TLF member and serial Esprit owner Roy was lucky enough to head over from Portland, Oregon to visit the Lotus factory in 1985. Sadly he couldn’t find a Turbo Esprit for hire in the UK so had to settle for a Porsche 944 at the time. His story and pictures are below.
In 1986 we were planning a trip to South Africa to visit my wife’s father. She left a few weeks before I did so I took the opportunity to fly to London and visit the Lotus factory on my way there. May seem odd but remember it’s 1986; my flight was Portland, OR to SFO to London to Nairobi to Johannesburg so a break in the middle seemed like a good idea. By then I had owned an Esprit S1, an S2 and had an 85 Turbo in the garage. Spent a ton of time on the phone trying to rent an Esprit to no avail so I rented a Porsche 944 for the journey. Not understanding London traffic, I made the mistake of driving through London on my way to Norfolk which ate up most of the day! I finally made it, checked in and was excited about my tour the next day.
I finally found the factory and the first thing I saw was this sign. I was so excited to finally be at a place I had read about my entire life (up to that point)!
I was walking around outside and heard a car go buy, swung around and took this pic. Some Lotus manager or executive was driving to the parking. It was a lucky shot; love the silver/red!
All pics of the reception area at the factory. Lotus Cars USA (“LCU”) had arranged for the tour and I was met by Mike Bishop who was very helpful and informative. I don’t remember if he gave the tour or if it was someone else. Whoever it was probably thought I was an idiot because I was like a kid in a candy store!
I put these pics in order, and I want to say that this is where they cut the glass fiber for the moldings in the next phase. The entire molding process was amazing to me. I recall them telling me that the S1’s had paint injected into the mold where the later cars were painted outside the mold. Very cool stuff!
It was really cool to see cars in the various stages of development. Back then the factory was obsessed with quality and the amount of time they spent on each car, getting the glass and paint finish just right, was impressive. My 85 had an amazing finish and the body gaps looked near perfect.
Cars then started down the production line. Note they had the green cover that protected the paint. I actually purchased a set of those for my 85; I wish I still had them!
Engine Room. One Fed spec motor being built and one non-Fed that looks largely complete. Incredibly cool to see those being built.
Lotus of nice shiny chassis being delivered! Chassis in various states of build. Sorry for the dark photo’s; I took my wife’s camera and had the ISO setting wrong. Later down the line they chassis is complete with wheels and tires waiting for the body to be put on!
This was the step where they put the body on the chassis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one when I was there, the car on the lift was just completed.
Various cars on the line. Amazing given what factories look like today that the cars just rolled along the floor!
Interior shop showing interiors being made. Fascinating to see foam, leather, and some effort turn into a beautiful interior!
A car at the finish line! Love the blue; I’ve never seen that color on a Turbo in the US.
Cars waiting to be shipped around the world.
Another car in the Exec parking lot.
After reading about Norfolk Motor Company for years I decided to drive over. They were kind enough to let me drive an Excel which I found to be a great car. If those had been available in the US, I would have loved to have one as my DD. In fact, I ended up replacing my Esprit with a 911 when my first son was born; an Excel would have been on the top of my list if they were imported. The visit included seeing the only Essex Esprit’s’ I have ever seen. Love the blue, the red not so much…