1979 Lotus Esprit S2 – Classified of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

When Lotus unveiled the Esprit at the 1975 Paris Motor Show, the automotive world was left agog. This car, this brilliant collection of long, hard lines, that was impossibly low and that looked like it would make a chef’s favourite knife look blunt was like nothing else. The Esprit, as Lotus had named it, was a replacement for the Europa. A curious, mid-engined van-looking machine. It was good, but it wasn’t blessed in terms of its aesthetics. The Esprit, however, was. The styling was by Giorgetto Giugiaro under the close eye of Colin Chapman and designer, Oliver Winterbottom. Giugiaro was largely given free reign, though he was nudged to perhaps use his Maserati Boomerang concept as a source of inspiration. 

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This low, long and wide body, constructed from fibreglass (as was popular with Lotus due to its low weight) had to fit over the steel backbone chassis, which held the Lotus four-cylinder engine and the Citroën C35 five-speed manual transaxle. And of course, it had to house two people, too. A lot to fit into a small space, but Giugiaro did it. Fair play. 

When it was launched, the motoring press was quick to praise the Esprit on its handling. With razor sharp steering, ample braking power and zero roll in the suspension, the Esprit gripped the road like people currently grip loo roll. 

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Then of course, there was the Bond connection. Namely 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Interestingly, the producers were going to stick with an Aston Martin. However, after leaving a badgeless Esprit outside the EON studios (who were making the film), the producer’s intrigue led to them finding Lotus and casting the car. Sadly though, the stunt drivers simply didn’t push it hard enough, resulting in disappointing scenes. In the end, Lotus test driver, Roger Becker, showed what the car could really do and was consequently hired as the stunt driver for the film! 

But what of the car we’re looking at here, a 1979 Lotus Esprit? It’s not an S1 like Bond, but is instead an S2. But don’t fret, it’s largely the same car but with some improvements. There was better cooling thanks to new ducting, there was a more aggressive front spoiler and some other upgrades such as wider seats and better Smiths gauges. Power came from a 1,973 slant-four naturally aspirated engine with twin carbs resulting in 160hp. Not a lot by today’s standards, but in a car with a curb weight of a mere 900kg and world class handling, speed isn’t everything. The Esprit is a car for handling, not for setting speed records. 

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This 1979 model is in stunning condition and has had the same owner for 32 years. It’s an original black car with gold highlights and gold Speedline wheels (though it’s not a JPS) and stunning red and black interior. It’s a wonderful, beautiful choice of specification. And it’s been cared for, has a rich history, a fresh MOT and an overhaul of all the drive belts just completed. For us, this might not be the fastest model (later cars were turbo V8 remember) but that doesn’t matter. This is a perfect spec of one of motoring’s icons. And this 1979 Lotus Esprit could be yours for a mere £24,995.

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