Esprit SE, Esprit S4 or Esprit S4s - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
 
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 05:29 AM Thread Starter
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Esprit SE, Esprit S4 or Esprit S4s

Hi,

I'm going to be in the market for an Esprit reasonably soon (at last) and am looking at the above three (SE, S4, S4s). As you can imagine, everybody is telling me the Esprit is totally unreliable etc.etc. but having done some research it would appear the S4 and S4s in particular are actually not bad on that front. Do you guys share that opinion?

I'm not too bothered about doing work on the car myself - my background is VW, where I've done various conversions including engines into cars that don't want to fit and two wheel to four wheel drive conversions. However, I'd be pretty scared of taking one of these later cars apart to do some major overhaul (and don't really have the time at the moment) and so reliability is my number one priority when buying an Esprit.

Couple of extra questions:
1. Is the SE markedly worse (reliability) than the S4 and S4s
2. Which of the three is "the most reliable"?
3. Can anybody give me any pointers to look out for and share their experiences of what has gone wrong for them (for all Esprits not just the three mentioned)?
4. I have heard the early V8s chew gearboxes, and that later V8s were better, but can someone quantify "better"?

I'm basically trying to get it straight in my mind with regards to the sorts of work I'll be needing to do for each model so I can make my decision based partly on that.

I realise this thread might be very similar to others in the past but would be very grateful if I could get all this info in one place, or get pointers to elsewhere as there is much conflicting information on the internet and other forums, but lotustalk seems to have users that actually know what they are talking about rather than just telling me not to bother, or that all Esprits are completely unreliable. I'm determined to get a car, use it often and make it work for me

Thanks in advance for your help,
Dave.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 06:11 AM
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Generally speaking the newer the car the better. Also, the better maintained the better. That said a better maintained, older car can be more reliable than a newer neglected car. As for gearboxes, all of the V-8's had the same gearbox. In '99 the linkage was changed to improve the shifting. When buying a car such as a Lotus it is important to have a complete, continuous service history. Each model has it's quirks and things to look out for. Best if you can get the car looked over by an experienced Lotus tech BEFORE you buy it.
David Teitelbaum
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 07:31 AM
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David's comments are right on. My 1991 SE is very reliable, and I like the look of the early spoiler better than the S4 or S4s, but they are great cars, too, and have a little more power available due to changes in the turbocharger, chanrgecooler, and slight engine mods.

The low spoiler on the early SE's impinges less upon rearward visibility, which has never been a strong suit in the Esprits.

I frankly don't know if Lotus tunnel-tested the spoiler designs - I have been told by a friend who designs aerodynamics for race cars that most of these spoilers, including the electrified spoilers (e.g. Porche Carerra, Chrysler) are only marginally useful to exert some downforce, and then only at very high (i.e. illegal on highways) speeds. The Chrysler one had a very complicated "two-stage" movement which, when I owned one, didn't seem to accomplish much except to notify traffic cops that you were a possible speeding violator!

Dispite the spoiler, I probably would have bought a later car if one had been available when I was looking. This car, however, had a maintenance history which is more important, IMHO, than anything else.

Mine had had Dealer maintenance at the proper intervals, low milage, and items replaced which appear to be consistant with other owner's experiences with these cars - clutch master and slave, ABS system, etc..

It also had a few mods done to it already - "ram air" and an improved exhaust system which I would also have done. I wasn't sure that I liked the two-tone paint job in the beginning, but now do.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 10:40 AM
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the important date on a 4-pot was in 89 - where the delco injection came into the picture.
that said, many feel the later 4-pots were the most reliable Espirts.

There are many good places for information on Espirt issues - common problems and common fixes - which is an important aspect of buying an older car.

