Big V8 Breathes New Life into Classic Lotus Esprit

The car you see here is an incredibly well-maintained, one-of-a-kind series 1 Lotus Esprit. Instead of the original, wheezy, 140 HP 2.0 liter 4 cyl., however, it’s powered by a period-correct 3.9 liter Buick Rover V8. And it is just awesome!

For the uninitiated, the British-built, Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Lotus Esprit is seen by many as the high-point of the 1970’s “wedge” super car aesthetic. It aged so well, in fact, that it stayed in production for nearly thirty years, from 1976 to 2004. Sure, the Esprit had some visual updates along the way- most notably the Peter Stevens-penned X180 update of 1987 that carried it into the 21st century- but it was, in essence, the same car.

This V8-powered one-off has gobs of paperwork and photographs supporting the owner’s claims of authenticity and general goodness. That’s great news for anyone in the market for an exotic super car, because this classic Lotus is up for auction RTFN. And, while we are huge fans of modern-day hybrid and electric super cars, we’ve always maintained that the greenest car you can buy is one that’s already been built- so feel free to pick this little white gem up, guilt-free.

What to you guys think of this car? Is the price right? Does its gas-burning V8 trump any inherent “reduce, reuse, recycle” green cred it may have? Check out some of my favorite photos of this V8 Lotus Esprit, along with the text from the seller’s ad, below. Then, let us know what you think of the car in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

 

V8 Powered Lotus Esprit | Gallery

    his modified 1978 Lotus Esprit S1 was sold new by Chequered Flag Imports in Vancouver, British Columbia and recently acquired from its original owner by the selling dealer. Finished in white over blue, this example is one of about 700 Series 1 cars built from 1975-1978. An engine swap to a 3.5-liter Rover V8 was completed in 1989 at about 30k kilometers (~18,600 miles), with just over 1,000 miles driven since. The mid-mounted engine has ported/polished heads, quad Dellorto carbs, high-compression pistons, a Crower camshaft, a Rovercraft intake manifold, and is mated to a Citroën C35 5-speed manual transaxle. The car also has a re-trimmed interior, some newer gauges, and has been fitted with Series 3 trim. Service history is captured by a partially stamped dealer service book, many maintenance records from new, receipts for all modifications, and the results of a November 2017 inspection. This Esprit is offered with the original purchase agreement, owner’s/workshop manuals, and a clean British Columbia registration.

    A 1990 repaint included a color change from Lagoon Blue to White following some preparatory bodywork. The seller notes the finish reflects its age, and gallery images show paint cracking and runs on the rocker panel trim. 15” three-piece alloy wheels have replaced the original 14″ Wolfrace rims, which are no longer with the car. Staggered Dunlop GT Qualifier tires are from 2005 and measure 225/50 in front and 265/50 at the rear. A second set of rear tires purchased at same time is included in the sale.

    S1 cars are distinguished by the shovel-style front air dam, Fiat X1/9-sourced taillights, and the absence of side-panel air ducts. The following exterior modifications are apparently aimed at improved engine cooling, and are said to have been professionally installed using UK-sourced parts: S, eries 3 rocker-panel vents, Series 3 rear fascia, customized with more openings, and Turbo-style bumpers with larger vents.

    An interior retrim was completed in 1992 by Styles Upholstery of Victoria, British Columbia, with two-tone blue replacing original Brown Marcasite materials. The seller notes underside photos show that bolts for one of the seats were omitted, and these have since been replaced.

    Instrument updates at about 30k kilometers included a VDO mph speedo, with 5-digit odometer believed to show the 1,098 miles added since. The VDO package also includes separate fuel, oil pressure, water temp and voltage gauges. An AutoMeter Pro-Comp Memory tachometer has been added. A stereo head unit positioned in front of the shift lever is reportedly inoperative.

    The front trunk houses a jack and 14” spare wheel with Dunlop SP Sport tire. Safety updates include a Willans four-point harness for each seat, a fire suppression system, and a red-painted roll cage.

    The original owner commissioned an engine swap in 1986, adding a 3.5-liter Rover V8 fitted with quad Dellorto 45 carburetors. His objective was a power increase over the original 1,973cc Lotus 907 four-cylinder, which is no longer with the car. Unsatisfied with the outcome, in 1989 he had further updates done by Speedline Imports of Victoria, British Columbia.

    The seller has added ITG air filters cover the twin banks of intake trumpets. Speedline reportedly suggested the engine delivered near 300 hp after their 1989 work, and the seller believes output exceeds 250 hp in current tune.

    An original dealer service book, owner’s manuals, handbook, and an Esprit workshop manual are all included. Accompanying receipts include records for the engine swap and later updates. Gallery images also show a November 2017 inspection report and a summary of work by the selling dealer to correct identified issues.

    S1 cars featured independent front/rear coil-spring suspension, as well as disc brakes all around with the rear units mounted inboard. A heavy-duty clutch was reportedly installed in 2013.

 

Source | Images: V8 Powered 1978 Lotus Esprit, via Bring a Trailer.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.