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Hey All,

My dad & brother are contemplating an S1 Esprit as the next familly project car.
(we've re-built and tuned a triumph gt6+ and a datsun 260Z thus far)
There's a local one selling for a pretty good price that's already had the engine rebuilt and seems to need mostly just interior work.

My question is what are the S1's like to drive/live with?

Granted it must be one of THE sexiest cars of the 70's, but how about performance? Does the smaller engine dissapoint? I imagine handling is pretty darn good, especially considering the weight.

I drove the Z as a daily driver for years (and probably would still have it if someone didn't write it off:rolleyes:) Does the Esprit have that kind of livability? Dad's retired now so it's not really going to be a "dailydriver".
 

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it has been a long long time since i drove one... but my fading memory tells me this.

the early cars had a certain, i dunno - 'special' quality to them, i don't know how to put it in words, they 'feel' smaller, more personal, more exotic. i think the opposit would be as the car matured they got more "refined" and some of that direct rawness was lost.

they are quick! but not "fast". imo they are plenty quick to be a fun sports car. particularyl if you improve the carburation on the us cars - not hard to get a bit more out of it. pretty gutless at speed, but fine. i don't like the turbo cars as much - more thrill, less intamacy. imo...

i also prefer the styling of the early cars - don't get me wrong, i am a fan of the stevens cars, but the original is just epic!! and the plaid interiors are very cool :)

interstgly the esprit was supposed to be a V8 all along, but got caught up in the fuel crissis and lotus dropped the V8 developemnt and went with their "tried and true" (hahaha) powerplant.

if i could have ANY esprit - it would be a very nicely sorted and clean early one. maybe the memroies are not as good as reality, but i just love 'em!
 

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I have one and enjoy it very much. Car handles very well. I personally think it is one of the icons of the sports car world and will gather even more praise as the years go by. Tough to gage performance wise since it is 30 years old and I also have a Gotham Exige S but there is something to be said about a car Chapman was so closely involved with.
 

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Hey All,

My dad & brother are contemplating an S1 Esprit as the next familly project car.
(we've re-built and tuned a triumph gt6+ and a datsun 260Z thus far)
There's a local one selling for a pretty good price that's already had the engine rebuilt and seems to need mostly just interior work.

My question is what are the S1's like to drive/live with?

Granted it must be one of THE sexiest cars of the 70's, but how about performance? Does the smaller engine dissapoint? I imagine handling is pretty darn good, especially considering the weight.

I drove the Z as a daily driver for years (and probably would still have it if someone didn't write it off:rolleyes:) Does the Esprit have that kind of livability? Dad's retired now so it's not really going to be a "dailydriver".
The S1 Esprits are nothing like what you have dealt with in the past with the Datsun or the Triumph. They suffered from many problems with just about every system in the car including overheating, catching on fire, rusted frames, weak suspension, electrical problems, etc. When they were new, they did not sell well and were commonly abandoned after multiple failures. The S2 cars are a better buy because many of the S1 problems were corrected by Lotus, but they are still slow and prone to failures. An early Esprit will not be as relaible as the Triumph or the Datsun and will cost you a lot of money with the constant repairs needed. They are also more complex and the parts are very expensive as well and some can be hard to obtain.

Now having said all that, the early Esprits are the best looking of the bunch with their clean body lines and were very exotic looking in their day. If you are set on buying this S1, I recommend you do a lot of research on these cars and the parts availability before you commit to buy.
 

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Rumor has it that these cars are great daily drivers with perfect reliability, low cost of maintenance and easy to finance.
 

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Be Careful!!

I bought a 1977 S2 about 10 years ago, it was all "original" including tyres which appeared to be very very old...... needless to say, I didn't check the rubber compound, and ended up spinning out on a very "easy" curved freeway onramp.

Went to try and figure out why this "supposed" super handling car spun out going slower than I could go with my 1977 Toyota Celica on the same onramp, and lo and behold, the tyres were so hard with age that even though there were no visible signs of ageing (crazing, cracking rubber etc) the rubber was so hard that it felt like plastic bushing material....

