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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello to everyone,

I live near Atlanta and I'm getting to within months of buying my first Esprit and have started doing some face-to-face research with owners (as able). I met with a guy today selling a '94 S4S. He's owned two other Esprits in the past and here are two of his opinions I'm interested to hear if you agree with:

1. The 4-cyl Esprits are generally more reliable mechanically than the V8s and less prone to problems, again, generally. He contends that maintenance is also more expensive b/c there are two of a lot of things being a V8 versus just one as in the 4 cyl.
2. He said it's common for Esprits to have a slow leak of oil somewhere as often happens in Ferraris and Porsches too, he said. Point being, it's not uncommon for them to leak oil, somewhere.

I'm trying to do as much due diligence as I can before buying. I really like the 2002+ V8 body styles better than the S4S, but I'm keeping an open mind. What are your thoughts on the opinions above?

Thank you!
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Atlanta has an active chapter of Lotus Ltd, the national Lotus club. Contact some of the nearby Esprit owners and take a look (Or test drive) and see for yourself.

http://www.lotuscarclub.org/localchapters.php

GEORGIA
Lotus Ltd. Southeast [LLSE] **** OPALAK
Atlanta, GA
[404] two five oh-0377
https://groups.yahoo.com/group/LLSE/

Or, look here on LT:

http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f122/atlanta-area-lotus-related-events-29926/

+++++++++++

Regards maintenance, yes the V8s can cost more to run. Routine maintenance is a bit more expensive, clutches don't last as long and are MUCH more expensive. Make sure any car (V8 or four) that you buy is up to date on things like timing belts. Insist on documentation of routine services.

Lotus often used sealers instead of gaskets in the engines and transmissions. These can leak over time, but so can the gaskets on mass-produced cars. Any S4s is almost 20 years old now, V8s a bit less. :UK:

So if any car you look at has an oil leak, factor in the cost of the repair in your offer.

Finally, do your due diligence but don't be afraid to search nationwide for the Esprit of your dreams. :drool:
 

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Those are general statements but when you get down to particulars it is all about how each car was treated and taken care of. Generally speaking the V-8 is more expensive to maintain and repair. You can also say since they are newer they are typically lower mileage, less wear, less owners, and more modern. They have a better braking system and a much advanced engine management. If you can afford one, the V-8 is most people's choice if you are comparing a V-8 and a 4 cyl in equal condition.
David Teitelbaum
 

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I love the 4 and don't think much of the V8. There are a number of reasons. The 4's are easier and cheaper to maintain and to work on. The character of the car changed (IMHO) with the introduction of the V8 and in a direction I myself have no interest. And I think the 4 more reflects the original vision of Lotus and Colin Chapman - add lightness not cylinders. But, to each his (or her) own....

I have a fair amount of experience working on 4's so this applies to them. I have no experience on V8's so this may or may not apply to them. A little oil seep is OK, but a puddle under the car is not good. A fresh engine does not leak oil. I have rebuilt three 4 cylinder engines in the last year or so and none of them leak any oil. My own Esprit has 10k miles on the rebuilt engine and it does not leak oil anywhere. So the notion that "they all leak" is not quite true. After many years and or miles they may seep some oil, but there's no getting around that a leaking engine is a tired engine or an engine which if rebuilt was not put back together properly.

You can make some determination about the nature of the leaking by inspecting the engine. If it is cam towers leaking at the seam with the head there will oil in the plug wells. If it is the front or rear main seals you will see oil behind the front triple pulley or you will see engine oil (as opposed to trans oil) leaking out of the openning in the bottom of the bell housing. If it is the cam seals (not the cam-to-head seam but the seals behind the cam sprockets) you will see the oil and on older 4 cylinder cars you will see if often on the vacuum pump. The 4's can leak in other places too, but these are the most common sites. If the main seals or cam seals are leaking that's not a good sign - either a tired engine or else something worn out that will inevitably get worse over time. Truly fixing these problems is serious (i.e. expensive if you pay someone to do them, not expensive if you do them yourself but a LOT of labor). Cam tower leaks are pretty common on original motors (oil in plug wells) and you can live with that situation for quite a while.

And of course, INSPECT CLOSELY and be sure to drop the underbody tray when looking at the car ON A LIFT and see what kind of oil residue is on the tray.

