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Prospective Owner Seeking Advice

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I am new to the forum, hello!

My childhood ambition has been to own a Lotus Esprit, an icon of my youth. I now find myself able to afford one and am thinking about looking for a car but would like to do some research ahead of that as truth be told I have never even sat in one - so my knowledge is very general.

I am looking for advice as to who the trustworthy and friendly marque specialists and dealers are. I am based In Southampton.

My ideal car is a silver or red Turbo SE, I love the glass-back and low rear wing. I am not looking for a concourse car, nor am I looking for a restoration project, just an honest car with a reasonable history. Where should I set my budget expectations?

Any and all advice welcomed.

Thank you.



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Nice choice - you will be hooked for life. ps - don’t ever be tempted for a v8

No one here really believes the turbo suddenly makes the car more unreliable. It just makes it even more awesome.

Don't think you will get an esprit for those sort of figures and never been in an esprit where the handbrake worked on 2 or 3 clicks.  

Hi James, @Dan E has acracking red Esprit Stephens Cars his friend was selling. Might be worth dropping him a message.

There are lots of owners on here who will be able to tell you what to look for. I have not owned a SE so wouldn’t be much help. 

Good luck with you search. 

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Hi James, welcome and I think your urge for Esprit will be well understood here.

I was also looking for an SE but they don't seem to come up often, so was swayed by a slightly tatty carb turbo for a lot less cash.  No regrets on my part but the usual advice is good: hold out for the best you can afford.  Also ask yourself how much spannering you are prepared to do as a lot of work is quite easy and will save lots.

If I was buying now my first choice would be a private enthusiast selling up.

Ideally get an expert to view with you, but a few pointers when looking at them: the aircon seems to be a pig to fix, if this works that's great. Look for chassis damage near the exhaust manifold due to heat. Exhaust manifold shouldn't look like it's on it's last legs. Press all the buttons to check the electrics. Check doors close properly and don't be fobbed off with a "just needs an adjustment" story, could be the hinge bushes and door removal.  Steering should be smooth albeit heavy at low speed. Engine should sound like a sewing machine when warm, not hiccup or be underpowered, but you'll need to drive a few first to know.

best of luck!

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I bought my 1988 Stevens non turbo last September.

I was familiar with the engine having owned the same in my Excel, but wanted the iconic look of the Esprit and couldn't afford an S1/2 model.

There is a nice equivalent S3 on Ebay location Glasgow for circa 16K presently - that may be a little on the strong on the price side, but I feel it depends on whether you want originality or some level of customisation - e.g. suspension, trim, wheels, exhaust etc.

I would be lying if I said that I would not prefer the turbo performance although one member recently posted how he had his N/A engine rebuilt to be as powerful as a turbo but without the complexity and reliability issues of the turbo system!

For me it was more a case of style over substance e.g. performance was adequate, it came second and therefore Esprit entry cost level was much lower £10-15K will get you a very good example. The equivalent turbo S3 would likely be more £15-20k but prices are all over the place at the moment. I agree with the comment about buying privately from an enthusiast, but do take an expert/owner if you are not willing to take an expensive punt. 

P.S. Make sure that the handbrake holds the car with only 2-3 clicks , that all the front bushes, steering rack and radiator/fans work without the need for a manual override switch and the car runs cool circa 82 degrees when idling. All the points about electric are true so make sure the main things work (windows/lights/fans/wipers).

If you are more than 6ft tall and/or 16 stone, you may find it's a little smaller than your thought getting in/out!   


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4 hours ago, DaKa said:

I bought my 1988 Stevens non turbo last September..   


+1 for the N/A, it's a great car. Sure, you don't get the kick of a Turbo but it's only a second slower to 60 and 0-60 in 6.5 seconds ain't slow!

I bought my 1990 car 3 years ago and was just thrilled to get into an Esprit of any kind. Mine needed some recommissioning but as others have said here, if you don't mind getting your hands dirty there's plenty you can do yourself. Under the Supercar looks it's pretty simple engineeering plus there are lots of like minded, helpful folk on here who've generally been there and done it already and are happy to offer advice, tips etc.

Even the best looking cars will need something doing so make sure you keep a bit of cash back for the inevitable 'just needs' jobs you'll start to find as you drive it.

Good luck in your search!

Not worth starting anything now...🍺

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22 minutes ago, Dan E said:

red SE

It's a turbo mate, not an SE. :)

88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

Evora NA

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Sorry Guys, but I think all this talk of a turbo not being reliable is not true. Everyone I know in Denmark, have a Esprit Turbo, Esprit Turbo SE or the older Turbo Esprit, and most are SE's. Every single one have been and is dead reliable, and certainly not overheating, no turbo problems, no electrical problems, no hanging doors, no wiper problems, only a slow off side window up and down, no oil use, no fan problems, no central locking problems, no funny steering, no broken rear hubs, no cracked exhaust manifold, no rust in the frame anywhere, no cracked bodywork around the bolts for the body, no leaking radiators, no squeaking sun roof, no broken suspension springs, no leaking dampers, no nothing. I simply don't have those experiences and all the others I know, have had the same reliability.

