Market Finds: When It Comes To The Inimitable Lotus Esprit, Original Is Best

When It Comes To The Inimitable Lotus Esprit, Original Is Best

By News Desk
November 27, 2019

The Lotus Esprit proved to be a game-changer when it was unveiled in 1976, not so much for its outright performance capabilities but because of its striking Giorgetto Giugiaro penned lines and the fanatical adherence to the lightweight construction methods that are still a hallmark of Lotus cars today.

That iconic shape—with a few updates along the way—lasted until 2004 although by that stage the focus had shifted somewhat and that delicate balance between power, weight and handling was less apparent in the final model years.

The first-generation Series 1 models like the bright yellow 1978 example here were powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor producing just 160hp, or an even less impressive 140hp in US trim. Yet the Esprit weighed in at under 2200 lbs which meant that performance was far from sluggish. The 0-60mph sprint took under seven seconds while top speed was a claimed 138mph. In reality, the S1 was not quite as quick as that but even though a contemporary 911 Carrera was faster, the Esprit held all the cards when it came to the corners.

The unassisted rack and pinion steering system was a revelation in its day and is even more so now compared to today’s over-assisted electrically assisted set-ups. The suspension provided the kind of delicate handling balance and composure over rough surfaces that is unheard of in modern sports cars and while subsequent models received larger capacity engines and turbochargers, the original powerplant still allows you to make the most of that exquisite chassis at far saner (and legal) speeds.

With just 718 of these early S1 Esprits being produced, they are a rare sight today and finding a good one can take some time. Happily, if you are in the mood for an undistilled Lotus driving experience then RM Sotheby’s will have this 1978 Lotus Esprit Series 1 on offer at their upcoming Arizona auction taking place between 16-17 January 2020.

It features a few updates such as a Lotus-embossed gearknob, aftermarket alloy wheels and an upgraded sound system. The Esprit currently shows 68,860 miles on its odometer, which amounts to just 1679 miles for each year of its existence. Hopefully its new owner won’t be scared to add many more happy miles to that total.

Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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4 years ago

Those with an inseam greater than 30” need not apply.

4 years ago

A bit odd to discuss the S1 car featuring such an altered version…

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
4 years ago

This is a pretty heavily modified S1, Turbo body kit (which loses a lot of the purity of the original), wrong badge, louvers, some nice engine mods, wrong wheels etc.

I think this is the one that was on Leno’s show?

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
4 years ago

Looks like it also has the bodykit of an early Esprit turbo as well?