Soo.... the moral of the story is that if you are going to get any old car, be sure to check that the tyres are not just chunks of slidey palstic furniture mover pads :)

Paul
94S4
85TE
 

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I personally like the styling of the G-cars, as the Georgetto Giugiaro styled cars are called, and the S1s in particular, as the purest form of the Esprit. That's why I bought one. As mentioned earlier, they are also the most prone to problems of all of the Esprits.

Lotus has always had a somewhat tenuous existance from a financial standpoint. This was especially true in the 70's and 80's. The Esprit was rushed to market, from a developmental standpoint. Each year, over the entire 28 year model run there were continuous improvements in engineering and manufacturing. All of this lead to continuous improvement in vehicle dynamics, reliability and quality.

There are some specific issues (in no particular order) that need to be kept in mind when considering purchase of one of the early cars (S1's and S2's):

Rear axles: These cars had U-joint rear axles that formed the upper rear suspension link. As a result the side loads due to cornering are transmitted directly to the transaxle bearings. Check for leakage and slop at these bearings. Also check the U-joints. A failure here during driving could be ugly.

Motor mounts: The very early cars had a poorly designed motor and gearbox mount system. The mounts did not resist fore - aft forces. As a result accelleration forces would allow the engine / transaxle assembly to shift forward in the chassis. There are a couple of fixes for this problem that include a thrust rod that limits the movement and a new set of front motor mount brackets that utilize the S3 / Turbo style rubber mount / vibration isolator (I have these on my S1 and they are excellent).

Motor mount heat shield:
The exhaust side motor mount is prone to deterioration due to the heat radiating from the nearby exhaust manifold. It is a good idea to fabricate a heat shield to increase the life of this rubber mount. It is not as severe on the non turbo cars, but it is still an issue.

Shift linkage: The shifter arm on the transaxle on the S1 and S2 is on the left hand side of the car. This is the same side as the exhaust of the engine. The rubber vibration isolator bushings in the linkage in this region deteriorate quickly due to heat, oil and dirt contamination. This is a source of continuous maintenance unless remedies are made. Your choices include various "hard" bushings that range from nylon / delrin / urethane bushings (you fabricate them yourself) to installation of sperical bearings (Heim joints). These approaches provide improved shift "feel" at the expense of increased vibration transmission into the cockpit. You could also swap the linkage from a Turbo. This would be a fair amount of work and require the acquisition of the Turbo shift linkage, chassis bell crank assy and gearbox top cover. I have taken the continuous maintenance approach here.

Headlight drive motor:
The early cars had a single motor to raise and lower the hadlights. If not in good condition it is not up to the job. Some of the S1s and most of the S2s had a 2 motor system. It is a big improvement in reliability. My car is a very early S1 with the single headlight motor. Again, I have taken the continuous maintenance approach.

HVAC system:
The heaters in the early cars are OK. The A/C not so much. I guess that it just doesn't get that hot in the UK.

Cooling system:
Many owners report cooling problems with the early cars. I haven't had any problems. The radiators are quite small and the 3 fans are required to get adequate air flow. If one of them fails or if the radiator gets clogged with road debris, restricting airflow, you will have problems. Many owners have upgraded the radiator. Also the fan blades leave a lot to be disired from an aerodynamic point of view. There are significant gains to be made here if you want to spend the time and money to install modern aftermarket fans or a larger radiator. However, just installing a thicker radiator is not necessarily a panacea. It is important to keep the airflow pressure drop to a minimum to get good heat transfer performance out of a radiator. If the airflow is restricted, by debirs, corrosion or due to the flow characteristics of the radiator itself, cooling performance will suffer. I have the OEM radiator / fans and don't have any problems here in SoCal in the summer. I guess that I've just been lucky in this respect.

