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Which Esprit Turbo to buy ?


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I have owned my current Porsche 996 Turbo for 10 years now and starting to get an itch to change and try something different.

Originally I bought the 996 Turbo thinking I would drive it quite often but it ended up becoming a Sunday fair weather car. As a result it did mean I kept it for far longer than I have kept other cars. On the flipside though, given how I have used it, I could have easily ran an older more classic car.

Here I am longingly looking at Esprit Turbos and looking for some advice.

I am quite tempted by the Pre HC S3 version. Are there any owners here ? What can I expect from these 1980's cars in the way of reliability and living with it ?

My Porsche very rarely does short journeys. It's main use has been for trips to the Le Mans Classic or excursions around the UK and France. I would expect the Esprit to be used for the same. How would a Giugaro S3 cope ?

Welcome everyone's thought.

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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***** Some additional perspectives................            

Yup, still have the GT3!  I've driven every Esprit variant except the Sport 300, and I bought the GT3 because it is hands down the best model I've driven.  Incredibly reliable, a modern-feeling joy ar

Says it all really.....when the man with 2 wants another😉😂

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Assuming that you buy one that's been properly looked after then I'd expect it to be just as reliable as the Porsche. Servicing and maintenance should be regular and combined with pretty regular use you should have a reliable car.

Key to buying one is to get the best you can afford. Starting with a basket case or even mediocre car will mean you will potentially more time under than in it - some like that of course. There are members cars here that come up for sale every so often but it's a small market so when you've found one ask people here what they think of it as they may even know the particular car. 

Excluding the rarer Essex cars there appears to be a preference for dry sump engined cars 1980/2 and later HC turbos 1986/7 (see Harry's esprit above). That said, buy on condition and I would probably say buy the best you can. 

There is (was?) a lovely white Dry sump Turbo for sale at Paul Matty's which was pretty much top dollar for a non Essex car but it was owned by a member here and is in very very good condition. At worst if you look at it you can see what a really good one looks like.

There are a few recent write ups in car magazines about the Turbo which would be worth a read.  Lastly, if it's the shape you like don't rule out the normal aspirated S3 from the 1980s. The S3 N/A is a wonderful gem of a car that has gone under radar.

Good luck and enjoy the search if you decide to buy one. 

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Thanks @Bibs, I have seen that video and partly the reason for my question regarding pre HC cars.

 

Thanks for your reply @Bazza 907

I don't think I have seen many NA S3s advertised, I will have another look although coming from a 911 Turbo, there may be too large a performance gap. Paul Matty's only has one Esprit but it seem to be very top end price wise. I only want to spend up to around £40k but at that price it would probably need to be from a dealer. I am open to earlier cars but it seems that S3 is the best option for the Giugaro cars.

At £30-40k, I would want a cherished and looked after example that only really needs yearly maintenance and upkeep.

Any other views on living with these ?

As a left field thought, would a Stevens GT3 be a better proposition ?

 

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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HC engine is more reliable - if well maintained. It has better pistons and the Zeus-head. This configuration was used up to the introduction of chargecooling - so it's well proven. Some have problems with the injection - I guess a result of being driven too little.

Cam belt is the newer one, so you can go longer between the services.

Despite the engine can handle a lot more power do not tune the engine - the weak link will be the gearbox.

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6 hours ago, Bling said:

Thanks @Bibs, I have seen that video and partly the reason for my question regarding pre HC cars.

 

Thanks for your reply @Bazza 907

I don't think I have seen many NA S3s advertised, I will have another look although coming from a 911 Turbo, there may be too large a performance gap. Paul Matty's only has one Esprit but it seem to be very top end price wise. I only want to spend up to around £40k but at that price it would probably need to be from a dealer. I am open to earlier cars but it seems that S3 is the best option for the Giugaro cars.

At £30-40k, I would want a cherished and looked after example that only really needs yearly maintenance and upkeep.

Any other views on living with these ?

As a left field thought, would a Stevens GT3 be a better proposition ?

 

maby i got the right car for you in stock, its a RHD esprit turbo from 1985 with a sunroof and rebuild cylinderhead, and 41.000 miles

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A non Turbo S3 would be pretty bullet proof if it has been looked after. Dry sumps are sought after, but parts are your worst nightmare. Many parts are not available and would have to be made if they failed. The dry sump engine was phased out by Lotus because of reliability issues. Wet sump is far more common, all the parts are available and its probably more reliable. The HC engine is better in my opinion. If you get a good one they are all ok, but thats the catch. Don’t be fooled into buying a cheap one that looks great, but mechanically is poor. There are lots of very nice looking Esprits that underneath need a full rebuild. The Paul Matty car is one of the best around, but at the top of the price range. Buy a rubbish one and have to rebuild it the costs will escalate rapidly. I know of someone who went to a dealer with what he thought was a radiator issue on his new Esprit. £45k later he had a useable car! 

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Only a train spotter and members of this forum, can tell the earliest from the latest Turbo Esprit, but they were developed and improved throughout the production run.   Here's my thoughts (which wont be the same as owners of those particular variants).   There will be some date discrepancies and there was overlap, but you'll get the picture:

1st Gen - Dry Sump - Has no 'real world' advantage over a wet sump and as Fabian says, some engine parts are vanishingly rare and do fail.   Also uses trunnion suspension with the rollbar also forming a suspension link.   Period parts such as Compomotive wheels and roof stereos are highly prized, very rare and correpondingly expensive.  

2nd Gen - Wet Sump until mid 1984 - As above but has a wet sump engine with no concerns over parts availbility.  Went to single piece  BBS alloys.  Still has trunnions...