The Lotus Esprit Fact File
Lotus Esprit World

There are many good forums as well - (including this one) - where Espirts owners (who seem to be pretty DIYer crowd - can help and guide you. I can't list them here.....
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 01:41 PM
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I have an 89 non SE model and have had it since 01/92. I bought it with 1738 miles showing and now have over 105K. There have been some problems along the way but most could have been avoided if I had known what I know now. All in all the cost of ownership has been negligable for the time and mileage owned.
If you find a well sorted car most of the issues will have been adddressed by now.
The SE, S4 and S4S have the advantage of an intercooler which I wish I had on mine. But even without one the car is still plenty quick and with a bit of tweaking can run with rest.
Go for it, you'll be grinning after every drive. Just take the time and do a lot of research before laying down the cash.

Good luck

Al B.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 04:54 PM
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Later Esprits have a nicer more modern interior. They seem to be more logicaly put together. Later ones have antilock which may or may not be a good thing.
Later ones have Brembo braking systems which are a tic better than the Toyota brakes. Later ones will have R34 refrigerant for the A/C.
Later ones have power steering, if that floats your boat. The trannys are a bit stronger in the S4 up (bigger rear mainshaft bearing and stronger case, I think). S4s has a pretty stout engine. The cylinder head has bigger intake valves and is pocket ported. Turbo compressor is a higher flow unit too. I think S4s has fully adjustable suspension like the V8.
Most importantly---S4 and S4s have a radiator inlet that SMILES at you.
S4s is the one to get, unless you gotta have a V8, and that is a different beast altogether.
V8s have more of a tendancy to break the first motion shaft around the overhung fifth gear under certain cicumstances.
The only thing that irks me about both the Lotus engines is the high cam belt maintenance requirements.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-14-2010, 05:15 PM
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After Lotus was part of GM, they started to integrate more GM parts in the cars. As stated, the newer the car the better. I've owned the S4 and S4s, both are great cars; I prefer the S4s to the V8 on track.

Roy

Ps. The rear spoiler on the S4s is to eliminate the vortex behind the car giving it a higher top speed, not for down force. At least that's what I was told at the factory.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-15-2010, 06:58 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks very much to everyone for all the replies, much appreciated.

I'm in the UK - am I right in thinking the US market got injection before we did (I think the UK's first injected Esprit was the SE)?

I'm going to have to get looking for a decent example with full service history by the sound of it.


Thanks again,
Dave.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-16-2010, 10:01 AM
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One big thing to keep in mind as far as reliability of the 4 vs the V-8 is the ABS system. The K/H system in the V-8's is far superior IMHO. It is easier to service and parts are still easily available for it as opposed to the Delco system. The biggest disadvantage of the V-8's is that service and parts are a LOT more expensive and harder to do. On the track the 4 cyl may be a little more nimble in the turns but the V-8 has more power to come out of the turns and use on straightaways. It also has more low end torque so you don't have to down-shift as much. Comes down to technique and most of us are not driving at such a level that it will matter all that much. On the street the V-8 overpowers the 4 cyl and can keep up with it in the turns. Since there were not that many S4 and S4S's made it can be hard to find a nice one for sale in your area. V-8's are more plentiful but more expensive because of the motor and they are newer. Very minor differences in appearance externaly. Interior is IMHO nicer in the V-8's. A prospective buyer should try to see as many different cars as he can before buying so he knows what he wants.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-18-2010, 07:46 AM
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Regarding the cost of maintenance... the big question is, can you handle minor repairs yourself? The Esprit isn't that difficult to service, especially the 4 cylinder, but if you have to hire someone else to do everything, it can get expensive.

However, if you can handle most minor work yourself, and you use a parts cross index list to get the common spares from the original manufacturer (GM, Toyota, etc), the Esprit is fairly inexpensive to keep going.