Fuel tanks:
Each of the fuel tanks has a 3-point mounting system. There are 2 bolts, one in the engine bay, one in the rear wheel well and a foam rubber pad under the tank. The fuel tanks are made from mild steel and painted black. They were not prepared well before painting at the factory (or by the vendor who supplied them). The result is that if water gets into the foam pad under the tank, the tank rust out. This is a very common problem. It is one of the sources of "trial by fire" for Esprit owners. My car has lived it's whole life in SoCal. Lucky for me the tanks are pristine. I also replaced the factory foam with 1/2" thick closed cell foam (neoprene, like wet suit material) while the engine was out.

Fuel lines:
The fuel vent lines that go over the rear window are prone to deterioration over time. These need to be checked carefully and replaced if necessary with high quality material. Failure of these lines is likely the most common "trial by fire" problerm for Esprit owners.

Electrical connections, switches and window motors:
All I can say about this is that the cars were built in the UK in the 70's and used mostly Lucas components. The power windows are driven directly by the switches instead of via relays. The switches fail due to the hig current loads at their contacts. You will want to consider powering the3 window motors via relays to solve this. The ubiqutous use of barrell wire and switch connectors that do not have good corrosion resistant sealing provisions leads to electrical system failures over time. The electrics work fine until high resistance connections become problematic over time. Again, the dry SoCal weather has been good to my car in this respect. The switch gear is difficult to come by. I searched for a headlight switch for my car for a year (actually, this has been the only really difficult part for me to source for my car).

OK, so the list above covers most of the fixes I have made to my car. I could go on, but you get the idea. My car has proven to be completely reliable since going back together. It had 29k miles when I bought it --- with a blown engine and gearbox. So I rebuilt both of those too, making performance improvements in those areas as well.

As for performance it is faster than a Miata. But not a lot. I know. We have a '94 Miata in our stable. My car makes about 175 Hp. It will go about 125 flat out. I'm guessing it is somewhere around 7 - 8 seconds 0-60. It is reasonably quick 40 - 90 mph. Much quicker in this respect than the Miata. The lack of the wrap around front air dam makes it much more suseptable to cross winds than the Turbo cars ('82 and later).

The upside:
Even by today's standards the cars ride and drive very well. The low speed steering is heavy, in say a parking lot. But beyond 5 mph it is perfectly weighted. The relationship of the steering wheel to the shift lever is perfect. If you are 6' tall or under the driving position is also excellent. However if you are taller or have a waist larger than about 36" you may find the interior room to be problematic. If you are over 6' there are fixes to the seats and pedals that can make a significant difference. I'm 6'5" and fit just fine after some work on the seats and pedals.

By following the prescribed maintenance practices / schedules, particularly valve / cam belt adjustments, and chassis lubrication, I have found that the car is reliable. But you can't ignore maintenance or it will bite you.

There is one more thing to remember about living with the car day to day: In general many women don't like to wear skirts when getting in and out of the car. It is not the easiest car to get into and out of. It requires a wide parking space and the doors don't swing open very far. It is very low and the side sills are quite wide. As a result you have to sort of climb out. Problematic when wearing a dress!



Go out and purchase some Esprit books and study up before you go out to buy. I recommend the following as a good start:

Lotus Since the 70's, Vol 1 & 2, by Graham Robson.
Lotus Esprit, by Jeremy Walton.
Lotus Esprit, by Gerard Crombac.
Lotus Esprit, The Story So Far, by William Taylor.

I also recommend that you get involved with one of the Lotus clubs, if there is one in your area, or Lotus Ltd, if not. Go to some events. Try to get a ride in a couple of cars from members if possible so that you'll know what to expect. Especially if you're going to buy a non-running car.

Good luck.

Regards,
Ron Schramm
'77 S1
'84 Turbo (x2)
 

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I rebuilt an S2 after walking away from a number of S1 Esprit. At a minimum, go with the Esprit S2 as it has all the "charm" of an S1 with a little less hassel.

Feff
 

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Escondidoron you don't post very often, but when you do you make it count. :bow:
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow great write-ups guys thank you!

