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'88 Carb Turbo Stevens Esprit - Catch Up Maintenance!

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Hi all - Long post alert!

New Esprit owner here after wanting one for basically as long as I remember but being a die-hard Porsche driver for the past couple of decades. This includes everything from air cooled 911's to modern Boxster S's via manual 928's and the odd 944. I still run a 2000+ member 928 owners group and I'm very well known in that circle, it seems a bit strange to be stepping away from it. However,  I fancied a change and felt like I might miss the boat if I didn't buy one this year so decided to take the plunge and get stuck in. 

I wanted a project, but not a restoration.  A car that could be driven and used, but slowly improved over time. I was ideally after a G Turbo but the only ones available were either over restored or absolutely knackered (see my thread in the general Esprit section). I saw this for sale on Autotrader and it seemed like a reasonable proposition albeit needing work. It's an 88 "E reg" UK carb turbo x180 with fair history but total lack of use over the past 8 years or so... It also came with a genuine 88-92 service manual which is proving to be useful. I am an electrical engineer by trade but have also been spannering for as long I can remember so I'm confident I can tackle the majority of maintenance and repair work and fully intend to learn the Esprit inside out and do all work myself where possible. I don't really like using garages unless I absolutely have to. I'm not particularly experienced with carbs or turbo systems so that will be a learning curve I am looking forward to (I do know CIS/kjet very well however if anyone needs any advice due to it being on 911's/928's etc).

The previous owner had the car for a year and did not use it at all (bought on a whim and it sat beside a Gallardo and a 997 Turbo basically looking sorry for itself). The owner before that had it from 2000-2017 but took it off the road in 2009ish due to serious arthritis meaning he could no longer drive the car. It's got a full MOT but I'm not quite sure how it passed due to having quite a few key issues which have obviously been present for a while.😕

What it has got going for it however is that it's nice and clean on the body and has a good interior. It also drives better than expected with a nice solid shift and a decent ride. Cabin has a few rattles but nothing excessive. It's got loads of paperwork up until it coming off the road 10 years ago and still has the wind deflector which is nice. It's generally original and unmolested, just a bit neglected - Which is exactly how I like them :)

When I got the car 2 weeks ago it had the following issues:

Intermittent starting fault (cured - poor wiring to immobiliser circuit in steering cowl)

Misfire/rough running (improved by replacing all spark delivery components)

Stiff clutch (very) (seems to have softened a bit but any advice on this appreciated - slave cylinder piston dragging maybe?)

Rad tell tail illuminated (cured - All ground points and connectors thoroughly cleaned and protected)

Intermittent temp gauge (pinged to cold when driving and wobbled around on idle) (cured when grounds/connectors cleaned)

Coolant leak from the rad cassette somewhere (cured - rusty jubilee clip found and replaced!)

Rear hatch struts dead (ordered some from SGS but they are the wrong size so I'm waiting on replacements)

LH fuel flap not opening (cable type) (fixed - Found cable loose and refitted)

Indicators intermittent both sides (fixed - grounding issue in front bumper)

Washer pump not working (fixed - found another bad earth!)

Horn not working (replaced for new)

Slight oil leak 

Geometry not 100%

Flaking window trims and door handles (repainted - not perfect but will do for now to tidy it up)

Torn drivers seatbelt (what were they out of?!)

Headlining knackered and filth ridden (new headlining on order, awaiting a DIY retrim, looks quite straightforward!)


I've been over the car and completed the above fixes so far. I've also replaced every spark delivery ancilliary due to me not knowing when they were last changed (plus Lotus spares are EXTREMELY CHEAP compared to Porsche which is a novelty!). This includes ignition coil, leads, plugs, distributor cap, rotor arm (they were fun to change) bought from Paul Matty who seem to be a great supplier and fairly local. I've replaced all vacuum hoses in the engine bay as they were in very bad shape. I've also been around the whole car and cleaned every fuse, relay, electrical contact and ground point which has definitely improved things no end! 

I still have a running issue where it's down on power and misfiring. My next job is to check the fuel pressure regulator output and set it up as per the service manual. I am also going to replace the fuel pump (I've bought a Sytec OTP017 high output pump, any opinions on those?!) and the fuel filter, again just because they are an unknown and very cheap to buy. Once I know the fuel supply and spark stuff is new I'll see how she drives. If it's still not runing 100% I might attempt to tune or possibly rebuild the carbs if needed. I also need to check the ignition timing but my timing light is on loan to a pal and I need to get it back. 

Clutch, 'box, turbo all seem good to me so I am leaving well alone. Gearbox fluid, clutch fluid, brake fluid will be changed ASAP. I also need to get the cambelt changed ASAP although it does look in very good condition and I am not in fear of it letting go. I want to get the car running right before I change it.

