DescriptionThe History of 1979 Lotus Esprit S2 – Registration Number DJU159T
Why An Esprit?
‘Bond Effect’ - like most other Esprit owners! I can still recall the thrill of seeing the white S1 being unloaded off the back of the small ferry boat in The Spy Who Loved Me. I had never seen anything like it before and it struck an immediate chord with me. I would imagine, during the film, all Bond lovers placed themselves into that driving seat (alongside the gorgeous Barbara Bach – lucky Ringo!) as it zipped in and out of the mattress lorry or roared along the road trying to avoid some mad woman in a helicopter spraying machine gun bullets at it – what was she thinking about trying to obliterate such an awe inspiring, jaw dropping vehicle! The ‘submarine’ antics never enthralled me as much as seeing the car on the road – in fact I was more concerned about the ‘unanswered questions’ that scene always left me with –
1) How was Bond able to fire a missile up through the tailgate window to knock out the helicopter flying above without subsequently flooding the engine compartment?
2) How did the fish Bond is seeing holding up as the car rides back up onto the sand get into the passenger compartment without flooding that?
Answers on a postcard please to …….
For me it always had to be the original wedge shaped Giorgetto Giugiaro design (Birthdate the 7th August – same date as my wife!). The wedge shape layout was exactly the same as that which I would endlessly draw during Geography lessons (long before the design and film was ever made – I saw the film at 19 and had left school in 1974) – using a ruler of course (a point which some critics of the design used to belittle it!). Consequently I have never been a lover of the re-designed Stevens shape – rounding off those classic edges took away some of the uniqueness of the Esprit’s originality and began turning it into a different looking car (although I say that with some trepidation, as the Stevens shape was still a classic of its time). The wedge front seems to ‘punch’ its way along the road, whereas the rounded edges, to me anyway, appear to be gently pushing aside the oncoming carriageway as it glides forward – a little bit of the Esprit’s aggressiveness was lost in the rounding off of those wonderful straight lines.
Never thinking I would own an Esprit, the original boyhood dream was pushed to the back of mind as real life took over – it only occasionally being allowed a little foray to the forefront whenever TSWLM appeared on television. Then, with the advent of DVD’s I could relive that wonderful seven minutes of pure escapism whenever I wished – such bliss! As middle age approached, and with children grown up and a decent salary coming in, a thought struck me – is ownership of an Esprit no longer just a fantasy but a real possibility? Scouring Ebay and LEW for a classic wedge shaped Esprit, I managed to buy DJU 159T as a 50th birthday present to myself. And thus, after waiting over thirty years, the dream was fulfilled – no longer would I have to imagine that my succession of Renaults were really ‘alternative’ Bond cars – and yes, I know Bond drove an S1 – but surely you’re not growing to begrudge all of us S2 owners that kindred feeling that we too are driving such an iconic piece of cinematic history?
Lotus Certificate of Provenance
On the 11th October 2012 I received a Certificate of Provenance for the car from the Lotus Archivist Andy Graham (£45). He told me that my chassis number 7903/0702G provided the following interpretation – the date of manufacture was 7903 – 1979 March; The serial number 0702 and the market the car was destined for G = Domestic UK. The original body colour was Carnival Red (paint code L05) and the interior was trimmed in Black Maracasite – so the body colour and interior are still original. No optional extras were included apart from a radio fitting kit and manual aerial which were fitted by the factory. The car left the production line on the 7th April 1979 and it was sold from Lotus on the 13th April to the original selling dealer Malaya Garage (Midlands) Ltd. In Mountsorrel, Leics. Malaya garage carried out the PDI on the 25th April. The Esprit S2 ran from serial number 0400G (April 1978) up to 0857G (November 1979). My car was the 303rd out of 455 cars (3 cars in the serial number sequence were not built). The car was the 27th out of 58 cars painted in Carnival Red and was also the 9th car out of a total of 13 that matched the Carnival Red paint with the black Maracasite interior trim (none of which had any optional extras fitted).
