of them is an exercise in futility.

      Like 2
    • John Walsh

      Sorry. But I totally disagree with RJ. I have restored several Esprit’s. S1, S3 and S4. Yes he Strombergs reduce the HP a bit, but they can be changed. Fire is normally caused by fuel onto the distributer, as me, I now at cost. The gear knob is original. A full leather restoration can be done in auto quality leather for around 4k, full respray with everything off the car, 6k. Is it worth saving. Of course it is, when did you last see one and will the price go down in the next few years. No chnce. The only way is up.

  3. Tracy

    Another case of wanting all of the money for half of the car! If you want ALL of the money, it should be detailed and drivable.

    Like 6
    • Frank

      So true Tracy. People list vehicles that belong in a junk yard or restoration shop. Since COVID you would think people had plenty of time to at least give it a bath.

      This is not a car that falls in the category of a rare barn find.

  4. Howie Mueler

    160 HP and its a Supercar?

    Like 1
    • Frank

      Seventy-five percent of the time every car I see a Lotus car unless its at a Lotus dealership is neglected.

      Like 2
      • CJinSD

        Maintaining a Lotus isn’t a hardship at all, if you already have a Formula One team. Even the Toyota-powered Elises went from being all over southern California one day to becoming as rarely seen as Sunbeam Tigers within about a year of new deliveries stopping in 2011. There are two of them on ebay right now. Two? I used to see at least two anytime I drove more than three miles in San Diego. A woman I met through an S2000 club bought one around 2013. It looked great in pictures, having been in long-term storage and then cleaned up for sale. Once she got it, she wound up replacing all sorts of components that you never even think of on a real car of similar age. How often does a light housing fail on a five year old car? I’m not talking about damage, just components that had been made out of hope instead of quality materials and established practices.

        Like 1
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    They finally started producing good cars in the middle ’80s and by the time they quit making them they had the V8 engine in them, eliminating the engine problems with the turbo 4 cylinders. Have a friend with a bright yellow ’90s version and it is a killer looking and driving car. The Elise took over and most of them are fast, complete road cars. Go to wirewheel.com to see a large inventory.

    Like 1
  6. BS

    This car has been for sale on and off again for the past 2 years! I don’t live very far from the seller. Based on the squirrel debris by the exhaust headers I’d say the wiring is most likely chewed through as well! Big risk is paying almost $20k for a car that doesn’t run or drive? No thanks!

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