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Should I buy an Esprit V8?


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Discussion Starter #1
Esprit Ownership experience...Satisfying or not?

I am considering the purchase of an Esprit V8 and would like some input from owners.

Firstly the two cars I am currently looking at...

'97 with 61K miles for ~$34K (will not let me post links, but easily googled)
Higher mileage (which seems uncommon for the V8's), average condition, older style (which I don't mind at all.)

'00 with 47K miles for ~$42K (will not let me post links, but easily googled)
Recent major repairs (spun crank bearing), AC not working, worn interior, dealer seems willing to bargain on price.

Yes, both are on the cheap end for an Esprit V8, and I realize it is usually better to buy the best example that one can afford, rather than go low and pay almost as much again in bringing it up to condition. But I just don't feel that these cars are worth the $60-$70K most are advertised for.

That said I currently own a 2010 Jaguar XKR convertible. With 510 HP and open-air motoring, & with relatively good reliability, will the Esprit be a disappointment for me?
 

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Welcome to the forum!

Short answer: you get what you pay for (grammar not withstanding). There is no such thing as an inexpensive Esprit. Age old adage applies - buy the best condition you can afford. If you can't afford a great condition V8, buy a great condition 4 cyl. If you don't like 4 cylinder, then game over. If you think V8s not worth the $60-70K, then keep searching - you might find someone who needs the money right away, but has a good condition car. Well-maintained Esprits are reliable; poorly maintained Esprits can be a nightmare (which apparently sounds like the two V8s above could be).

I drove an 88 Esprit (bought in 2011, 30K miles, California car, excellent cosmetics but deferred services). Spent $$$ putting in daily driver condition. Drove 50K miles/49 months (2011-2015) - only towed twice - for same issue - broken throttle cable. Reliable if excellent condition and maintained. Car died in horrible commute accident collision in 2015.

Now drive a 1987 Esprit - only 9K miles from 2016-2019. Not quite as reliable as my late 88 Esprit, but still in good shape as a daily lunchtime driver. 87 and 88 are 4 cylinder and there are some that believe V8 Esprits can be a bit more problematic.

Productions numbers for Esprit V8 are ~1,600 (96-04) vs. Jaguar XR ~145,000 (96-12).

So searching for an inexpensive great condition V8 Esprit will be a big challenge - statistically the odds will be tough to beat with a pool of Esprit V8s at only 1,600 (and even lower with attrition).

If you still are interested, highly recommended you try to find a known 'forum' car here - a long-time owner that maintained it well and is finally ready to sell. My 87 came from this forum - it was fairly well-known in condition and history so when I got it, I knew enough to say it was a reasonable purchase.

My take on the two V8s you listed - even without looking at more details, the risk of buying the spun-bearing model is that you don't have a good idea of the skill of the person who repaired it. If it were a regular mainstream Chevy or Ford, not a big deal. But on an Esprit V8 or 4 cyl, a poor rebuild will only haunt you. Feel free to confirm what I'm saying by searching the forums, but that's my take.
 

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Welcome Ringle!
I, too, have eye'd the '00. I might be in the minority but I really like the color combo but the repair history really gives me pause. I think $42K is on the high side for high milage a '97-'01. I believe the $60-70K are low milage '02-'04 but prices are all over the place and you can see that most drop around $10k over the time of their listings. Have you been able to test drive one or even see one in person? Because pictures don't do them justice. I don't have any experience with the Jag but I can guarantee you that the Esprit will be a tighter fit and will be a much more raw driving experience. Don't expect any thing more than a wheel, 3 pedals and a stick. As far as it being worth it, I am approaching potential Esprit ownership as a country club membership with a big up-front deposit. When you look back after leaving the club after 3-5 years, they refund your deposit minus COO plus miles, wear and age upon resale. You will be a little poorer than when you started but, damn, if you didn't get to do things that 99.9% of people only dream of.
 