The vehicle left the Lotus factory on the 13th April 1979. The PDI was carried out by Malaya Garage (Midlands) Ltd. Mountsorrel, Leicester on 25th April 1979 and it was first registered on the 26th April 1979. It was first purchased on the 29th April 1979 by a Mr. D. Barnacle. It appears from the paper work I have (the original sales invoice as well as other documents) that Mr. Barnacle was either the owner of or employed by Ray Hastings Studio Ltd (the postal address for him and the studio are the same). The vehicle may have been purchased as a company car, as the studio is listed as the owner when the free 500 mile service was carried out on it at 1142 miles on the 20th June 1979. The original purchase price of the car was £10779.00. However, the first owner received a discount of £808.43 - but by the time the car tax of £898.26 was added, along with number plates at £15.00 and delivery cost of £100 the car was back up to £10,983.83. Additionally, VAT of £878.71 was added (with VAT at 8%) along with a push button Blaupunkt radio cassette at £140.00 (which is still fitted and working in the car) and £10.50's worth of petrol. Thus, the total purchase price on the road came to £12081.85p - quite an expensive car for the time given that I bought my first terraced house in 1980 for £4250! However, the car was competing for sales alongside Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s at the time.
From 1979 until 2001 I have no documentation or information about the car – no invoices for parts or work carried out or old MOT certificates. This may be because the car was a company vehicle and such documents were kept purely for taxation or VAT purposes by the business and not with the vehicle. However, from 2001 I do have quite a bit of documentation relating to it – although I find it highly unlikely that the car remained in the possession of Mr. Barnacle or Ray Hastings Studio Ltd from new until 2001 (although there have only been seven owners of the car from new including me, so it may be possible).
From work and parts invoices I have in my possession it appears that a Mr. J. Stonebridge from Carmarthan, North Wales owned the vehicle from 30th January 2001 (the date of the first invoice I have where his name appears). An invoice dated the 5th July 2001 records the mileage at 66225 when it was discovered cylinder number 4 was very low on compression. On the 6th August 2001, Robert Davies Motors in Cardigan, Wales removed the cylinder head, cleaned the inlet valves and replaced the exhaust valves (cost £425.12). The last invoice I have for Mr. Stonebridge is dated 3rd July 2001.
The vehicle appears to have been purchased as a company vehicle once again as an invoice is made out to Mr. J. Williams c/o Familiar Friends Pet Products, Harpenden. On the 19th November 2001 Mr. Williams purchased two front shock absorbers for the car, and on the 30th November 2001 these were fitted by Bell Classics in Harpenden Herts. On the 15th February 2002 according to an MOT certificate for that year, the car’s registration number was changed to the cherished number JIW 521. The last invoice I have in his ownership is dated the 18th November 2002.
This cherished plate remained on the vehicle until the 24th March 2003 when, according to an MOT certificate dated 2nd September 2002 (the date of the MOT) and September 1st 2003 (the date of the MOT expiry) and a supporting document from the DVLC in Luton a Mr. C. Brigstock from Kettering applied to have the cherished plate removed and the DJU 159T plate transferred back onto the vehicle. Other than possessing a letter from the DVLC with Mr. Brigstock’s name on it, I have no documentation appertaining to his ownership at all.
On the 30th March 2003 a Mr. T. Blacklock, living in Sheffield acquired the vehicle. The first invoice I have relating to him is dated 4th April 2003. During his ownership Mr. Blacklock spent a considerable amount of money on the car and this helped substantially in keeping the vehicle in a roadworthy condition (the last invoice I have during his possession, dated 21st September 2007, totals £2144 for a wide range of work to be carried out - the mileage is recorded as being 80576). Unfortunately, during his last two years of ownership, Mr. Blacklock suffered from a back problem and was unable to use the car. As he could not drive it and fearing it would just deteriorate over time, he decided the time had come, reluctantly, to sell the vehicle on.
Having always wanted to own an Esprit since 1977 and never really believing I would have one, I bought the car via ebay in September 2008 from Mr. Blacklock for £3500 (surprisingly this figure was his reserve price and apart from one other person bidding £3001 no one else even placed a bid on it – since that time I’ve never seen an Esprit in such a good condition go for anywhere near that price!).
After my youngest daughter told me I had actually been successful in bidding on the car I had one of those ‘Oh! No, what have I done’ ebay moments. I had only seen the car in photographs and had a brief email exchange with Mr. Blacklock about its condition during the time the car was up for sale on the site – now here I was owing him £3500 and I’d never even clapped eyes on it! My wife and I travelled to Sheffield a week later by train expecting to drive the car straight back to Durham. This however proved impossible as the car had ‘issues’, having stood with little use for almost two years. Deciding to return empty handed to Durham on this occasion, and having spent not quite an hour in Sheffield, we returned back to the railway station only to be told the return journey by train would cost £87.00 – a considerable increase on the £14.00 tickets it cost us to go there – (top tip: if you’re going to collect a car and using the train to get there, always buy a return ticket when you pre-book – even if you don’t use it, it will be much cheaper than buying a one way return ticket on the day!!). Mr. Blacklock submitted the car to a local garage for some basic repairs to the ignition system and an MOT on 23rd September 2008 and I finally drove it back to Durham on the 28th September 2008 (taking possession at 80655 miles).