Example: I've had my 90 SE since 1999, have yet to spend more than USD$1k per year in service costs, usually quite a bit less. Someone at my office also had a 90 SE, sold it recently because he was spending an average of $3k/year in service costs. He coudn't do any of the work, and was paying a shop 80 miles away to handle everything.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-18-2010, 12:16 PM
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On the V-8's, even if you do ALL of your own work (and some things are best left to more experienced hands like tensioning the timing belts) the parts are a whole lot more expensive than the 4-cyl. Take the clutch for instance. If the old one is really beat up and you have to replace the flywheel too you can be spending over $3K just for parts! And that doesn's figure anything for the transmission where you might need syncros, seals, gaskets, etc. If you aren't quite so handy that clutch (with some freshing up of the transmission) can cost you over $10K if you have to pay someone to do it. You *can* save a lot of money if you can do a lot of your own work but that implies that you can do it right and not mess up a very expensive car and a lot of expensive parts! It also means you need a good place to work and have the necessary tools. You have to be honest with yourself about your skill level and if you can spare the time. I have a lot of personal enjoyment not only driving the Lotus but being able to do a lot of the maintaince on it. I find it FUN to fix all of the stuff that other PO's and mechanics couldn't fix right.
David Teitelbaum
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-18-2010, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtrealty View Post
On the V-8's, even if you do ALL of your own work (and some things are best left to more experienced hands like tensioning the timing belts) ------ I have a lot of personal enjoyment not only driving the Lotus but being able to do a lot of the maintaince on it. I find it FUN to fix all of the stuff that other PO's and mechanics couldn't fix right.
David Teitelbaum
You can look at all of this as a liberating learning experience.
Since my V8s PO had the timing belts tensioned by an APE, I'm busy collectiong all the tools to do it myself, this time.
Don't ever want to be tied to the dealer for service.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2010, 07:51 AM
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I've had enough bad experiences with service facilities years ago to now do all my own work. That experience is already serving me well with my new Lotus, I spent last night tearing it down for a timing belt job and to fix a lot of small issues that weren't done right in the past. I'm pleasantly surprised after receiving my bill from JAE that parts are not that expensive for these cars, but I could see how things could add up quickly if you just drop it off at a Lotus service facility.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2010, 10:04 AM
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When I get the time I am going to make my own timing tools too for my V-8. I figure with them and the Tune-IT! program I should be able to do it myself. It would be great if someone who has a set could make up some sketches with dimensions. Otherwise I will just measure off of the motor and create it myself. The special tools required (besides the frequency gauge aka Clavis gauge) are:
Flywheel positioning pin
4 camshaft setting pins
4 camshaft checking pins
Timing scale and pointer
Tensioning tool
24 mm socket.
I take the car to R & S but I still like to have the capability to do things myself. I still can't get into the ABS or the SIR systems. No Tech 1. I can get into the EMM with OBD-2.com
David Teitelbaum
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2010, 11:38 AM
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I bought a BTM400 PLus frequency checker and the crank positioning pin already, plus a small degree wheel from Summit. Have an E-mail out to JAE for a price and availability of the cam tolerance pin and tensioning tool. Been a week haven't heard back from him--on vacation?
From a cheapie standpoint, I have the bare minimum to tension the belts now.
Still, I want to get my paws on the tensioning tool.
If you want, I could bang up a drawing for the crank positioner at work. Can't be too difficult.
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post #16 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2010, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gixxer View Post
I bought a BTM400 PLus frequency checker and the crank positioning pin already, plus a small degree wheel from Summit. Have an E-mail out to JAE for a price and availability of the cam tolerance pin and tensioning tool. Been a week haven't heard back from him--on vacation?
From a cheapie standpoint, I have the bare minimum to tension the belts now.
Still, I want to get my paws on the tensioning tool.
If you want, I could bang up a drawing for the crank positioner at work. Can't be too difficult.
I think that calling works better.
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post #17 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2010, 03:02 PM
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I think that calling works better.
Dean means that you should CALL JAE. They seem to be easier to reach on the phone than via email. (Though, whenever I give poor advice, Jeff sends me an email to point out the error of my ways. )

Atwell Haines
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