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If you look on bring a trailer, if I recall correctly only one or 2 Esprits have sold for over 40 grand in the last last 3 or 4 years. I’m also in the camp that $55-65k is not the market right now, they’re just not moving at that price. There are a couple of nice v8s that just popped up on eBay the last few days, the yellow one looks awesome and a realistic price.
I’m going to try and look at the black one with 61k miles today when I get to the hotel in Birmingham. I’ll let you know what it’s like if your interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I'm curious how many 1996 model year V8 Esprit were made, as I have not seen any advertised for sale.
 

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I'm curious how many 1996 model year V8 Esprit were made, as I have not seen any advertised for sale.
There we no US 96 V8s. 97 was the first year.

Roy
 

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Disclaimer - not an Esprit V8 expert (only have owned 4cyl Esprit) - but recall that there were cylinder liner issues on the early V8s. The factory recalled and offered fixed, but not every owner got the memo. Make sure to determine if you do get an early V8, that this was addressed. I'm not sure if it extended beyond 1997 or now or a specific serial number range - the other Esprit V8-savvy folks will hopefully jump in.
 

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There was a cylinder issue with the ‘97. If it wasn’t addressed, I would make sure to set up a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) and have it assessed.

As a first time Lotus owner, I would personally stay away from the ‘97 and buy the 2000 if you can swing it. I’m not saying the ‘97 is a bad car, I just think you are better served with a newer V8 where the cylinder issue was not an issue.

Like another forum member indicated, I would test drive and seek out a late model 4 cyl. (for the price point you are looking to spend). They are easier to work on, very reliable, and plenty fast enough. On paper... there is only a 50 -70 hp difference between like an S4 or an S4s.

Hope this helps.

Dom




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The S4 is 264 Hp and 280 on overboost. The engine is very near the same as the SE in it's different versions, all 264/280Hp ob. The 4 cyl. SE cars also had slightly firmer suspension, were lighter, had thicker front arb and fortunately had no strange abs nor powersteering. Thanks for that. The S4s is 296 Hp and is a slightly downtuned Sport300 engine (but none of all the other Sport300 features apart from a worked cylinderhead. TheS4s does have a slightly higher Torque than the Sport300. Any Stevens or Thompson 4 cyl. car will benefit from a set of wide V8 wheels imho. Suits the power much better.
I think you'll find the 4 cylindercars a little bit sharper in steering and just as fast. Lighter too. Soundwise the 4 cyl. cars actually sounds really good. More rorty and snarly. The V8 cars needs a reworked exhaust system, then they sound good and can show their grunt. A well sorted V8 can do nasty things to a Gallardo.
People like Mendoza did solve the issues with the V8 cars. Look up his videos on flutube. It's not only the cylinder and sealant issue. Those potential failures were not seen on the 4 cyl. cars.
Personally, I'd prefer the early V8 over the late one amongst other things, the instrumentation binnacle, but that's more of a personal taste. But it did come with the high torque chip and AP brakes etc. All Esprits from S4 onwards apart from Sport300 and Sport350 did come with "comfort seats", which are way too soft for me. I prefer the Sport300 seats (some had, not all) which also hold you tight in corners
Later V8 cars had a reworked gearmaster (actually very different), a different cable arrangement and no translator mech. Better shifting and more precise feel. Can be retrofitted to all models spoken of here.
A full option model (all the way from 4 cyl. Turbo SE to final V8 would also amongst other features, have leather headliner, leather roof frame, leather firewall frame and leather wrapped sun visors etc. Much preferred over the cloth material that loosen over the years. V8's can be driven lazy and still be hasty, where as the 4 cyl. cars need a bit more revs to get the steam going, but then they're off.
Just mho.
Cheers,
Redfox
 

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Cylinder liners: It has been said that most (I said MOST) of the 97 - 98 V8s had their cylinder liner issues fixed. Look at a service history. Of course, you never know what kind of work the repair shop did....
 

