Name a more infamous duo in the motoring world than Dany Bahar and the Lotus Esprit. Yes, it really has been (almost) 15 years since the former Lotus chief and marketing whizz announced a quintet of concept cars spearheaded by an all-new Esprit in a star-studded launch party at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Fast forward to the present and there’s still no sign of a new Esprit - so what exactly went wrong?
There are umpteen theories on why Lotus’s Bahar era was so controversial and, well, rubbish. The businessman’s marketing background, helping launch both the Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso Formula 1 teams, did wonders for drumming up excitement around the brand and its proposed new models (the Esprit, Elise, Elan, Elite, Eterne). But, also, some were unconvinced that the maker of the (then Series 2) Elise and Exige could somehow produce six lavish sports cars, luxury GTs and a premium supermini (that one didn’t appear in the glitzy reveal event) in such a short timeframe, with many proposed for launch in 2013.
That leads us nicely onto the second point. When PH interviewed Bahar back in 2011, he claimed that the rich history of Lotus would allow it to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Porsche head-on. It was certainly ambitious, and Bahar has admitted that since, but Lotus has always been masters of lightweight and (relatively) affordable performance cars. While there was certainly some excitement around the new models, particularly the return of the Esprit, the high-end luxury approach just wasn’t very, you know, Lotus. As we now know, Bahar faced the axe three years into the job and none of the six Paris concepts would make it to a showroom.
However, one Bahar Esprit would make it into production - just not the one he’d sunk development resources and infrastructure upgrades into. During his time at Lotus, Bahar earmarked a technician called Danny Golubovic to build him the ultimate Esprit. The car, a 2002 V8 Turbo, was essentially rebuilt from the ground up, including a full respray from red to white and a complete interior overhaul with Alcantara trim (which was never offered on the original car) and bespoke stitching. Mechanical upgrades were on the light side, with changes limited to height-adjustable Bilstein dampers and an ECU recalibration. Other than that, it’s a stock Esprit V8 Turbo.
Interestingly, we got behind the wheel of Bahar’s Esprit (the real one, of course) back in 2012. Driving the car around the Hethel test track, Dan T noted that the driving experience was “ raw” and “physical”, which was “somewhat at odds with the luxurious feel of the cabin.” The build quality was “top-notch”, too, with the signature Lotus creaks and squeaks notably absent on Bahar’s baby. We’ll let you decide whether or not it’s the best Esprit to ever come out of Hethel - alhough you could plausibly argue it was the best thing to result from the Bahar era.
Ultimately, you won’t find another one like it, and now's your chance to be its next owner. This was strictly a one-off build for CEO, reportedly costing £100,000 to complete. How much it’ll set you back now will require a call to the seller, but even if you take the Bahar element away from it, you’re still left with one of the finest examples in existence. And if you do end up pulling the trigger, you’ll be the only person in the world who can claim to own a Bahar Esprit. For what it’s worth.
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