Five years is a long time in the recent history of Lotus; five years ago was when we last featured an Esprit GT3. It was just before the Jean-Marc Gales era, before the vast expansion of available models and special editions. Now there's a new CEO at the helm in the wake of the Geely takeover, bigger projects imminent and, in theory at least, a brighter future on the horizon. 2014 seems quite a while ago.
Time has done no harm, however, to the appeal of the Esprit GT3. All of the Esprits will seem like classics now, what with the very last cars being made 15 years ago, and yet there remains something timelessly appealing about the stripped out four-cylinder special. Debate will rage forever more about its pros and cons of versus the V8s, but we can surely all agree on the most desirable Lotuses being the ones where yet more weight was removed - which is exactly what the GT3 did.
Indeed at 1,240kg, the GT3 was a staggering 150kg lighter than an S4S, meaning its fairly ordinary 240hp was enough for potent performance - 0-100mph was timed at 12.5 seconds in the Autocar road test. The handling was, as expected, stellar.
All of which was known before. Perhaps the discussion to have now on Lotuses like the GT3 is one of drivability and usability in a modern context. This Esprit is now more than 20 years old, and is approaching a point - given the scarcity of GT3s - where they might start being holed up to preserve condition and value. Opportunities to own them will only become more rarified (and more expensive to access) as the years pass by. Expect an intensification of both if a new Esprit ever emerges, and the chronic cheapness of the originals to be addressed.
This GT3, a beautifully preserved example, is £30k. In fact, beautifully preserved sells it short, the level of care and affection seemingly lavished on this Esprit over the past 16 years quite extraordinary. And although £30k is more than the GT3 we featured five years ago, try and find a performance car of any significance, especially those that were perhaps undervalued, that hasn't appreciated a little since 2014. Given that £30k can be paid for a 996-era 911 C4S with not many miles less on it, the GT3 looks even more tempting. Heck, you can pay £35k for an M3 Imola Individual.
While the Esprit won't provide quite the delicate thrills of an Elise, or the bombastic performance of the current V6 cars, there's a reason why the recipe continued for so long. By combining stunning good looks with great performance and the kind of dynamic prowess few could match, the Esprit always held a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts; with examples like this GT3 still available for reasonable money, hopefully that can continue for a little longer. We live in a world of £60k Sport 350s, don't forget, so they won't stay this way for ever...
SPECIFICATION - LOTUS ESPRIT GT3
Engine: 1,973cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 243@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 216@3,750rpm
MPG: 22.5 (official claimed combined)
First registered: 1998
Recorded mileage: 52,000
Price new: £39,450
Yours for: £32,000