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Just a little slip on the ice.... 1996 Esprit V8 rebuild

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As you can see from the photo, even a small drift into a soft verge does more damage than you’d expect. In my case, the left oil cooler is broken, so that stopped me using the car. The radiator tray was damaged as well.

Also obvious is that the paintwork was in a pretty shabby condition. The little bump gave me an excuse to deal with the problem of the paintwork as a whole.

So after the insurance negotiations were complete, it was time to decide who should do the rebuild work. This was an easy decision, because Specialised Paintwork in Reading, were going to allow me to do most of the work myself on their premises. Whilst they did the prep and paint, I would do the break-down and re-assembly. Fun!!


At the same time, I took the opportunity to make a number of improvements and changes to the car.



After the accident happened in January 2017, work started mid-March, and the complete strip of the outer bodywork took 6 weeks.


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Previous photo is the damage to the front after the lower spoiler and bumper have been stripped off.

After 20 years, there is plenty of rust to remove. Here is the exhaust bracket and rear bumper bracket, and a hole in the heat shielding.



Here is the NS rear wheel arch extension after removal. The embedded attachment bolts are always fully rusted, and stay in the holes when you pull off the arches. It’s an odd way of doing it and despite meticulous measurements, it is very difficult to glue in new attachment bolts onto the arch and get them in the right place… trial and error was my method.



Radiator tray after removal showing damage to one of the A/C condensers. Fortunately the radiator itself survived.



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Here are some images of under the nose once the radiator tray has been removed.





This shows the danger of ignoring a leak in the boot. One of the drains for the lip around the edge of the tailgate had broken away in the bottom of the boot and been ignored. After several years, these internal exhaust brackets had turned to dust. Fortunately Lotus still had them available at the time.


Here is the LH door being stripped, and the protection bar left after the shell has been removed. It was a great idea to hang the shell and window frame off the bar. It gives the impression that the frame would be easy to re-fit into the correct position, but I found that there wasn’t quite enough freedom of movement to achieve this. We decided to remove the door shells because the metal strip holding the window seal along the top of the shell had long since rusted, and needed to be removed. There are a lot of parts to remove from the shell, and once prepped and painted, it takes a very long time to get them all back together so that the door shuts correctly. In fact, after many hours of fiddling I was never quite satisfied that they did shut exactly.







The headlight recess collects dirt and water and was always half full. You can see how small the drain hole is here. This was a great opportunity to make the drain hole much bigger and stop the headlights sitting in water. The pod pivots were replaced also.


The most unexpected part of the rebuild was losing the interior. Once the headlining material had to be stripped away, it collapsed into dust – no more interior. The rebuild suddenly became much more involved than originally intended. (Where have we all heard that before?)


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Progress with the accident repair. It was clear that the shell had not twisted or warped, so a simple repair of the cracks was all that was necessary.



The top of the A pillar is an easy place for the body shell to crack.


All the jacking points had cracked – the body not nearly strong enough in those areas.


Here’s the body after the accident damage has been completed and primed.


Now ready for the primer layer.







I don’t know why I didn’t notice how awful the colour of the carpet was!


The painter made up a rig for painting the new rear spoiler. This turned out to be a major task due to the poor quality of the part. The two halves of the spoiler were not sufficiently joined and had cracks along the joint. It took 2 days to fully correct the problem – very expensive!!



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LH door beam back in place ready to accept the door shell.


LH door completed. Expect to spend a few hours setting its position, go away, have lunch, then come back and decide to do it all over again…


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RH door being assembled. Naturally the 2 doors needed completely different settings to align them into position.



Inside the RH door showing the beam, and the frame mounting bolts. Attaching the wing mirror is easier than you might expect.



Here is the new exhaust bracket added after a new strip of heat reflecting layer has been applied.


And with the heat shield in place.


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4 minutes ago, tomcattom said:

Quality of the work looks good.

Did you repair or replace the bumper and lower valance?

We sourced a second hand bumper and a new lower valance, if I remember correctly.

Under the nose also with a new layer of heat reflecting insulation applied.


New radiator tray ready to go in with new condenser and pipes.


Headlight recess with enlarged drain hole ready for its pod.


LH oil cooler in position.


