Lotus CarsProduction 1976-2004
Sports carBody style
2.0L or 2.2L Slant Four
96 inches (2438 mm)
Length 165 inches (4191 mm)
Width 73 inches (1854 mm)
Height 44 inches (1118 mm)
2690 pounds (1220 kg) unladen (typical)
Lotus Esprit was a sports car built by Lotus from 1976 to 2004.
The Silver Italdesign concept that eventually became the Esprit
was unveiled at the Turin motor show in 1972, and was a development
of a stretched Lotus Europa chassis. It is held to be among the
first of designer Giorgetto Giugiaro's "folded paper"
designs. Originally, the name Kiwi was proposed, but in keeping
with the E naming format of Lotus tradition, the name was changed
to Esprit. Historically it was able to match or better most of its
contemporary rivals' performance in many areas, which included the
Ferrari 308, 328, F355, and 360 Modena, as well as many Porsche
sports cars in a production life that lasted nearly 30 years.
The Early Esprit
1977 Lotus Esprit S1 (US)
The Esprit was launched at the 1975 Paris and London auto shows
and went into production in June 1976. These first Esprits eventually
became known as S1 (or Series 1) Esprits. These fiberglass bodied
cars were initially powered by the Lotus 907 4 cylinder engine previously
used in the Jensen Healey. The engine displaced 2.0 liters, produced
160 bhp in European trim (140 bhp in US/Federal trim), and was mounted
longitudinally behind the passengers (similar to the Lotus Europa).
The transaxle was a 5 speed unit previously used in the Citroën
SM and Maserati Merak; it also featured inboard rear brakes as was
racing practice at the time. The series 1 embodied Lotus' performance
through light weight mantra, weighing under 1000 kg. The car gained
some fame through its appearance in the James Bond film The Spy
Who Loved Me (1977) where it converted into a submarine.
The original Esprit was lauded for its handling and is said to have
the best steering of any Esprit. However, it was generally regarded
as lacking power, especially in markets such as the U.S. where the
engine was downrated for emissions purposes, and Lotus' claim of
0-60 in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph may be thought of
as optimistic. Actual road test times indicate a top speed of around
133 mph and 0-60 in 8 seconds. 
The S1 Esprit can be distinguished from later Esprits by a shovel-style
front air dam, Fiat X1/9 taillights, lack of bodyside ducting, and
Wolfrace alloy wheels. Inside the car, the most obvious indication
of a S1 Esprit is a one-piece Veglia instrument cluster.
1980 Lotus Esprit
series of improvements made to the Esprit during its initial run
culminated in the S2 (or Series 2) Esprit. The most obvious of these
changes are intake and cooling duct "ears" located behind
the rear quarter window, Rover SD1 taillights and an integrated
front spoiler. S2 Esprits also used 14" Speedline alloy wheels
designed specifically for Lotus. Other changes included relocating
the battery from above the right side fuel tank (under the rear
quarter window) to the rear of the car, adding an access door to
the engine cover and replacing the Veglia instrument cluster with
individual gauges made by Smiths and a different style of switches.
During this era, a claimed (but improbable) 100 Special Edition
cars were made to commemorate Lotus' racing victories, commonly
known as the John Player Special (JPS) among collectors after Lotus'
racing sponsor at the time. Only 79 of these editions were ever
The S2.2 was produced as a stopgap model in 1980, identical to the
S2 but with an enlarged (2.2 liter) type 912 engine used. This kept
horsepower the same, but bumped up torque to 160 lb ft. from 140.
These cars are extremely rare even among Esprits and only 88 are
thought to have been produced. 
The Turbo (1980)
Turbo Esprit HC
1980 the first factory turbocharged Lotus, the Essex Esprit was
built, and these special editions were superseded by a production
turbo car. The new turbocharged engine was known as the 910 type,
and produced 210 horsepower, with an impressive 200 lb ft. of torque.
0-60 mph could be achieved in the low 5 second range, with a top
speed of over 150 mph.
These performance improvements were coupled to a revamping and strengthening
of the rear suspension, where an upper link was added to alleviate
strain on the halfshafts, along with brake improvements (with the
front suspension upgraded again in 1985) Turbo cars are recognized
by an aerodynamic body kit with a ducktail spoiler and boxy bumpers,
with more and larger ducts all around. Essex cars were delivered
in a special livery, and Essex cars (and early turbos) possessed
3 piece compomotive wheels and dry sump oiling.
In 1981 the Esprit (two Esprits actually) was again used in a Bond
film, For Your Eyes Only.
The Giugiaro designed Esprit's final incarnation, the turbo HC,
was produced in 1986. Higher compression (from 7.5:1 to 8:1) yielded
215 hp and 220 lb ft. of torque. Lotus created the HCi, with Bosch
jetronic fuel injection, for markets with high emissions standards
such as the US. Creating this amount of power from only 2.2 liters
continued the Esprit tradition of remarkable specific output. 
The refinements of the Turbo Esprit were carried on to its naturally
aspirated sister, making the Esprit S3 a car that had much appeal
to those who wanted a driving experience without a turbocharger.
The S3 can be distinguished from a turbo by its smaller air dam,
lack of ducting on the sills, and rear end without the ducktail
spoiler as well as different, mesh lined intake fins.