I'll definetly look up those books.

So i had a look at it today.

it's a 77S1 (as i noted earlier).
39,000miles

Engine fully rebuilt in the past 2 years.
Stroked to 2.2
Dellorto carbs
Rads upgraded.
No hits (as far as anyone can tell)

Body looks sound though the bumpers are looking a little tired.
(rear droops slightly in the cntr, some general creasing)
Window trim bits etc. showing their age but not neglect.

Original wolfrace rims in good shape and correct tire sizing.

New Gaz shocks.

Interior: probably the "roughest" part of the car.
Seats are in great shape but the rest (doors to dash) is upholstered in a black felt-ish substance. (this may be OEM i dunno at this stage). I would likely re-do.

lights work, windows work, switches all seem to work.
Tires are new sumitomos.

the owner seemed to me to care well for his cars.

Drives well (I was amazed how much grunt it had for a 4-banger!...faster than my miata a few years ago anyway ;)

I must say though the body styling is gorgeous. Heads were turning everyblock we drove down (exhaust note helped that ;)

We're not in a huge hurry so i'll take the time to do some more reasearch and think about it. (im actually looking at Exiges for myself as well)

***
Just curious, what are the primary handling tendencies?
(turn-in, early-corner, mid-corner, exit)
being a midship car i suspect theres oversteer in there somewhere!
 

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Interior: probably the "roughest" part of the car.
Seats are in great shape but the rest (doors to dash) is upholstered in a black felt-ish substance. (this may be OEM i dunno at this stage). I would likely re-do.
That mouse fur interior is OEM stock. It's one of those 70's things that didn't age well......
 

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I absolutely love the S2 Esprit, and spent 9 hours straight in one on my way to LOG 28. Aside from the lack of AC, it was a blast!
 

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Esprit is still my dream car and this detailed post gets:up::up:. When the time comes I will be patient looked for a 93.5 as this was the one I was going to by years ago till the attorney that was to sell it to me screwed me over. (guess it was business as usual for him)
 

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At a minimum, go with the Esprit S2 as it has all the "charm" of an S1 with a little less hassel.

Feff
Don't agree with this at all. Any Esprit is a money pit if you buy the wrong car. Buy a well cared for S1 and keep up the maintenance and the car will be fine. The key here is preventative maintenance. All Esprit's suffer when scheduled maintenance is neglected. But good S1's are very hard to find. If you are set on an S1 be prepared to wait for the right car. I can tell you from experience the wait is worth it.
 

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i think the difference between a S1 and S2 is marginal. most of the updates are cosmetic. electrical wiring may differ slightly with an added bonus of cooling ears for S2 cars. the mechanically they are near identical. move up to a S3 if you want a more robust car

having said that both are wicked cool. i wish my NA S3 looked like the earlier cars. i cant get over how much better the S1 and S2 looks in my humble opionion

cheers

db
 

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After having to help two friends with their S1's while owning an S2 at the same time ~ I can honestly say that the S2 has less hassle.

Here are some reasons why:
Battery location of the S2 was more secure and wasn't in an area that could get wet if the side window leaked.
The heating system was upgraded in the S2's (still laughible, just less so)
The front nose of the S2 greatly decreased nose lift above 70 mph
The really crappy one piece PCB dash of the S1's (which left the factory non-functioning) was replaced with nice Smith gauges in the S2's
Electric window guides where properly mounting in the S2's. The S1 windows would often get stuck in either the up or down positions
The rover tail lamps of the S1's were prone to leak.
The S2 wiring harness (the one and only - it seemed) was significantly better routed and less confusing.
The S2 had twin head light bucket motors versus the single motor in the S1. So when one motor went wacky in the rain, at least you would have one headlight on in the S2. In the S1 you would loose both headlights.
The S2 seats were more comfortible with less foam ~ taller drivers could more easily fit in an S2.
The S2 has MUCH better access to the motor thru the bottom motor pan.

Overall, the S2 was a much less of a hassle to live with than the S2's.
 
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