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Matt B
Matt B UltraDork
7/12/19 7:46 a.m.
TurnerX19 said:

Ring and pinion failure in the transaxle was frequent enough that all of the spare parts were NLA four years ago when I had one in my shop. The best on you can find will be unreliable at best.

I've seen at least a couple of the cheapest current listings that indicate "won't shift".  Surprise, surprise!  A cursory search indicates tansaxles go for around $2K+, but that seems like rolling the dice a bit on used trannies.  I mean, this whole thought exercise indicates that there's not much about these cars that isn't rolling the dice, so I can't really point at any one specific deal killer. I found an old buyer's guide that indicates constant development of the cooling system over it's lifespan due to overheating problems, seized wastegates, wheel bearings and steering racks as a constant wear item, aforementioned fragile transmissions, the list goes on.  Although they were better screwed together by the time the X180/Stevens Esprit Hess mentioned showed up, there's just so many issues to choose from! lol

Matt B
Matt B UltraDork
7/12/19 7:47 a.m.
Dr. Hess said:

I recommend the 89-93 Stevens Esprit.  Hold out for an SE.  The ultimate is the S4s.  The X180R is a particular race spec car.  88-93 are called Stevens Esprits, after the guy that did the face lift.  89-up have more reliable transmissions, and they have GM EFI versus Bosch. The SE has a charge cooler.  They are getting up there in age now, but there are plenty of them out there.  Buy one with a good complete service history.  Timing belts are a PITA and need to be done at like 30K intervals.  

Good stuff. Thanks!

Hoondavan
Hoondavan Reader
7/12/19 8:13 a.m.

A guy I used to work with bought one new back in the 80s.  He was a big-time golf pro in Miami and his stories were fascinating (I was 16 a the time).  Fast cars, women, drugs, etc.  

In summary, he owned a White Esprit. Apparently, "it was fast and good looking, but it was a piece of junk."  He also said that women loved it, so overall it was a great thing to own.  He also used much more lewd/descriptive terms.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/12/19 8:27 a.m.

One of the YouTube channels I follow is SOUP Classic Motoring:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TheeKookTube/videos  It's a guy in Ireland who is restoring an Esprit, along with some other vehicles.  His videos are pretty entertaining, plus you get to see the nuts and bolts of a frame off restoration.

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
7/12/19 10:46 a.m.

I own an S4 Esprit, an Elise, and a 7.  I've been on the hunt for the right Elan coupe.   Am I a lucky guy or stupid guy?

Additionally, we have a couple of S1 Esprits we service at Eclectic Motorworks and I've had a little exposure to other Esprits. 

With my level of hands-on experience, here's my take: The Esprit, Eclat, and 70's Elite that were designed around the 907 engine and platform were targeted as upscale touring cars rather than sportscars like most other Lotus cars.   Try to drive one to understand the Lotus interpretation of grand touring and also to make sure you like it.  You're not going to autocross an Esprit and enjoy it anywhere as much as a 7, Elan, Europa, Elise, etc.  You'll enjoy a two hour trip much more in the Esprit.  You may enjoy it more on a track day (although it's very hard to be better than an Elise/Exige).  You may enjoy running errands more in the Esprit.  

Regarding maintenance and reliability, I think most of what you hear/read on the internet is pretty true but perhaps a little exaggerated.  A car with a strong service history by a competent shop or owner will be okay but not great for reliability.  A car with bad shop support or an owner over his/her head will be the nightmare the internet frequently describes.  The later cars are more complex, but honestly have improved quality especially once GM got involved.  The early cars aren't that complicated but were built more like TVRs from the era than a true production car.   The early cars aren't that fast, the later ones are. 

I think the Esprit is more of an art object or icon than a hobby car.  If you look at it that way (and buy the right car), you'll enjoy it. 

I bought my car from an owner that gave me a stack of receipts from an excellent shop that had taken care of it.  The receipts went back about 7 years and added up to 150% of what I paid for the car, which was less than he paid for it.  So he lost a lot of money over 7 years but he said it was truly enjoyable for him and he only sold it because he wasn't driving it much any more.  I knew I bought a good car because of that previous owner's attitude and maintenance discipline.  I've had it three years and do spend more time and money on maintenance than I do on my other cars.  For me it's worth it, but I was lucky to have my experience with customer cars influence my expectations.

I hope that helps!

ShawnG
ShawnG PowerDork
7/12/19 11:08 a.m.

The Esprit was the "other" poster car for my generation.

You had the Countach or the Testarossa poster. If you were really different, you had the Esprit poster.