Stevens redesign (1988)
1988 a new version of the Esprit was introduced, incorporating rounder
styling cues given by designer Peter Stevens of McLaren F1 fame.
Giugiaro is said to have liked the restyling, claiming it was perhaps
too close to his original design. The first Stevens styled cars
were mechanically identical to their previous year counterparts,
with Turbo and N/A variants available, though quickly a stronger
Renault transaxle was used, as well as Delco GMP4 EFI. The exterior
style changes were accompanied by a freshening of the interior.
The Stevens styled Esprit is collectively known as the X180.
stevens Esprit was in the short lived TV series "The Highwayman"
in 1988 but it was only seen twice as the show was cancelled after
only 10 episodes.
The Esprit was again improved with the addition of a water to air
intercooler known as the chargecooler producing the SE.
was pushed up to 264 with 280 available on overboost, and zero to
sixty times reduced to an amazing 4.7 seconds, with a top speed
of over 160 mph. The chargecooled engine was known as the type 910
S. Modifications to the body kit are also noted. Again the Esprit
continued to keep a small or nonexistent gap between itself and
competition from rivals such as Ferrari and Porsche.
Along with the SE, Lotus produced the little seen Esprit S, a midrange
turbocharged car offering fewer appointments and 228 hp, as well
as the standard turbo still offering 215 hp. The N/A and turbo were
cancelled after 1990, and the S in 1991.
Esprit SEs were in the films Basic Instinct and Pretty Woman.
Esprit was a popular and successful addition to the American Bridgestone
Supercar Championship and as a result Lotus produced the SE-based
X180R, with horsepower bumped to 300 and with racing appointments.
The Sport 300 was a derivative of the X180R sold in Europe. These
are known as the fastest of the 4 cylinder Esprits and among the
most desirable. 
1993 another exterior and interior revamp of the car resulted in
the S4 which was the first model to include power steering. This
car was succeeded in 1995 by the S4s, which upped power to 300 bhp
while retaining the comfort of the S4. This car was to be the end
of the line for the Esprit but a cancelled project for a front engine
car had left Lotus with a compact V8 and no car to put it into.
The V8 (1996)
Esprit V8 used Lotus' self developed type 918 3.5 liter twin turbo
engine, in front of the same Renault transmission as before. Power
was up to 355 bhp, however the capability of the 918 engine was
limited by the fragility of the Renault transmission. Zero to sixty
miles per hour came in under 5 seconds. Some examples of the engine
are noted however to suffer from a leaking cylinder liner problem.
V8 models was produced the GT3, a turbocharged 4 cylinder car with
a 2.0 liter chargecooled, turbocharged engine as used in Italian
market cars previously.
In 1998 the V8 range was split into SE and GT specs, both cars with
a much changed interior configuration, both offering similar performance
with the SE being the more luxurious of the two.
ultimate incarnation of the Esprit came in 1999 with the Sport 350.
Only 50 were made , each offering 350 horsepower (as per the
name) and various chassis and braking improvements. By this time
the Esprit could reach 60 mph in well under 5 seconds, and weighed
1300 kg as a result of their hand laid fiberglass bodies.
Esprit production continued on until 2004, Lotus content on producing
the Esprit with little development aside from minor cosmetic changes
including a switch to 4 round taillights in 2002. Over 28 years
a total of 10675 Esprits were produced.
" Esprit - 1976-1977
" Esprit S2 - 1978-1981
" Esprit JPS (John Player Special) - 1978-1979
" Esprit S2.2 - 1980-1981
" Esprit Essex - 1980
" Esprit S3 - 1981-1987
" Turbo Esprit - 1981-1986
" Turbo Esprit HC - 1986-1987
" Turbo Esprit HCi (Bosch Fuel Injected) - 1986-1987
" Esprit - 1987-1990
" Esprit Turbo - 1987-1990
" Esprit SE - 1989-1991
" Esprit S - 1991
" Esprit SE HighWing - 1992-1993
" Esprit S4 - 1993-1996
" Esprit 300 Sport - 1993
" Esprit S4s - 1995-1996
" Esprit GT3 - 1996-1999
" Esprit V8 - 1996-1998
" Esprit V8 GT - 1998-2001
" Esprit - 2002-2004
As with many of their cars, Lotus used parts from other cars to
cut down development costs. Esprits before 1993 have many British
Leyland parts and after 1993 have many GM (Vauxhall, Opel) parts.
G Esprits have Citroen gearboxes as found in the Citroen DS &
Citroen SM and S Esprits have Renault gearboxes . The door handles
come from Morris Marina and were kept until the S4 model in 1994
when instead GM Calibra door handles were used . Early models
used a Momo steering wheel, later had the same as the Pontiac Trans
Am. Until 2002 it had rectangular Toyota rear lights from the 1985
Toyota Trueno/Sprinter and RWD Toyota Corolla Coupe, later replaced
with the same round light as the Lotus Elise II. The aerial mount
and whip on the S4 and V8 is the same as the GM Calibra and Tigra.
The side mirrors are from Citroën CX. Non SE foglamps from
about 1989 are GM Astra mk1. The fan motors come from Ford Fiesta
mk2. The alternator on the V8 models is a standard GM unit also
found in the V6 GM Omega . The front suspension came from the