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Lotus Turbo Esprit | Spotted

Lotus is said to be plotting a new hybrid Esprit. It will need have big wheel arches to fill...

By Dafydd Wood / Tuesday, March 17, 2020

While out on a shoot last week I was alerted to the approach of something special. We all know the feeling: the distant rumble of an unmistakably performance-orientated engine, the gargle of a factory-fitted sports exhaust, a flash of something low and wide through the trees. You can tell straight away that this isn't merely some tarted-up, Halfords-piped wannabe, no, a bonafide supercar is coming.

And what a supercar. The white Lotus Turbo Esprit which emerged was just as striking as anything manufactured on the continent. Because while it may not have been a V8 Ferrari or V12 Lamborghini, the 2.2-litres of the Esprit's inline-four still powered something just as exotic.

For starters there are those Giugiaro-penned lines. A wedge is a wedge is a wedge, except for when it's something more, and by the special edition Essex Turbo of 1980 the formula had been perfected. The Esprit's simple, angular body looked to have hit the gym, and had gained sufficient muscle not to appear outmatched by more naturally thoroughbred rivals.

The S3 Turbo retained its Essex forebear's aesthetic - with the exception of modified bumpers - but it wasn't a case of all show and no go; quite the opposite. Its bulked up physique was matched by extra puff within; the 172hp, 160lb ft of the standard car increased to 218hp and 220lb ft thanks to the fitment of the turbocharger, with that extra torque also now available from just 4,500rpm.

Drivers who could waggle the five-speed manual transmission with sufficient skill could propel the Turbo Esprit from 0-62 in just 5.6 seconds, in part thanks to the fibreglass-bodied machine's 1,220kg kerb weight. Compare this to a contemporary foe in the form of the 3.2-litre V8-engined Ferrari 328, which produced 270hp and 231lb ft, yet reached the 62 mark just one tenth faster, and it isn't hard to see how impressive the Lotus's performance was.

In fact, the trickiest thing about buying a Turbo Esprit isn't justifying why you'd want one, but choosing which one you'd like. There are several fantastic examples in the PH classifieds, including this striking black and gold 1984 car and this blue and silver 1985 example, which offers a somewhat cleaner, though equally compelling aesthetic.

It would have to be this perfectly-specced 1986 machine for me, though. The green paint, gold wheels and cream interior combine to create something so right it almost hurts. Pair that with a recent engine rebuild and a new turbo, and you'll be in perfect shape to capture the imaginations of bystanders near and far, now and for years to come.

2,174cc four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Power (hp): 218@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 220@4,500rpm
First registered: 1986
Recorded mileage: 42,000
Price new: £21,720
Yours for: £32,500

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