3rd Gen - Wet Sump mid 84 - 86? - As above but introduces vented brakes and much better located, maintenance free front suspension.   Glass Roof

4th Gen - Wet Sump HC 86 - 87?  - HC Engine - (Nikasil Liners, Forged Pistons, better Carbs, Improved breathing, Better Cam belt etc)

Spec wise, the main differences you'll see are Leather/Half Leather/Non-Leather interiors.   Air Conditoning.  Glass Roof.

Ultimately The more miles you want to do, I'd start with the latest car with the spec you want and and work backwards.  If you want an engineering masterpiece to tinker with, then maybe start at the top.

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Thanks for all the feedback. Some interesting and informative posts.

Engines

@910Esprit Thanks for taking the time to put the list together. 

@910Esprit and @The Real StigThe Giugiaro designed S3 cars with the 4th gen HC engine seem to be beyond my price range although I see that engine was also in the early Stevens models.

The 1984 to 1986 3rd gen Wet Sump sounds like the one to go for as I am not that hands on, mechanically, and therefore would prefer the combination of maintenance free suspension and more reliable engine with parts availability.

When looking at classified photos of a car, is there an easy way to tell if it is one of those 3rd Gen engines ?

@The Real Stig When you mention the "Cam belt is the newer one, so you can go longer between the services." - which engine were you referring to ? The HC engine ?


Picking a good one

@Lotusfab Wow, £45k, that's a new car ! 
The challenge is that price of a car is not necessarily an indicator of quality as many people think their sheds are worth more than they really are because they are a "classic". Hard to weed out the good ones. I saw some dealer cars saying full history and when you look at the stamps and invoices, there are big gaps !

 

Cars for Sale

@pete I looked at the Silver one Stocks have in stock. It looks nice in the photos and the description reads well but it looks like they have had it for sale since 2018 and it has not had any MOTs since 2006 which suggests that between at least 2006 and 2016, it has been off the road. The engine work may mitigate that but I would worry about all the other rubbers, plastics, suspension etc

Also, going back to my earlier point, how can I tell if the Stocks Esprit is a 2nd or 3rd gen engine ?

 

@Tocus I could be interested, can you send me more information please

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Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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Using my own descriptions - 2nd Gen and 3rd gen engines are identical - The main difference is  the improved front suspension.   You will struggle to tell from looking at photos, but if it has a full glass roof (not a nasty 1980's aftermarket)  Then it is almost certainly Gen 3.   Looking underneath, as easy check would be look at the front discs.  Solid=Gen2 Vented=Gen3.

NB I think your logic is good, The Gen2/3 cars are the most plentiful and 'cheapest' and there is no price premium for the later improved suspension 

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Thanks @910Esprit on the tip for the brakes.

 

Although top end price wise, what does everyone think of these two 1984 (look like Gen 2) Turbo Esprits ?

They seem to have been for sale for a while now. Is it the price or something else wrong with them ?

1984 Black Turbo - £41,250

1984 Green Turbo - £39,993

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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The green one was sold sometime ago. Why not ring stocks he will tell you all about his esprit.

hindsight: the science that is never wrong

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1 hour ago, Bling said:

Thanks @910Esprit on the tip for the brakes.

 

Although top end price wise, what does everyone think of these two 1984 (look like Gen 2) Turbo Esprits ?

They seem to have been for sale for a while now. Is it the price or something else wrong with them ?

1984 Black Turbo - £41,250

1984 Green Turbo - £39,993

The Pistonheads ads are not refreshed too often and a car can be shown as "for sale" when the reality is it was sold some time ago.  Best to check the sellers own website when it is a dealer as that way you can be more sure it is still for sale.

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37 minutes ago, C8RKH said:

The Pistonheads ads are not refreshed too often and a car can be shown as "for sale" when the reality is it was sold some time ago.  Best to check the sellers own website when it is a dealer as that way you can be more sure it is still for sale.

1 hour ago, pete said:

The green one was sold sometime ago. Why not ring stocks he will tell you all about his esprit.

I checked the websites of both and they are showing on there so maybe their own sites are out of date too

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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The green one definitely sold and new owner has been on here

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hindsight: the science that is never wrong

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7 hours ago, Bling said:

Thanks @910Esprit on the tip for the brakes.

 

Although top end price wise, what does everyone think of these two 1984 (look like Gen 2) Turbo Esprits ?

They seem to have been for sale for a while now. Is it the price or something else wrong with them ?

1984 Black Turbo - £41,250

1984 Green Turbo - £39,993

Thoughts on the black one ?

 

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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Why would they need to de-seam it ?

Looking for my first Lotus - A Giugiaro design Turbo Esprit - Message me if you know of one or considering selling yours

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If it was a genuine JPS it would be worth that but it isn't and it isn't original further devaluing it

hindsight: the science that is never wrong

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The de-seam has probably made it nigh on worthless to people who give a shite about originality including me. I could be wrong though. 

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Just on specs....mine is a December '85 build/Jan 86 reg, one of the last Gen3 before the HC came out....and I don't have a glass roof or air con. 

I'd advise if you do get a glass roof to also make sure you get aircon as the heat gain through the windscreen is bad enough, but through the roof as well would be roasting without aircon.

When I bought the car 31 years ago, my mate bought an '88 911 Carrera.  We shared the driving "to" many a golf match, but I'd nearly always drive home afterwards in whichever car we'd taken as Jim would have enjoyed his time at the 19th - so I did a lot of miles in his 911.  There's no doubt that the 911 (even non turbo) is a very decent car, but I was mighty pleased that I was wedded to the Esprit and not the 911 - just an entirely better driving experience IMO even without the more dramatic profile and rarity value.

...oh and the first to get a £35k boatload of cash to my door can take it away. 😁

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