||You're considering Esprit ownership but
want to know more? Esprit S3 owner Laurence Vaughn, gives us a head
One aspect of ownership that shouldn't be overlooked when considering
an Esprit is the size of it. It's all very well having a passion for
that gorgeous shape, but can you get it to your garage?! Whilst being a very squat car at only 44
inches in height (S3), the shape can cause unforseen problems. The S3
measures 73" (1.854m) wide and 165" (4.191m). in length. It's
worth checking that the car will both fit in your garage (and allow you
to get out) and that you'll be able to reach your garage. With a ground
clearance of 5 inches check out speed humps or slopes. Due to the
relatively long front overhang, even the gentlest of slopes can create
problems and unfortunately the radiator will come off worst since it is
the lowest part on the car.
For both turbo and non-turbo models you could specify air
conditioning, hide interior, stereo radio and tape deck. The non-turbo
model was sold with 14" speedline alloy wheels, which could be
upgraded to the 15" BBS alloys as fitted to the turbo.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be found stamped onto a
plate fixed to the left or right front wheel arch inside the front
luggage compartment. This number is repeated on the right hand side of
the chassis front frame and should be visible from within the right
front wheel arch. This number contains information on the original
specification of the car, such as engine size, year of manufacture, the
market it was made for and the serial number, allowing a rapid
verification of the car.
Note that two types were used, one for Domestic and export markets
(excluding USA) and one for the USA. The USA definitions were used for
the Esprit up until serial number 0934 (Domestic) and 0307 (Export).
Interpreting the VIN is made easier when you know what the numbers mean.
The engine also has a number, stamped on the right hand rear of the
cylinder block, above the starter motor. This number is duplicated on
the VIN, which allows a quick check to see if the engine is original.
Again, it can help identification if you know what the engine numbers
From 1980 until late 1981/early 1982, all Turbo Esprit engines (type
910) were built with a 'dry sump' lubrication system. Cars not fitted
with air conditioning were changed to a 'wet sump' configuration in late
1981, followed by the air conditioned cars in early 1982.
For the 1985 model year, the front suspension and brakes were
reworked, making modifications to the original chassis. Up until 1985
all S3 cars had used an upper wishbone with a lower transverse link, and
this was revised to upper and lower wishbones. The brakes were also
modified and the front discs were changed to ventilated units.
For the last year of S3 production the high compression (HC or HCI)
engine was available. This had a higher compression ratio (up from 7.5 :
1 to 8.0 :1 for the turbo models, and 9.44 : 1 to 10.9 : 1 for NA
models) and a higher boost pressure for the turbos (up from 0.55 bar
(8psi) to 0.65 bar (9.5psi)). The last models had a Bosch K-Jetronic
fuel injection system further increasing the performance.
|The Esprit is strictly a two seater with a reasonably sized rear
boot, plus storage in the front. All of the S3 cars have a glove box and
a 'map box' between the seats. None of these spaces will fit much in the
way of a suitcase, so best to use soft deformable bags and you'll be
surprised how much room there really is. For the glass-backed cars (i.e.
not some turbos) some storage can be found on top of the engine cover,
although this is best left to lighter articles. There's certainly enough
room for luggage for a quick European blast.
The older Esprits can now be insured as classic cars which means
cheap insurance, but also means a limited annual mileage and probably
the use of another car. Not a problem for most people and seeing as this
is independent of insurance for the 'other' car it thankfully requires
no additional NCB. If you are a member of Club Lotus then there is an
agreed valuation scheme available with the brokers Footman James, which
also provides breakdown assistance at no extra charge.
Due to the relatively low coefficient of drag for a car of the era
(circa 0.34), fuel consumption is surprisingly frugal, especially for
the non-turbo models (~35mpg). Although the cars were designed to run on
4/5 star leaded petrol, they can be run happily on lead replacement
petrol or (preferably) Super Unleaded. Super-U has a higher octane
rating than LRP, but also a higher cost. For turbos, super should be
||Three levels of servicing are available from Lotus, the A, B and C
services and should be carried out at 6000 mile or six month intervals
in the order A, B, A, C, A, B, A, C etc. The A service is a basic fluid
check / oil change and the C service replaces the cam belt etc. A full C
service will probably take about 10 hours plus parts and fluids - at a
Lotus dealer this will not come cheap, with labour costs around £50 per
There is some salvation however. Given the ancestry of the car, most
of the work, if not all, can be undertaken by a competent (and
confident) home mechanic. This can work both ways however, since some
people will not buy a car without the appropriate stamps in the log
book, but if evidence can be produced as to recent work carried out then
this should not put a prospective buyer off. There are now a number of
independent specialists, many of whom were originally trained by Lotus.
If you intend to work on the car yourself, then most of the nuts and
bolts are metric, apart from the odd suspension component and seat belt
mounting. Even if you don't intend to work on all aspects of the car, do
yourself a favour and get the workshop manual and the parts manual;
these tomes will provide you with procedures and pictures showing what
parts are what and how they interact. Both manuals are priced new at
about £50 each but careful searching should turn up secondhand manuals
for about £25 each.
The origins of most of the parts can be traced to other cars of the
period, perhaps most famously illustrated by the Morris Marina door
handles (also used by Range Rover!). Given the manufacturer mark-up,
it's always worthwhile trying to source them elsewhere and a browse
through the Club Lotus magazine will turn up a number of establishments
that can supply either reconditioned parts (where appropriate) or
The only parts that might cause a problem are the crownwheel and
pinion in the gearbox. The gearbox is a Citroen unit, orignally fitted
to their SM cars, some Maseratis and Peugeot 205 T16 rally cars. The
crownwheel and pinion are a weak link in the gearbox design, but only
really with the turbo cars, which produce more power and torque, and a
set will probably cost about £600 if you can find one.
Engine parts are specific to Lotus, but minor ancillaries can be
sourced elsewhere e.g. oil filters, air filters, plugs, wires, oil
cooler. The chassis and suspension for the S3 cars is solely Lotus
(originally the front suspension was sourced from an Opel Ascona, but
for the S3 cars this was redesigned inhouse), but parts of the brakes
can be sourced independently.
Fuel smell in cabin - attributable to a number of sources, the
easiest to fix is the fuel vent hose (see www.espritfactfile.com),
but can also be due to a rusted fuel tank.
Overheating - can be caused by a number of things, such as (in order
of easy fix to hard fix): externally blocked radiator, non-operational
temperature sensor, non-operational cooling fans, internally blocked
radiator, internally blocked coolant pipes, worn-out water pump.
Slow / broken electric windows - try lubricating the window channels
with spray rubber lubricant. Check that the switches are working since
the power for the motor is routed through the switch! The motors can
just about be rebuilt, otherwise Lotus sell replacement motors at a
Heater or A/C - A/C needs to used regularly to stop it drying out.
Some problems now getting the original coolant since it is banned, but
they can be retro-fitted with modern coolants. To replace a leaking or
non-functional heater core will require the removal of most of the
dash/interior of the car and is not a job for the faint hearted!
Windscreen wipers - with more MPVs on our roads, the availability of
the wipers is no longer an expensive proposition, but the replacement of
the linkage is at a level similar to the heater core. It is rumoured
that the heater core and wper linkage were the parts that the rest of
the car was constructed around...
Exhaust manifold / gaskets - many places quote ten hours plus to
change an exhaust manifold mainly due to the lack of access and the
'welded' nuts due to the heat.
Lack of use - from my own experience the fact that a car has a high
mileage/is in use every day probably means that is more reliable than
one which sits in the garage for long periods of time, to be dusted off