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
7/12/19 11:29 a.m.

M Brandon Motorcars has a 1991 Jim Clark Edition for sale 

They're inside Alara Gargae and Alara garage just posted this photo.. 

 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
7/12/19 11:32 a.m.

How is this even a question?  "What if it breaks? What if I can't find parts? What if it drains my bank account? Wah wah wah. smiley 

You don't want problems? Get this: 

It won't break, it's cheap, and will drain your soul.  You will die broke and happy in one of these however: 


 

bcp2011
bcp2011 Reader
7/12/19 1:39 p.m.
Carl Heideman said:

I think the Esprit is more of an art object or icon than a hobby car.  If you look at it that way (and buy the right car), you'll enjoy it. 

Haha this is gold.  It does reframe the issue - "It's not a car, but a piece of art that happens to move, occasionally."

All kidding aside, it is an achingly beautiful car.  I'm almost pursuaded by Carl.  Almost.  :)

 

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
7/12/19 2:53 p.m.
bcp2011 said:
Carl Heideman said:

I think the Esprit is more of an art object or icon than a hobby car.  If you look at it that way (and buy the right car), you'll enjoy it. 

Haha this is gold.  It does reframe the issue - "It's not a car, but a piece of art that happens to move, occasionally."

All kidding aside, it is an achingly beautiful car.  I'm almost pursuaded by Carl.  Almost.  :)

 

Some of you may know I own an embarrassing number of cars and I try to keep them all running.  Considering them "pieces of art that happen to move, occasionally," is a very good way to put it.  It sometimes does take jumping into two or three cars to find one that will move...  

MotorsportsGordon
MotorsportsGordon HalfDork
7/12/19 3:03 p.m.

The turbo race versions that ran in international gt racing in the 90s were pretty notorious for catching fire. This was the same for the later Elise gt1 aswell.

mfennell
mfennell Reader
7/12/19 3:23 p.m.

I've probably posted this same info before but...

I had an S4s for 6 years ('00-'06).  Put about 25k miles on it.  To date, it's the only car I regret selling a little bit.  I just checked the old Yahoo turboesprit list and the guy I sold it to still had it as of Dec '18.  Sounded like he had upgraded the turbo, the injectors, and the chip to take advantage of it. 

I *really* like driving it.  It was playful in a I-promise-not-to-kill-you kind of way and I probably spent more time sideways in that car than I should have.  :)   

I had very little trouble with mine over the years.  I still have an old web page that tracked my ownership (and some stuff from the owner before me).  http://exit109.com/~mfennell/lotus/service/ . 

It did come to me with a trashed 2nd gear, which sucked but was baked into the price.  I really didn't have much trouble with it while I had it.  It was flatbedded once when a coolant host sprung a pinhole leak.  I had the cam towers resealed when the timing belt was replaced.

I think a lot of my success with the car can be attributed to using Ralph Stechow at RS Motorsports in Northern NJ.  He knew the car inside-out and was the best mechanic I've ever known ("Mike, did you have the front shocks out?  The lowers weren't torqued to spec."  "You put these washers in the wrong spot when you put the transaxle back in.  Easy mistake to make."  ).  I did plenty of my own maintenance but still brought it to him once a year or so to get his eyes on it.

 

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 HalfDork
7/12/19 5:33 p.m.
mfennell said:

 

 

I think a lot of my success with the car can be attributed to using Ralph Stechow at RS Motorsports in Northern NJ.  He knew the car inside-out and was the best mechanic I've ever known ("Mike, did you have the front shocks out?  The lowers weren't torqued to spec."  "You put these washers in the wrong spot when you put the transaxle back in.  Easy mistake to make."  ).  I did plenty of my own maintenance but still brought it to him once a year or so to get his eyes on it.

Very good advise for any Lotus owner near enough, I have known Ralph since his childhood

 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
7/12/19 6:56 p.m.
EvanB said:
Knurled. said:

Paging nization to thread 155270.... nization to thread 155270

No, the white phone.

 

I literally did text him... I got no response.

 

OTOH I think he mostly rubs it with a diaper and drives it to car meets.  To be honest, that's what I'd do too.  Partly because of the investment value, partly because I'd be worried about getting nailed by the other yahoos on the road.  (He was talking about driving it to the second day of the RXNT after his Miata crapped a wheel bearing on Saturday... Not to race, but just to show up in because of course you have to)

Now, his other interesting cars, I'd drive every day of the week.  Come to think of it, he owns many cars and the LEAST interesting is the Sportwagen, which is pretty interesting.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
7/12/19 7:02 p.m.
Carl Heideman said:
bcp2011 said:
Carl Heideman said:

I think the Esprit is more of an art object or icon than a hobby car.  If you look at it that way (and buy the right car), you'll enjoy it. 