If you buy a leaker then factor the repair price into your offer.
 

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The only things I like better about the V8 over the 4 are:

Late models with the updated interior and taillights. Solved the lights on my 1994 by updating
and
Gotta love the V8 torque

BUT.. not worth trade off in much higher maintenance, wanna go HOLY CRAP!? compare prices for clutch!

Plus the V8 is not much quicker and the 4 is much lighter too...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Carbuff, thanks for the tip on the local chapter. I will definitely check that out. So far it sounds like there's a consensus that the V8s are more expensive to maintain, more difficult to work on and prone to more issues. I think it needs to be said that I am NOT a mechanic by any stretch of the word and, at least at this point, will need to have the car worked on by someone in the know (which I'll also locate in my area via due diligence before buying). Here's an off-shoot conundrum that came to mind based on your helpful replies. I really prefer the body style of the later V8s. I really do like that style more than the S4S (which I love, but have not pictured in my mind when dreaming about becoming an Esprit owner). So, here's another question to pose: Would YOU buy the model year/style you have always wanted even if that means potential higher and more frequent maintenance costs, or would you purchase a different model/style of a car you still love which also is likely to have less maintenance issues/costs? I'm not asking you to make the decision for me, I'd just like to know what YOU'D do! Thanks!
 

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Cal H
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If you have deep pockets go for the V8. If not go for the S4s. If you are a fair driver you can keep up with the V8. Might not be able to pass him but he can't shake a S4s with a better than average driver. Not a mechanic. Many did not start out that way. Oh all had an interest but like anything else practice and repetition makes one a better mechanic. I suppose it helps if you have one of the Jedi master looking over your work and redoing everything you have done wrong LOL. If you like to tinker the 4 is a better choice for you. I go with Tom
 

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4 vs 8 is one of our favorite debates here! :)

We are all Esprit lovers, but there are some who are solidly in either camp for justifiable reasons.

For me, I love the V8 for its power, styling, "newness", sound, etc. No contest.

Is it more expensive? Yes, but if we were making decisions based on economics we would all be driving Hondas.

And though I'm looking for my second V8 I don't think I would ever go for a 4 (though I have driven them), unless it were maybe one of the much older ones.

I would say drive both, then make your decision. Good luck!
 

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If you live near Atlanta, I live in Peachtree City , and bought my S4s just this year. Maybe we can get together and I can tell you what I have learned so far about the care and feeding of the Esprit S4s . :)
 

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Cal H
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To drive a 4 among V8 you can not make any mistakes that sap engine and car speed. A V8 while running among 4's is more forgiving and if one misjudges a turn they are more able to point and shoot at the exit. In the hands of a superior driver a V8 is a formidable combination. Although not many alter factory handling settings which is a mystery to me.
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Would YOU buy the model year/style you have always wanted even if that means potential higher and more frequent maintenance costs, or would you purchase a different model/style of a car you still love which also is likely to have less maintenance issues/costs?
I'd buy the one you desire, assuming you can afford the extra upkeep. (Nobody ever said Mistresses were LOW MAINTENANCE...)

Otherwise you will always have that seed of regret in your mind.





When we were first looking, I would have been OK with a G-car, but the Spousal Unit (who writes the checks, GRIN) liked the Stevens. Guess what we got???? :D rotfl
 

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I own a 4 and have owned an early G car. I've driven the V8. The biggest difference to me was the flexibility of the V8. Price did dictate my decision but the only point others have not made yet is for me I prefer the 4 because of its place in history. It was advanced and a giant killer in its time. To me the V8 is a little less impressive in that regard.
 