The new V5C document I received shows that, prior to his possession, there had been 5 former keepers of the vehicle since April 1979. Mr. Blacklock became the sixth and I, therefore became the seventh (007!!!) owner of the car since it left the factory. It would appear that I am one owner short of knowing the complete ownership of the car since new – so if anyone reading this can contact me about the missing years or owner I would be grateful.
Prior to my ownership other parts had been replaced by previous owners including, for example, the handbrake cables, the tailgate release cable, front shock absorbers, exhaust valves and brake servo.
During my time of ownership, I too have continued to keep the car on the road. However, not being a mechanic myself, I entrust all of the mechanical work to my good friend Mr. Steve White – himself an owner of a yellow Lotus Esprit S2. So, just like in Wheeler Dealers, we have the perfect combination of Mike Brewer and Edd China – I buy the parts, and Steve fits them!
In my possession the car has had a new water pump, fan belt and thermostat, a new cam belt, the steering rack reconditioned, new track rod ends, n/s & o/s front callipers reconditioned with new pistons and seals, new o/s & n/s front braided flexy brake hoses, new o/s & n/s front wheel bearings, new o/s & n/s front brake discs, new o/s & n/s rear braided flexy brake hoses, o/s & n/s rear wheel bearings, new o/s & n/s rear brake discs, rear n/s calliper reconditioned with new seals, o/s complete reconditioned brake calliper, new rear o/s & n/s drive shaft universal joints, a complete stainless steel exhaust system including manifold, n/s front and rear tyre, brake pads replaced twice, reconditioned starter motor, new up-rated alternator, new electronic distributor, new plug leads, coil and spark plugs, new battery, new horn, new rocker cover gaskets, new otter switch, new gear linkage bushes, new rear suspension bushes, carburettors cleaned and rebuilt, as well as general service items and other bits and bobs. These updates (with the exception of the water pump and otter switch) have all been done by choice rather than necessity, the car being Sorned for a year whilst they were carried out
The chassis, being a 1979 Esprit, is not galvanised but remains in almost perfect condition requiring only two small patches of welding during the cars lifetime – the original foam protection is also in excellent order.
The interior retains the original black Marcasite and apart from a few scuffs is also in excellent condition – the steering wheel I use is not original, it having been fitted by a former owner, but I do have the original steering wheel which could be refitted in an instant (although the replacement gives a much better driving position). The red paint work is original from the factory, and apart from the odd stone chip and light scratch is again almost perfect. The black around the doors, bumper bars, spoiler and sills has been re-touched by me.
Critical to its present state and condition is the fact that the car has not been butchered by a previous owner fitting an after market sun roof, or been tinkered with by boy racers wanting to fit a V8 engine into it, or a leather interior. It retains the style and charm it had on the day Mr. Barnacle first took possession of it – and has clearly been looked after exceptionally well by subsequent owners (I would imagine it has been garaged all it’s life and was still being serviced by a Lotus dealership up to its 45,000 mile service). On a trip to the Lakeside Car Museum in Windermere in 2012, given the cars current original condition, the owner of the museum was interested in taking the car as a museum exhibit when I no longer had any use for it – we’ll see!
Like most Esprit owners taking possession of their car I was terrified of it – not because of the speed, handling etc – but because every time a light flashed that shouldn’t be flashing, or a creak or bang came from the back, or something happened today that hadn’t happened yesterday all I could see flash up in front of me was pound signs! In the early days it always seemed that when I took it out, it came back with a different ‘problem’ to that which it had displayed the day before. However, most of these little niggles turned out to be nothing at all – just the car being the car! It took me almost two years of ownership before I settled with it and had got used to its’ own particular peculiarities – realising and eventually accepting that not every groan or splutter meant it was destined for the scrap yard! I had also met Steve, and a good mechanic on hand (without any worries of enormous garage bills) certainly helped me to get back into a regular sleep pattern. Every Esprit owner goes through this ‘getting to know the car’ baptism of fire – it is a period of time certainly not for the faint hearted – but if you persevere, the car will reward you for your patience, unwavering faith and endurance. The original desire you had for owning the car will return ten-fold and true love for the Esprit, once again, will make your heart beat faster just by looking at it – but still not quite believing it’s actually yours.