Haha this is gold.  It does reframe the issue - "It's not a car, but a piece of art that happens to move, occasionally."

All kidding aside, it is an achingly beautiful car.  I'm almost pursuaded by Carl.  Almost.  :)

 

Some of you may know I own an embarrassing number of cars and I try to keep them all running.  Considering them "pieces of art that happen to move, occasionally," is a very good way to put it.  It sometimes does take jumping into two or three cars to find one that will move...  

It's okay, this is a safe space. We understand.

Boy, do we understand.

 

 

The S1 Esprit is the one for me. So pure. So wild. The late ones tried to overlay swoopy on geometric and it did not improve the looks to me. Of course, I only look at pictures of them so that's all that matters.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
7/12/19 7:50 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:The S1 Esprit is the one for me. So pure. So wild. The late ones tried to overlay swoopy on geometric and it did not improve the looks to me. Of course, I only look at pictures of them so that's all that matters.

The person who convinced Miles to buy an Esprit (as if one needs much convincing) was a connoiseur of cheap exotics (he never owned any one car for more than three years, as a rule) and at one point owned a significant percentage of the worldwide production of S1 Esprits.  Including the blue one that the factory used to develop air conditioning for those decadent Yanks who insisted on having it.

 

I think he also had enough in different colours to make an actual Union Jack.

 

I'd have rather had the 308 he had in his stable at the time, but, well, I'm one of the great unwashed, and flat plane V8 noises and gated shifters are enough to impress me.

tr8todd
tr8todd Dork
7/12/19 8:20 p.m.

OK, here's my Lotus Esprit story.  Back around 1990, I went up to the first British Invasion car show held in Stowe Vt with my father.  I was in a modified TR8 coupe, that was probably making around 240hp to the rear wheels.  We were on RT 89 heading home but still in VT.  We were cruising along chatting, doing maybe 75mph.  I see something red and shiny with fog light real low against the ground coming up behind me.  A minute or so later I get passed by a red Corvette and a brand new red Lotus Esprit right behind it.  They were doing about 85-90.  I settle in behind them, but not too close to be obnoxious, and hope they would get pulled over instead of me if we happen to encounter law enforcement.  Dad and I resume talking, mostly about how cool the Lotus is.  I comment that I was reading the window sticker on the Lotus at the show and it had a claimed top speed of 153mph.  I thought that was a bit low for an exotic.  Corvette pulls off an exit, and now its just the Lotus with me following many cars lengths behind.   He starts going a little faster, so I go a little faster.  He goes faster still, so I go faster.  This keeps up until we are doing 125.  He slows back down so I slow back down.  We cruise like that for a minute or so, and then he nails it.  Car squats and shoots off.  My dad says" you're not going to let him get away, are you?"   I nail it, and slowly start to close on him.  I move into the right hand lane and go by him waving to the fat guy in the passenger seat.  Sure enough, top speed was right around 153.  I keep my foot in it until he slows and disappears behind me.  Never see him again, all the way thru NH and Mass.  I drop my dad off in RI and head back to Massachusetts.  When I get home, there is a message on my answering machine.  Its from a friend near Boston that sells British car parts.  He is laughing as he gives me the message.  Apparently the fat guy was the Lotus dealer, and the driver was to be the cars new owner.  Message says Johnny .... the Lotus dealer is going to kill me.  I just cost him a $83,000 sale because the Lotus could not outrun a F...in TR7.  Absolutely 100% true story.  Moral of the story, don't buy a Lotus, buy a modified TR8.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
7/12/19 8:29 p.m.

In reply to tr8todd :

I'm not sure what is scarier, 153+ on public roads (I'm from Ohio, 25 over might be the death penalty) or 153 in a berking TR8.

 

 

On the other hand, TIL that my fuddy-duddy boring old Volvo sedan is at least 5mph faster than an Esprit.  (Limited to 158, because 5km/h more than ze Chermins, although some have GPS-reported 161mph)  I swear that I have not had it over 110.

 

 

vbtodd
vbtodd New Reader
7/12/19 8:57 p.m.