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Here the shot blasted and powder coated mounting brackets are being riveted back onto the front bumper. Replacing the front bumper should be straightforward, however, attaching the nuts in the corners is perhaps the most difficult access imaginable. I even bought a special tool from Snap-On to assist me; my small hands are too big to squeeze down the gap to reach the bolt shaft and turn the nut…

It’s at moments like these that you get to find out the true nature of the build quality of the car – terrible!! This is a second hand original bumper in moulded plastic (replacement ones are glass fibre) and matched the new lower spoiler that was available also in moulded plastic. The pilot holes for the rivets are not in identical places, showing that no two parts are manufactured the same…




The original leather dash covering was a mid-grey that reflected badly in the windscreen. I took the opportunity to remove the windscreen so that I could replace the leather with black Alcantara.


New inner exhaust brackets back in place and being covered in the original carpet.


I noticed that the fuel cross feed pipe was looking very degraded and removing it was the only option. What a fun way to spend a couple of hours trying to empty both tanks whilst having a bath in 97 octane petrol… Dismantling it revealed rust on the metal pipe, fungal growth on the flexible hoses and collapsed baffles on the sides of the fuel tank cells. So a shot blast and paint of the metal pipe, new hoses and baffles were put in place.




New tailgate drain tube sealed in place.


Radiator tray back in place with three new fans.


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Resprayed rear valence aerofoil back in place.


Front bumper in place.Body_084.thumb.jpg.9174a9f19d88f78b358c97d3044660c6.jpg

Lower front valence receiving new grills.



Lower valence in place and fitting the oil cooler tunnels.



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12 minutes ago, davidw said:

Under the nose also with a new layer of heat reflecting insulation applied.


What did you use and where did you get it from? I've got the rad out of mine at present and the insulation is on my to-do list.

Norfolk Mustard S4s #1 :)

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Fitting the fog lamps. These are Saab parts. You can also see the new air tunnel to feed air to the radiator.



3 minutes ago, tomcattom said:

What did you use and where did you get it from? I've got the rad out of mine at present and the insulation is on my to-do list.

I'll dig out the details and get back to you on that, Tom.

Fitting the underpanels. Needless to say, lots of fettling was required to make everything fit, even though the front lower valance is a new part.






Fog lamps from the front – wonderful fit! Again with lots of adjustment to get the position anywhere near acceptable.



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One of the last things to do was fitting the front spoiler lip. These were looking tired and it was suggested to replace them with an SJ sourced straight lip. But I like the odd shaped ones, they somehow seem to suit the car. The paintshop has a Wurth product that you apply after sanding the rubber. They came up perfectly afterwards! Well worth the small effort.


You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the bonnet or boot lids. These were straightforward, and didn’t present me with any problems. I did have to replace the grills on the bootlid over the engine, and there is a question over the rigidity of the rear spoiler – the nuts and bolts holding it in place does not inspire confidence.

We also decided to add some extra protection to the sills where the hydraulic ramp pick up points are. After those locations were repaired and painted, we fitted aluminium blocks 40x40x25mm, screwed and glued to the body work. This keeps the ramp pads off the bodywork. I would fix the issue of the spare wheel scissor jack much later on.


Final stage – fitting the new set of AWI wheels. I have always preferred these, so it was fabulous to find a set at SWLC!! Needless to say I now have a spare set of OZ Futura wheels if anyone is interested, and the original low level rear spoiler is also available.



One of the great things about having a proper garage to work in is the hydraulic lift. I took the opportunity to do some other remedial work on the engine. The alternator had stopped working, so that came out, and the air con compressor had never worked. So I bought a new compressor and took the alternator to a local guy who refurbs them. It was good to find out that both these items can be extracted and fitted with the engine in place. I didn’t even have to lift one side of the engine off its mount. I did have a problem with the cable electrical plug for the compressor. Mine had obviously been damaged before and the connector broken off. There was a makeshift press-on sort of connector which didn’t actually work. The connector looked standard but isn’t, and I found an alternative in Australia, which still needed a little fettling to fit properly.

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@davidw I assume that you'd recommend Specialised Paintwork? They know what they're doing with GRP bodies?

I'll need to get my Turbo Esprit painted at some point (eventually) and Reading isn't too far from me...

Not worth starting anything now...🍺

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Neil, The Beaconsfield Workshop are also amazing with fibreglass cars, a lot of Lotus dealers and TLF members have used them and they're a TLF sponsor so might do you a deal as an FFM :thumbup:

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On 03/05/2020 at 19:43, tomcattom said:

What did you use and where did you get it from? I've got the rad out of mine at present and the insulation is on my to-do list.

Hi Tom,

I found 3 sites for what looked like suitable alternatives. Something on Amazon called GlassMAT High Temperature Reflective Engine Bay Thermal Acoustic Insulation Sound Proofing Foam, there were also several options at, and also there was this at CBS, I used the CBS product.


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