Interior wise I am going to retrim the headlining and install some sound deadening to try and quieten things down a little.



Looking for advice on suspension and brake upgrades (any particular bushes worth upgrading? Best place to buy shocks and dampers? Best brake caliper upgrades? etc)

What's the easiest way to adjust ignition timing with the distributor in such a daft place?!

Does the binnacle come out as a single unit on the 88 cars or is it a complete headache as per the G cars?

Is there any way to soften the clutch pedal travel?

Fuel - I put £30 in the car when there was just under 1/4 tank, and the gauge went to 3/4. This, coupled with the LH fuel flap not opening seemed a bit suspect. Is it common for a rusty LH tank to be bypassed as a bodge? If so it wouldn't surprise me! Looking for thoughts on this :) Neither of the tanks seem to be leaking, I guess I will find out when I fill it from the LH side!



16" SE rear wheels or a full set

A Seatbelt

Seatbelt bulkhead surrounds in good nick

An 80's stereo, Alpine, Clarion or Blaupunkt

A decent set of window frames

A "Lotus" branded speaker grille badge

(I will add to this list as and when I realise what I need!)



First impressions of Lotus Esprit ownership experience... :D :D :D :D  I am absolutely smitten with the car and I love how easy it is to work on. It's great fun to drive too!

One thing I have noticed is that there isn't as much online info about builds, repairing, restoration etc as I expected. Coming from a Porsche community the info seems a bit spares, purely due to the volume of cars produced I'd imagine!


I will use this thread to post regular updates (just to keep my own diary really). I'm not a big fan of taking 1000s of photos as I tend to just get stuck in and crack on but will put some up from time to time. 

Here is a link to some photos of the car from when I bought it:

One thing I really need but can't seem to find anywhere (I'm not paying £60 for a CD Rom or PDF!!) is the 88-92 parts catalogue with all the exploded view diagrams.... If anyone has a pdf copy I'd greatly appreciate a leg-up!!

I am based in Loughborough, Leicestershire and always up for meeting fellow owners so if you are local give me a shout, it would be good to go for a drive/tea/shandy etc.

Thanks for reading :)




Edited by Llewelyn82
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1 hour ago, Llewelyn82 said:

First impressions of Lotus Esprit ownership experience... :D :D :D :D  I am absolutely smitten with the car and I love how easy it is to work on. It's great fun to drive too!

Lovely Esprit Llewelyn, congratulations, you now own a British Icon with charisma and character and bags of racing heritage thrown in. Set up correctly the Esprit was the best handling sports cars of its era, and they are a joy to drive. 

Things don't always go as easily as expected, (the headlining itself is an easy job, take great care with the removal of the surrounding rails and pillar trims, they are made of eggshell and are no longer available). Corrosion on the fixings of GRP bodied cars will make the angle grinder and drill your tools of choice. You'll also find UNF threaded nuts and bolts mixed in with metric. SJ sportscars (for parts) and PNM engineering (for suspension, braking and other upgrades) are keeping these cars on the road, with many spares no longer available through Lotus. 

Happy Lotusing. 



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Hi Llewelyn

My first was an '89 Carb Turbo.  I do miss it!  To continue the advice:

Be aware that loosening the clamp to adjust the distributor may cause it to spring out of its keyway.  You never want that to happen as it's no fun to get back in.  Loosen the clamp bolt (accessible from top between the carbs) SLIGHTLY, and try and maintain forward pressure whenever you're turning the distributor.  You can get a hand on it from under the plenum.  It helps if you have an assistant operating the light.  I've also been known to tap the distributor round gently from above with a long bar.

Binnacle removal is much nicer on these.  4 10mm bolts underneath, a few multiplugs and the speedo cable.

Stiff clutch pedal is common.  Mine was a mare, and improved a little when I renewed the clutch.

Fuel.  I don't think I've ever seen an accurate Esprit fuel gauge.  Isolated tanks have been known; I've done a few myself.  To check whether the left tank is connected, just verify the balance pipe and hoses are linking the tanks together.

Have fun!



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British Fart to Florida, Nude to New York, Dunce to Denmark, Numpty to Newfoundland.  And Shitfaced Silly Sod to Sweden.

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It’s 103500 miles.

you will enjoy the car for sure. It won’t be without it’s niggles - but that’s part of the fun with classic motoring. You will forgive the car anything when boost is on 👍

join up as a FFM @Llewelyn82 all the documents you will require are then free on here. If not one of us lot will have what you need, but you need to be FFM for us lot to share on an email 

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Only here once

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11 minutes ago, Llewelyn82 said:



(and yes I know the cambelt needs doing!).