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Just keep in mind, as much of a difference there is between the V-8 and the 4 cyl, the main thing is CONDITION. I would rather have a nice, well maintained 4 cyl vs a beater V-8 and it works the other way too meaning a nice V-8 vs a POS 4 cyl. A nice S4s can be a very good car. Stay away from the older ones with the Citroen transmission if you can. Since you won't be working on the car yourself buy one in the very best shape you can afford even if it means a 4 cyl. The difference in price between the 4 cyl and a V-8 can be as much as $10K. Get to drive as many different Lotus's as you can before you decide V-8 or 4 cyl. Not all are well maintained and in good running condition so you need to drive at least several to appreciate the differences. Go to a local club and ask to see and drive some of the cars. Find out where the local service is and visit BEFORE you start spending your money! A nearby, local garage is NOT the place to have your precious Lotus maintained. If you are buying the car purely for the driving experience you need to know what is going to make you happy. Once you figure out if it it is a V-8 or 4 cyl now you must find the best one you can (and can afford). Always cheaper in the long run to buy the very best you can afford. You will wind up spending a lot less on repairs.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Maxvelocity, I had some thought along with the gist of yours, i.e. despite not being a mechanic, I may become one simply by virtue of owning an Esprit. I'm not opposed to learning and would enjoy knowing the car more intimately. I just know little about cars now and find learning about working on one as complex as an Esprit intimidating. Can probably get over that, though. Just FYI to all, I am purchasing my Esprit with money I make on a side-job I do which generates about 10k a year. I plan to buy the car outright so that'll mean I'll have approx. 10k a year to keep it up. Does that influence any of your opinions or previous answers to any of my questions? ESPREE, you're right in that I simply need to drive a V8 so I'll know what to expect. I hope to find an owner who can help me with that. I also love the 'newer' looking aspects of the V8s and just the styling better in general than the S4. Not knocking the S4 at all, just a cosmetic thing for me. DaveS4S, thanks for the note. Unfortunately, I live in Canton so I'm pretty much on the opposite side of ATL from you, but I'll keep your name down in my resource file in case I'm ever that way. Thanks for your willingness to share your knowledge! And, Ed, I'll definitely contact you! Roswell isn't too far from me in Canton and I'd LOVE to hook up sometime to talk Esprit! Also as an FYI, I'm 41 now and feel more ready to have an Esprit than at 16. Had I gotten one then, they'd probably have marked my grave soon after. What I'm driving at is that performance in the sense of keeping up with Ferraris, other Esprits, etc. isn't something I'm particularly concerned with. Not that I won't want to goose it every once in a while, but I'm no racer and so whatever high performance-ish qualities a V8 may have over a 4 or vice versa isn't going to sway my decision for whatever that's worth to know. I'm always interested in your thoughts...! Thanks guys!
 

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I am a 4 pot fan. I could have either... but I chose the 4. Yes. they leak a bit here and there. I have gone through and re-sealed all points on my engine. It last about a 14-15 months in Alabama's climate before a leak here or there shows up. Now, by leak... I do not mean a running drip! I mean a dirty spot that leaves a residue on the under tray.

The 4 is not hard to work on and I am one of the nut jobs that does not mind the K-Jetronic fuel management system as I work to keep my cars stock. The 88 is my favorite style wise... and that is what I sought after and now own. But they are all pretty special.

Don't be afraid of some minor stuff on a 4 pot. Get the records... but a little dirty and maybe in need of a "C" service is just a bargaining point. I'd get in and do it all from my purchase data anyways so I know where I am with regards to maintenance. K-Jet runs a bit rough at start up. This is normal. Also, they generally drive a bit rough until warm. I always warm mine up before getting out on the roads. Also, I keep it below 3000ish until the gear box oil is warm (independent from the motor). The 1-2 shift is not Japanese so do not balk at the car you looking into if you have to be a bit precise on the shift. This is also normal. Gets better once the gear oil warms up... but again... not a Mazda.


Great cars. Love mine as much today as when I first got it 11 years ago...
 

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Cal H
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Just remember that owning one and driving one are 2 different things. I would drive a V8 and have fun. I would like that very much but would have to pass on ownership. Could not afford it. I am so disconnected from shop charges but we need to give this guy real numbers. Way back we used to have a 10K mile shop estimate numbers. For average running costs and shop time it went something like:
4 cyl Esprit set aside 1-1.5K in maintenance funds for every 10K miles
V8 it was like 2-2.5K every 10K miles
Late model Ferrari it was like 4-5K every 10K miles
My own numbers are pretty much worthless for comparing retail shop charges as all that comes to my mind is new and used parts prices.
I know this is a really lose and simplified way of looking at it but it might help the guy out.

What do you guys think, do 1/2 of the 4 cyl owners work on their own cars or is the numbers less?