Being 33 years old, it does have the odd ‘senior moment’ now and again. It does not like ‘dawdling’ along at 30 mph – it has a tendency to splutter and backfire a little bit on occasions – but give it an open road, dual carriageway or a motorway and it’s like a teenager again, young, keen and eager to show just what it can do to anyone prepared to watch! Just pressing the throttle gently, even in fifth gear, the response power is instant and it just takes off. Even at 50-60 mph the ‘impression speed’ feels much faster because you are sitting so low to the ground. At speeds above that (keeping within the speed limits of course!) the ride is just thrilling – your own personal carriage on a roller coaster. However, the car can also be a little ‘incontinent’ at times, losing both oil and water. A drop in the level of the expansion bottle is common, but not too much, which just needs topping up. But more of a concern is the ‘traditional’ Lotus oil leak – the car is losing oil through a drip somewhere (it’s not burning oil) which is evident after its’ been out on a run – i.e. drips on the drive whilst it is being parked in the garage. Certain obvious gaskets, seals etc. have been replaced, but the drip remains elusive – but it will be found!
When I bought the car I decided to begin attending classic car shows with it. In 2009, my first full season, the car won nothing. However, since 2011 the car has picked up a few awards at some large shows and is now well known on the classic and vintage car show circuit in the North East of England:
1. Witton Castle Classic Car Show - 29-08-2011 – 1970’s class winner. 2. Raby Castle Classic Car Show - 24-06-2012 – Sports & Convertibles class winner. 3. Bamburgh Castle Car Show - 25-08-2012 – Best Original Car in Show
On average, my wife and I attend around fifteen shows a year with it and it always draws a large crowd of admirers (gawpers!). It has also been professionally photographed and appeared on a number of web sites.
We did not attend any shows in 2010 as this was the year the car was Sorned and a lot of the work I’ve mentioned above was carried out to it by Steve. However, it was during the later part of 2010 where the car really came into its own for us. By early September the car was taxed and tested and back on the road. On September 11th 2010 our only son Andrew, aged 23 was involved in an accident at Durham railway station and tragically died from his injuries on the 18th September. As the car was now roadworthy again, my wife and I spent hours and hours in it just driving around – driving seemed to help us deal a little with the devastation his death had unleashed upon us, and I really do not know how we would have coped in those early months had the Esprit not been in my ownership. It was during this traumatic time that I put over 5000 miles on the clock! Even now, two years later, the sheer rawness of his death has not completely subsided and taking the Esprit out for a drive or to a show still manages to help us cope.
I also use the car for work occasionally, so it just doesn't live in a garage when it’s not being shown. Such cars need to be out, used and seen, not mothballed from one year to the next. The excitement and thrill of ownership is not to be found in the mere possession of it, but in taking it out onto its natural habitat – the road! How many people have ever seen an Esprit in full flight on a motorway or dual carriageway – not many I would expect – so we owners are also providing a unique opportunity for someone to say when they get back to work or home “You’ll never guess what I’ve seen on the road today!” The ‘gawps’ and ‘head turns’ the car receives as it glides along the road is worth every penny spent on buying and maintaining it – and God only knows how many photographs have been taken of it by other people.
On the 18th August 2012 the car was used to transport my cousin to his wedding – it was all decked out with wedding ribbons and bouquets attached to the door mirrors – perhaps an idea to build upon for the future.
At present I have no plans at all to sell the vehicle on – even to a museum! As long as Steve can keep on doing the ‘oily bits’ and I can afford to tax and insure it (still paying exorbitant road tax on a car that is over thirty years old is an absolute disgrace in my view!!) – and of course get in and out of it without looking too silly, the car will remain with me. Very few people ever get to actually own the car of their dreams – (even boyhood dreams, although I was 19 at the time the Bond film was released!) and I know how lucky I am to own mine (especially for the money I paid). The chances of ever buying another Esprit in such an original condition diminish as each year passes and more end up as basket cases!
I did not buy mine as an ‘appreciating asset’ (indeed, for the price I paid for it I may give it to the museum at the end of my ownership) but for the sheer joy of owning and keeping such an iconic vehicle on the road – for both my wife and I it truly is a British supercar!
To see more photographs of the car (and my 1976 fully restored Lotus Elite 501) go to the Gallery section and look for my name in the members gallery.