White on White Supercar: 1991 Lotus Esprit SE

I’m not a big Pretty Woman fan (and what red blooded male would admit that he is?), but I’ll always applaud the producers for putting Richard Gere in a Lotus Esprit rather than the typical Porsche 911 or C4 Corvette. Watching him crunch the gearbox to pieces was less enjoyable, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to your favorite sports cars on the silver screen. This 1991 Lotus Esprit SE is a dead-ringer for that movie car, but hopefully it’s been in the care of an owner who knows how to work a manual gearbox. The seller reports this special edition model with its white on white exterior has under 50,000 original miles and is one of four exported in ’91 in this scheme. Find it here on eBay with bids to $18,700 and the reserve unmet.

The seller reports that this Esprit was in long-term storage until 2019, and that the previous owner got it dusted off and refurbished accordingly. Interestingly, the Esprit did receive a full service in 2015 at Precision Imports in New Hampshire that included a timing belt and tensioner job, but the car’s history of residence in New Hampshire, Florida, and New Jersey indicates this was likely a snowbird’s car, and perhaps it went into storage after a long-term caretaker could no longer look after it. The Lotus was sold new in New Jersey, and shows no signs of rust or any of the typical surface coatings that come with snow belt vehicles.

The interior is in very good condition, with some wear noted on the New Raven leather seats. Still, for a car that was clearly used, the Esprit is in very good condition inside and out. The nature of Lotus interiors is such that wear-and-tear becomes evident very quickly, and this cockpit was clearly looked after. It’s hard to ignore the GM overtones inside, with the oh-so-obvious airbag steering wheel raided from the GM parts bin from a period of time in which the company had a controlling interest in Lotus. The wooden overlay around the instrument binnacle looks to have faded a bit, which is typical for this era of car equipped with this sort of decor. The air conditioning is noted as blowing warm at the moment.

A turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder resides behind the driver’s head, and while it seems odd to find a four-banger in an exotic car such as this that went head-to-head with the likes of the Acura NSX and BMW 850ci, the Lotus subscribed to the familiar Colin Chapman trope of “adding lightness” wherever possible. As such, the Esprit was still quite quick even with its smaller powerplant, and given the recent servicing, it should still deliver the same sort of thrills Richard Gere was seeking – just without the working girl co-pilot. The Esprit is now located in Missouri with the selling dealer.


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  1. CCFisher

    Plenty of men enjoy movies like “Pretty Woman.” It’s time to let go of the idea that there’s something wrong with that.

    For the record, though Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) drove the car (poorly), it was owned by Phillip Stuckey (Jason Alexander), and Edward knew nothing about it. Vivian (Julia Roberts) was the one who knew what a Lotus was and appreciated it. (I watched the movie last weekend with a young friend who had never seen it.)

    These didn’t get a whole lot of respect when new. Lotus reps could talk all day about “adding lightness,” but in the end, buyers in this class were looking for more performance than Lotus could deliver, at least until the V8 version came along. Still, it’s nice to see one of these that’s been enjoyed and preserved. They weren’t exactly durable.

    Like 10
  2. Ralph

    Always wanted one of these. But the engines were not up to snuff, don’t know about the V8 versions though. The interiors always shouted “kit car” to me.
    If I was 20 years younger and could find a suitable example, it would be nice to get one and put a decent updated interior in, and a reliable decent V6 or V8 (modern) turbo power plant. YMMV
    Looks great though for it’s age.
    Never saw the movie though.

    Like 3
  3. randys

    “I’ll always applaud the producers for putting Richard Gere in a Lotus Esprit rather than the typical Porsche 911 or C4 Corvette.”

    A lotus wasn”t planned from the beginning like that. The Producers put the car to be used in the movie out to bid for a fee (“product placement” as its known). Porsche, Ferrari, Chevy and others declined. Lotus won the bid.

    Like 2
  4. Bruce

    I have one a couple of years younger and the engines are quiet strong and while this one is in the 260 to 280HP range the same engine was capable of up to 300HP with minor modifications. The V-8 are rated at 350HP but are truly capable of up to 500HP and will go like scaled cats. Actually all of them will for it is more the experience of extremely high corning ability that mixed with a capable engine that makes this car special.

    I agree with the author about the interior materials, but the frames are galvanized from the factory and the rest is painted well or protected. There is one HUGE FLAW with the fuel tanks as they are a mild steel and can rust because of a foam sound dampener below them that traps water. Stainless Steel or Aluminum tanks are available and I would suggest the new owner put those in ASAP.

    These are very much like race cars. They are sensitive and require a sensitive driver to get the best out of them. I have run mine on the Kansas Speedway with 911 types and Ferraris and a V-8 Lotus and that was the only one that seemed that much quicker than mine. I was surprised that a 308 Ferrari did not seem quicker than it did. That was a fun day.

    The Esprit is more like a helicopter in that it needs to be looked after on a frequent basis. Do that and you will find many miles of pleasure. Do not do that and you will find you have a money pit. Get it right and keep it there.

    The other thing is that the shape is still one of the most beautiful ever made. When I drive mine frequently people stop to get out their cell phones to take photos. And more than once I have been stoped more than once by police that are honest and just wish to look at it closely because they have never seen one.

    This is more a short trip car and around town car than a long distance cruiser. While it is comfortable (if you fit ) it is a nervous car that requires attention because it is so sensitive. While it will hold a fair amount of luggage in the back soft sided bags will be more successful than not. I love mine and it is not for sale at any price. I hope that the new owner will feel the same way.

    Like 6
  5. Howie Mueler

    $25k now and reserve still not met, must be a dealer with all those vehicles listed.

    Like 1
  6. John Walsh

    Although it mention’s service in 2015. It will need the belts, tensioner and probably the water pump doing again now. Belts have a shelf life of only 5 years. Water pumps tend too start weeping after a short time of use if the car has been sitting idle for long periods of time. And as Bruce has mentioned above. Dependent on storage conditions, have the fuel tanks checked while the belts are being done. Well worth the effort. Look after them, regular service and they are a fantastic car. I have owned several, and will own more over the years. I’m currently doing a full restoration on a slightly older version, the S3 Turbo.

    Like 1
  7. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Fenton, Missouri

    Like 1

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