Years ago there was the V8 line. Once you cross over then its going to the shop. Back then I only knew of Johan that used to do their own work. But he was always repairing or modding because of pushing the limits. Other than David does anyone here work on their V8 drive train? I always thought it was because it was newer and after some time and price drop the hobby guys would get a hold of them and start to work on them. But after all these years it has not happened in great numbers like in 4 cyl.
 

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Having had both a 1990 and a 2003 Esprit at the same time for over a year and rebuilt the engines on each I would say the 1990 engine is probably a better shot at learning how to work on and maintain a Lotus designed engine. The V8 does require a bit more attention to some details.

The cost of blowing up a V8 v. 4 cylinder? Don't blow up the V8! The rebuild costs are higher on the V8. Don't ask for the numbers, I refuse to add either up so I don't have to consider the cost of the relationship.

The two Esprits were my daily drivers for several years, supplemented occasionally by the 2005 Elise for a change-up. My son took the 1990 back to his home so now it's just the V8 and the Elise. I put about 80,000 mile on the 2003 and I will not tell you how many on the 1990 because my son might be reading this (I think at least 15,000 but that's just between you and me).

Living near the Sierra foothills I had the opportunity to drive many times on identical roads in almost identical conditions in each car, even on the same day.

I am not a trained mechanic (totally self-taught) and certainly not some expert driver.

My personal opinion is that the 1990 Esprit is great fun to run around in and for spirited drives. I love the handling, the way the power comes on, the sound, the ride, etc., etc., etc. Damn I miss that car. Gotta convince my son it needs some work.

The V8... I love it for exactly the same reasons as above. The real difference between the two was most pronounced on regular highway driving. The V8 is just happier on the longer trips when using it as a GT cruiser. More comfortable and the highway ride seems better. Off the highway, neither of them will disappoint and I can assure you that with either of them the weakest point in any handling issues was me.

My advice. If you want an Esprit date it first. Keep looking until you find the one that looks, sounds, and rides like you want to keep it forever. Check the maintenance to see if you can afford to keep it. If all the stars lign up then marry it.

Either the 4 cylinder or V8 will give you many happy (s)miles. For learning mechanicals I would go with th 4 cylinder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks maxvelocity and lotusdriver2001. Cal, if your numbers are about right, I can swing 2-2.5k every 10k miles for a V8. Now, I know myself well enough to know that it's doubtful that I'll ever do anything more to either a 4 or 8 than change some fluids. I have the unfortunate philosophy when it comes to objects of: force it, if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway. That doesn't jive well with tinkering with anything and I don't want to lose patience trying to fix something on any Esprit that's a little out of my skill range and end up creating more damage than there was. I plan to pay someone in the know, with patience, to do it for me. With people, I've got patience all day long. With objects, very little. On another note more to what ld2001 was writing, what hallmarks should I look for either in a 4 or 8, i.e. if it's a style I like, if it appears to be in good cosmetic shape, if a majority of its owner history and maintenance history can be accounted for and the price seems fair, do I pull the trigger then and purchase? Or, is it better to choose one whose color I'm just okay with, that's not quite my favorite style, but has ALL its maintenance records available? I can easily get caught up into hair-splitting, so I'm interested to hear what you guys would set as a bar before buying. It sounds like with Esprits, you have to make somewhat of a judgment call, but I'm getting the sense that there may be some absolutes that need to be present before I'm making a wise choice. Your thoughts???
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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FWIW I've spent an average of $2K per year on my 4 cyl. (That, over an ownership of 21 years!) I do almost all my own work, but I DO hand the car over to the local Lotus repair guru every few years for a C service and to benefit from his knowledge...he has spotted some future problem which I have been able to prevent.

Only you can determine whether you can live with a car that was not up to your wants (like color, equipment, etc). Trouble is, with so few cars available at any one time, you will need some of that patience when shopping. Several of us have taken years to purchase. And, be prepared to buy a car anywhere in North America. The members here (and on the TurboEsprit list on Yahoo) often can inspect a car for you.

That's where your Due Diligence will come in handy. After you learn what you want, then see the condition of the cars that are for sale, then you will be in a position to jump on a newly-marketed Esprit soon as it becomes available.
 
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