Having paid for one rebuilt engine I'm not sure I would risk many miles on the old belt.




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New headlining material arrived today, not a perfect match but reasonable enough. For £8 I am going to see how it turns out and if I'm not happy I'll have everything trimmed professionally in leather.... Looks easy though, hardest part will be removing the belts I reckon...





I will pick up some seatbelts and replace at the same time. Hoping to source some red ones if anyone knows of anything compatible?

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Another quick update which might explain why I had a weird fuelling issue after going round tight corners....

Megabodge on the fuel pump terminal found, ridiculously loose connection that fell apart in my hands... See photo!

Sorted now and running much better...



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Today's update.... 



Well, I have had my suspicions about the passenger side tank being bypassed. At the local petrol station today (peak time) suspicions were confirmed when I decided to fill up from the passenger side fuel filler (first time since I repaired the flap cable) and 10 litres of BP's finest pis**d out all over the garage forecourt. Slightly embarrassing but hey, that's what Lotus ownership is all about right??

Anyway after a bit of messing about it turns out there's yet another bodge... Have a look at the picture of the fuel pump - See the CV boot in the background? Well it's there to hide the fact that the balance pipe is plugged and the n/s tank is disconnected at the hard line fuel pump side so fuel was basically gushing out from that 1" tube. Grr. Managed to do a bit of combustion mitigation and limped home to jack up and have a look what's what.

Good news is the drivers side fuel tank is new (PO did say this but due to all the other dodginess I've found I was dubious). Passenger side tank definitely has a leak on the lower weld seam. What do we think to the SJ alloy fuel tanks? Good value? Any issues with them to be aware of?

While I was under there I replaced the fuel pump (Sytec OTP017 which is meant to be a great quality pump). Interestingly the old pump was absolutely filled with rust (pic below is the tip of the iceberg!). I will do the filter as well but it will have to wait as I ran out of puff due to all the fuel inhalation.... !!!

Jobs for over the weekend:

- Replace fuel filter

- Check fuel pressure at carbs

- Replace a few hoses while I'm in there

- Check ignition timing

- Possibly strip out the headlining ready for recovering

I'm booked in at Northampton Motorsports for a rolling road carb tune in July so it's all hands on deck now to get everything sorted in preparation. I'm going to try and get the cambelt changed this month as well, any advice on what I should change while I'm in there would be appreciated!



fuel pump.jpg

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On 02/06/2018 at 16:24, Llewelyn82 said:

l will pick up some seatbelts and replace at the same time. Hoping to source some red ones if anyone knows of anything compatible?

There is a company called quickfire safety belt systems, (or something like that). If you send them your old belts they will put new webbing on them in Amy colour you like. They did some else belts for me years ago.


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14 minutes ago, 21gg said:

There is a company called quickfire safety belt systems, (or something like that). If you send them your old belts they will put new webbing on them in Amy colour you like. They did some else belts for me years ago.


Thanks Gav, I'll check em out. I was thinking of buying these which look like quite good value:

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If they fit then great as they aren't dear but if not or you want a differ shade then it's worth checking the above. Had my elise done in 2002 so can't remember what they charged.


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They look like they would pretty much fit once that pivot bracket thing is removed so I might try a set and if not take your advice and get mine rewebbed :)

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Well, fuel filter is now fitted :) Still need to do the rest of my chores...!

Just as an FYI it's worth checking the pump mounts. The rubber on mine had sheared off, leaving a pair of flat bolts and nothing to mount it back on to. I didn't take a pic but you can see it in the diagram attached. Might be worth checking your pump is secured. Mine is cable tied up for now but I need to get it mounted properly asap. I will be using rubber grommets and ordinary bolts. The broken mounts did come out quite easily which was nice.


esprit fuel pump mount.JPG

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Checked the fuel pressure this afternoon... I think the Lotus manual figure is 4 psi +/- a small margin, but I've been told that 4.25 is a good setting. Anyway, see attached photos for my ghetto test rig if you ever fancy checking yours :D

It was bang on 4 and I've turned it up a hair to around 4.25.

Also checked for boost/intake leaks using the old carb cleaner trick and all seems good.

In spite of changing all the spark and fuel stuff I still have extremely flat performance. I haven't checked the ignition timing so that is still on the to-do list when I get my gun back. I can only presume my carbs are varnished up and in dire need of a rebuild so that's next on the list. I will get a kit ordered and give it a crack over the next couple of weeks. I've never messed around with carbs so it'll be a learning curve for me :) Any pointers appreciated...



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