The Elite, Eclat and Esprit S1-S2 all used the same basic 907 engine, and are in the same weight ball park with just one person aboard. So with the same power, acceleration and top speed are similar. But when in good nick, the Elite & Eclat will out-handle the Esprit. Yup, 'tiz true. On a freeway, they're all pretty even. Driven to their limits in the twisty bits, the Elite and Eclat will pull away from an Esprit.
So, are they worth having? I think so. I have two Eclats & one Esprit S2, and have street driven and autocrossed them all. However, in North America, Lotus customers all wanted the boy-racer Esprit, and the Elite-Eclat were never very popular. When it came out, an American mom's grocery getter had a 5.7 liter V8, and Lotus was offering a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder 4-seater... it was a hard sell in a market that didn't understand the car. Very few were imported, and many have been allowed to languish. The risk is in buying the result of someone else's neglect. That can be an expensive problem with any car, not just a Lotus.
If the seller is unwilling to get the car running (not restored, just running), and is putting the monkey on your back to name a price, then it's unfair of him to expect a strong price from you. And without hearing the engine run, rowing through the gears, or driving the car, you can only expect the worst. I'd shoot him $1000-1500 as is. He may shut down immediately, or it may shock him into action. Either way, you're not at too much risk.
For $3500, you should be able to drive away in a car that has needs. Plan on investing time and money in it to make it a reliable driver, but it works. A good driver is probably around $5000 on the low end, to $7000 on the high end. At the top of the range, or for an older restoration, maybe somewhere in the $10-11,000 range... but for that it needs to be pretty 'right'. Not restored, but needing very little to be driven and shown at the local Cars & Coffee.
The 907 is an interference engine (pistons hit valves), and the timing belt is to be replaced every 24k miles or 24 months... and time is as important as miles. Don't cheat/ don't neglect it !! Don't try to start the engine until the timing belt has been replaced. Plan on having to dismantle & clean the carbs if the car has been sitting. The fuel pump is just an SU, it can be rebuilt, or new replacements are available. The actual remove and replace is pretty easy. Or it can be replaced with a generic electric pump. A bad pump is a lame excuse for the car being out of service. The owner is ignoring the car, so expect the worst.
The Ford 4-speed is pretty bullet proof, but the lack of an overdrive 5th makes the car pretty buzzy at freeway speeds. The Lotus 5-spd shifts well and has great ratios for the 907, but it's fragile. It was okay behind the 1558cc Twin Cam in the Elan and Elan Plus 2, but it's not up to the task behind the 907. Be very critical of the 5-spd. If it's bad, parts may be an issue (?), and finding anyone on this side of the pond that knows it will be a challenge.
The Lotus electrical system is only worse than any other Britcar/ Lucas system by virtue of the fiberglass body. Since the body can't be used for ground, all circuits must contain a ground wire. That's just more connections to corrode and have continuity problems... as all Britcars seem to have. Plan on disconnecting, cleaning, and re-connecting every connection in the car. Other than that, there are no uniquely bad aspects to the Lotus electrical system.
Last edited by Esprit2; 07-28-2017 at 08:54 PM.