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Matt B
Matt B UltraDork
7/11/19 11:34 a.m.

After falling back in love with my MR2, I've begun daydreaming about Lotus Esprits.  While body parts for my 86 AW11 are NLA, the car really hasn't been what I'd call difficult to maintain between easily found engine components and part-outs in the MR2 community.  I can only assume that things aren't as rosy when trying to do the same to an aging British exotic.  Just how bad is it though? (Probably really really bad, right?)

I'm really only considering the Series 3 (81-87') and X180 (88-93') cars due to cost, availability, and my stomach for dealing with entropy.  The later V8 models are waaaay out of my price range.  I would sort of prefer the earlier Series 3 for a couple of reasons, aesthetics and weight.  I'm sort of in love with the original Giugiaro styling and according to ye 'ol Wikipedia they are 2350 lbs compared to a 2800 lb X180.  The most obvious issue I can see besides body part availability is tire selection in the stock size (15" staggered, tall sidewalls, etc).  Checking on Tire Rack you need to go 10mm down in width to get 3 touring-class tires to choose from.  Bummer.   Fitting an aftermarket wheel on this generation feels... wrong.  It would need to be vintage appropriate and I imagine  that you'd run into the same tire selection issue with anything that would fit that description.  Maybe a larger BBS mesh would work... maybe.

Pic for reference and 80's awesomeness.

That said, while I believe they shared the same stock wheel size, the X180 doesn't have that problem visually imho with Peter Stevens updated bodywork.  It's also faster despite the extra heft.  Let's just say I wouldn't kick it out of the garage.  Finding wheels that fit however isn't as easy as a Tire Rack search.  I'll have to look into that some more.

Here's one with larger aftermarket wheels.


So is this simply a terrible idea or a horrendous disaster?

spacecadet Dork
7/11/19 11:36 a.m.

Oh this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. But please don't let me stop you. 

Robbie UltimaDork
7/11/19 11:51 a.m.

I think the esprit is one of the last affordable exotics. 

Go go go!

Harvey SuperDork
7/11/19 11:54 a.m.

You try it and get back to us.

I stop at aging British and never even reach exotic.

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
7/11/19 11:56 a.m.


If you feel the need to torture yourself, find a late one with the V8.  It might run occasionally.

GameboyRMH MegaDork
7/11/19 12:08 p.m.

Merely a terrible idea. Most of the trouble is in the powertrain: the gearboxes are troublesome, the NA engines are troublesome, and the turbo engines are explodey. I know a guy who bought a turbo model a few years ago, owns a junkyard and car parts store, still hasn't got it on the road after all these years AFAIK...

81cpcamaro Dork
7/11/19 12:23 p.m.

Sounds like a good candidate for a late model driveline swap. Which one, I have no idea, haven't seen an Espirt in person in a long time.

bcp2011 Reader
7/11/19 12:48 p.m.
81cpcamaro said:

Sounds like a good candidate for a late model driveline swap. Which one, I have no idea, haven't seen an Espirt in person in a long time.

This.  Those are are beautiful... 

GameboyRMH MegaDork
7/11/19 12:52 p.m.

Actually saw a white one like Dr. Hess' old one in Oshawa last month, couldn't get my camera out fast enough and forgot to post in the Unicorn thread.

Matt B
Matt B UltraDork
7/11/19 1:04 p.m.

So... sound like nothing to worry about here and carry on? Right? 

7/11/19 1:41 p.m.

If one of the locals can stuff an LS into his Europa, I see no way that this can go wrong if approached with the right attitude.



Harvey SuperDork
7/11/19 1:45 p.m.
Matt B said:

So... sound like nothing to worry about here and carry on? Right? 

Full throttle forward! If a guy can rebuild a Lamborghini Jalpa in his garage how hard can this be?

1988RedT2 UltimaDork
7/11/19 1:50 p.m.

So, these are kinda like Maserati Biturbos but less common, more expensive, and less reliable?

I was absolutely infatuated with the Esprit when I was a young lad.  Somewhere along the way, I got cranky and practical, so I know I will never own one.  laugh

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
7/11/19 1:52 p.m.

I think these cars are cool...  I had one in Gran Tourismo that was a v8 with a massive turbo on it.  We called it the washing machine, because it was stuck in spin cycle.. I want one.

bmw88rider SuperDork
7/11/19 2:08 p.m.

I just remember talking to the local Lotus dealer looking at Elise and remember his comments well. He basically said that the service bays were a lot less full now with the Espirits no longer being built. 


That statement just struck with me to not be called into that siren's song. 

bentwrench SuperDork
7/11/19 2:43 p.m.

I think a Esprit looks better than a Jalpa .

bearmtnmartin SuperDork
7/11/19 3:06 p.m.

Impossible to shift them. You will be stuck between gears and a gorgeous hooker will have to help you out. 

So buy an Espirit and possibly wind up with a scorching case of herpes.

TurnerX19 HalfDork
7/11/19 5:05 p.m.

Ring and pinion failure in the transaxle was frequent enough that all of the spare parts were NLA four years ago when I had one in my shop. The best on you can find will be unreliable at best.

Knurled. MegaDork
7/11/19 6:31 p.m.

Paging nization to thread 155270.... nization to thread 155270

irish44j MegaDork
7/11/19 6:38 p.m.

There's one that I see every few months cruising the backwoods roads around here on nice-weather Saturdays. It is simply still one of the sexiest cars ever made.

If I had more money and more skill, I would love to find one and just swap all the mechanicals for something awesome (note: Renegade, who does all those Porsche LS swap kits, did an LS in an Esprit with a Porsche transaxle, so maybe they actually sell it as well?) I recall it having a lot of rear subframe modifications and rear suspension. 

slowbird Reader
7/11/19 6:54 p.m.

Put a 351 Cleveland in it and make a British version of the Pantera.

Kreb UberDork
7/11/19 7:04 p.m.

Esprits are the perfect upgrade car. When your neighbors have been on you to do something about that Europa that hasn't run in years, you oblige by getting rid of it and installing an Esprit in the same space....for years.

EvanB MegaDork
7/11/19 7:16 p.m.
Knurled. said:

Paging nization to thread 155270.... nization to thread 155270

No, the white phone.


Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
7/11/19 8:44 p.m.

I recommend the 89-93 Stevens Esprit.  Hold out for an SE.  The ultimate is the S4s.  The X180R is a particular race spec car.  88-93 are called Stevens Esprits, after the guy that did the face lift.  89-up have more reliable transmissions, and they have GM EFI versus Bosch. The SE has a charge cooler.  They are getting up there in age now, but there are plenty of them out there.  Buy one with a good complete service history.  Timing belts are a PITA and need to be done at like 30K intervals.  

Hoondavan Reader
7/12/19 7:29 a.m.

I saw an S4 Esprit in the wild a few years ago.  The well-dressed owner (khackis & button-down) was standing next to his car pumping gas...in his socks.  It took a second for me to realize that his feet probably didn't fit on the pedals w/shoes on.  I had a good chuckle...but also accepted the fact that the driving experience was probably worth-it.


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