In near 5 years I have had very few minor things breaking down: the speedo needle fell off on the way home when I bought it (super rough swedish main road), the black plastic on the rear of the voltage regulator on the alternator melted and dripped into the alternator and I just changed the regulator (dirt cheap), cleaned the rest with brake cleaner on swaps,  and it took 20 minutes, and finally one high beam wire broke off the blinkers/light switch and I bought a new one for 26 gbp. and changed it in 1 hour, taking my time to clean a little bit behind the steering wheel. Finally, I had the clutch slave leak a drop and just put a new one on. Really easy in less than an hour with common tools. I mean come on, lasting 27 years is not bad for a clutch slave, by any standard. I had one wire send me an error code, and I just traced it to be a single connector which was slightly loose sitting on the reciever. I squeezed it slightly with a small set of pliers. Anything else I have done to the car was out of interest and fiddleing with it to my liking. I think most main stream daily driver cars from other brands will prove much worse being nearly 30 years old. Oh well, they don't even last 30 years. There you go...   ;)

If you want an unreliable car, go get a 911, aircooled or watercooled. And I mean that.

This Winter I am going to change the sealings on the gearbox to drive shafts, which is leaking a little bit.

It's a Supercar and should have super service! Don't be fooled by it's cheap Price, but don't expect a cathastrophe, because it ain't. It's actually a reliable and extremely well driving car. Handmade in Britain, naturally. As prices are now, March 2018, they are dirt cheap for what they are.

There is though a long list of points to look out for, and some of the others have mentioned (partially), but that is no different than any other car. And there's along list of things that would be smart to do, but that's another topic.

I can, if you want, make a list, and anyone else can chime in on it, but I think a better advice would be to just go to the "Project and restoration" section here and read through some or many of those threads, as they give a very good insight as to what can happen (not may), and what to do.

But one thing you shouldn't do, is believing what mags or online mags are writing. Or someone online having their own "car show", with very very few exceptions. They are mostly wrong. This place, plus Lotus Esprit World and Lotus Talk, are the places to be. Many knowledgable persons over the years have and are contributing to the true knowledge about Lotus Esprit.

Another thing I would like to point out is the fact that it appears that many UK Esprit owners drive them in harsh weather or even during Winter. I don't know anyone who do so in a sportscar at all outside UK, nor do I know anyone who would expose their rare handbuilt exotica to such conditions. There is a reason that Things underneath go rusty, and that is use of the car in bad conditions. Each to his own of course.

Yet another thing to know is, that in UK, many Esprits seems to be cheaper or have been fairly much cheaper than say in Scandinavia, Germany, France etc. That enevitably leads to many owners who do not really have a Heart for the Esprit, as they may deem it "just another car in a long line of cars", being changed for an impreza, a mini Clubman, a BMW convertible, an off-roader, a ....  Or even worse yet: the "bucket list" of cars to try. Well, you can only imagine what horrors they expose the Esprit and other cars to, as they "test" them... So service, and even oil and filter change (plus of course much more) is neglected and service is not done or badly done or partially done. Mostly those owners spoil the interrior with a bad retrim, a fold out quadrouble slide out and fold up mega widescreen infotainment unit (horror of horrors), and sell it after one, max two years, usually "due to house moving". Yeah right, and pigs can fly.

So, as the others said, bring a knowledgable friend or someone else off here, and let him or her take a goooood and thorough look. And be prepared to pay for previous owners mistakes, lack of service and lack of skills.

A 1989-1991 SE is in my humble view the best of the Esprits: lot's of power, sleek glass back look, best sill panels, propper instrumentation, meanest front with no silly wounded off corners and twisted intakes and, thank God, not the later wide less supportive comfort seats. As with many other cars, many parts can be exchanged, and looks too, if one so care. Just keep the old parts and sell them together with the car, the day you part and go separate ways.

Good luck, and I think in time, it's going to be a highly sought after, expensive car. Remember, the Lotus ethos and story, handmade and really rare is a thing mostly of the past.

Kind regards,


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Nobody does it better - than Lotus ;)

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33 minutes ago, Barrykearley said:

No Turbo problems..:whistle:

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Not worth starting anything now...🍺

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Shares the same suspension, rad packs, fuel tanks, cam belt, door seals, gearbox, clutch, alternator, steering, arb, driveshaft seals, crank seals etc etc though.

ironically enough - to recon a turbo it’s about £350 and it’s unbolted with only a few fixings. Probably one of the easier and cheaper things to address.....

but yes - on that car - you will have no problems with the turbo

Only here once

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I'd like to see what it looks like now. Pics are from 2011 and not used since 2014 🤔

Not badly priced if it still looks like that, even with the declared faults. Engine rebuild is a bonus and nice plate. Not sure I could live with that half tweed interior though...

Edited by eeyoreish

Not worth starting anything now...🍺

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That car would certainly be worth looking at, at its current price, and an easy fix as a bonus. If I was in the market for one then I would be down to view it tomorrow. Pretty close to me too.


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