As a current owner of a 93.5 SE, I say do it.  But be careful where you jump.  The 89-up cars with GM fuel management are preferred.  The Bosch CIS is the same but different as other Bosch CIS of the time.  I have experience with a few of the other varieties, and prefer the GM injection.  There are a lot of parts that are no longer available and there aren't correct replacements.  To reply to TR8Todd, there is always a guy with more money that can make his car faster...so why its it my buddies with their faster turbo Miata's want to drive my car?  Truth be told, I like driving a turbo Miata too.  But there is something about an Esprit that is magical.  The 93.5 was start of the slightly longer interior so if you are tall, you can fit better.  The earlier SE cars did not have the chargecooler which adds some HP.  I think the trans issue is overblown, I put bearings in mine when they started making noise, they came from the DeLorean store.  If you drive it like a ham fisted idiot, it will reward you with a trip to the shop.  Thats why the previous owner of mine got rid of it...the Renault transaxle isn't a drag strip trans.  He bought a Viper to replace it.  Believe me, it will be broken more than the least reliable Toyota...to quote my wife...it looks better broken in the garage than your last car!  Of course she bought a Lotus Elan herself...;)

Shawnb
Shawnb Reader
7/12/19 9:03 p.m.

Huge Lotus fan here, who’s owned an S4 and some Elise’s 

 

 

The Esprit is a wonderful car to stare at, but doesn’t drive all too well. It feels fragile, doesn’t handle all that well, and the transmission is beyond miserable. 

 

Seriously, the transmission is that bad. It’s also weak, and not cheap to repair. I lust after a V8TT Esprit, but will never own one due to that garbage excuse of a transmission. 

mblommel
mblommel Dork
7/13/19 9:22 a.m.
bcp2011 said:
Carl Heideman said:

I think the Esprit is more of an art object or icon than a hobby car.  If you look at it that way (and buy the right car), you'll enjoy it. 

Haha this is gold.  It does reframe the issue - "It's not a car, but a piece of art that happens to move, occasionally."

All kidding aside, it is an achingly beautiful car.  I'm almost pursuaded by Carl.  Almost.  :)

 

I owned an Esprit S1 for about a year and I agree with this statement completely. It was like a piece of modern art sitting in my driveway. The angles and surprising curves were a masterpiece of Giugiaro's "folded paper" phase of design. I loved just looking at and driving it, I always knew it was something special. I was also very lucky that the owner previous to me had about $20,000 in receipts for work he had done to the car. I bought it for less than half of that and was able to enjoy it relatively trouble free. Are they finicky? Do they break down? Yes. But if you can do your own wrenching correctly the parts aren't really expensive. They were mostly parts bin cars with bits and pieces taken from a variety of other British cars. I would do a lot of research into them and learn as much as you can. There is a lot of available info out there. I owned mine in the early 2000's and since then prices have doubled or tripled. Now the only cars under $10,000 are basket cases or missing drivetrains, which could be  a plus depending on your plans. I know of at least one UK owner that transplanted an Audi V8 mated to a 6 speed transxle into an S2 with good results. 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
7/13/19 10:32 a.m.
vbtodd said:I think the trans issue is overblown, I put bearings in mine when they started making noise, they came from the DeLorean store.

 

Intellectually, I know that the Lotus used a Renault trans, and the DeLorean used a complete Renault drivetrain (along with a whole lot of M7 fasteners because France), but there's still something about this single sentence that is mind boggling.

 

"I could find parts for my Lotus from a company that specialized in a two-year-only car that was built in Ireland"

MotorsportsGordon
MotorsportsGordon HalfDork
7/13/19 1:22 p.m.
Knurled. said:
vbtodd said:I think the trans issue is overblown, I put bearings in mine when they started making noise, they came from the DeLorean store.

 

Intellectually, I know that the Lotus used a Renault trans, and the DeLorean used a complete Renault drivetrain (along with a whole lot of M7 fasteners because France), but there's still something about this single sentence that is mind boggling.

 

"I could find parts for my Lotus from a company that specialized in a two-year-only car that was built in Ireland"

That’s because chassis wise the delorean is basically a rebodied esprit.

chandler
chandler PowerDork
7/13/19 4:50 p.m.

This seems like the right place for a Ford eco boost swap, raptor spec maybe?

mfennell
mfennell Reader
7/15/19 7:36 a.m.
TurnerX19 said:

Very good advise for any Lotus owner near enough, I have known Ralph since his childhood

Cool.  My favorite Ralph story.  "Mike, I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle."  Offer general motorcycle newbie thoughts.  10 or so years later -  "Yeah, I'm restoring Jimmy Adamo's Cagiva GP bike."  The man does not half-ass things.

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