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The early V-8's had several problems;
1) cylinder liner seals. If they haven't leaked and been replaced by now it is a non-issue
2) single plate clutch. Lotus USA claims they got ALL of the cars that were produced with the single plate clutch converted to the double-plate clutch but maybe they missed one?
3) the '97 & '98 V-8's had a "translator" mechanism in the gearshift linkage. Prone to wear and sloppiness. '99's and on have an improved shift mechanism.
4) the early cars did not have the HTU but the ECU can be upgraded with it by Lotus USA if it hasn't already been done
All of this being said, the overriding concern should be condition. A flogged and beaten 2004 is not as good as a pristine '97. It can take a LOT of money to sort out and fix all of the problems to improve condition compared to what it could take to make a nice car nicer. As an example, if a Lotus you are interested in doesn't have a service history, or it is not up to date, it will cost you thousands of $$$$$ to get it into "Good Knick" as they would say on Wheeler Dealers. A full "C" service can cost over $5K. More if you find any problems and more if the tires are old, the battery is old, bits are missing, etc. A glass top is worth over $1200 if it isn't with the car and you have to buy it. Anyone considering spending money on an old Lotus must seriously consider getting a through PPI. That way even if it isn't a great car, at least you will know what you are getting into and what it will cost to make it nice if you do choose to purchase it. Don't forget the possibility of using it to negotiate the price. ALWAYS buy the best car you can afford, it will always be cheaper in the end, especially if you aren't handy and can't do a lot of the work yourself.
David Teitelbaum
 

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The S4 is 264 Hp and 280 on overboost. The engine is very near the same as the SE in it's different versions, all 264/280Hp ob. The 4 cyl. SE cars also had slightly firmer suspension, were lighter, had thicker front arb and fortunately had no strange abs nor powersteering. Thanks for that. The S4s is 296 Hp and is a slightly downtuned Sport300 engine (but none of all the other Sport300 features apart from a worked cylinderhead. TheS4s does have a slightly higher Torque than the Sport300. Any Stevens or Thompson 4 cyl. car will benefit from a set of wide V8 wheels imho. Suits the power much better.
I think you'll find the 4 cylindercars a little bit sharper in steering and just as fast. Lighter too. Soundwise the 4 cyl. cars actually sounds really good. More rorty and snarly. The V8 cars needs a reworked exhaust system, then they sound good and can show their grunt. A well sorted V8 can do nasty things to a Gallardo.
People like Mendoza did solve the issues with the V8 cars. Look up his videos on flutube. It's not only the cylinder and sealant issue. Those potential failures were not seen on the 4 cyl. cars.
Personally, I'd prefer the early V8 over the late one amongst other things, the instrumentation binnacle, but that's more of a personal taste. But it did come with the high torque chip and AP brakes etc. All Esprits from S4 onwards apart from Sport300 and Sport350 did come with "comfort seats", which are way too soft for me. I prefer the Sport300 seats (some had, not all) which also hold you tight in corners
Later V8 cars had a reworked gearmaster (actually very different), a different cable arrangement and no translator mech. Better shifting and more precise feel. Can be retrofitted to all models spoken of here.
A full option model (all the way from 4 cyl. Turbo SE to final V8 would also amongst other features, have leather headliner, leather roof frame, leather firewall frame and leather wrapped sun visors etc. Much preferred over the cloth material that loosen over the years. V8's can be driven lazy and still be hasty, where as the 4 cyl. cars need a bit more revs to get the steam going, but then they're off.
Just mho.
Cheers,
Redfox
Hey Redfox. I have an S4s and never realized that the headliner, visors and firewall came with leather as an option. I have cloth and have had it redone. Interesting.
 

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My observation over the years, is that the headliner always was fabric.

The rear window surround and the door opening capping rails were either foam-backed headliner material or un-padded leather, depending on model year. (or perhaps, what was in the storage cabinet at the factory at the time? LOL)

Frugal lot, the company was: On our '88 they used headliner material as insulation/padding on the interior backbone cover (under the leather) and even inside the little black covers covering the seat belt retractors.

By this century most of that stuff had disintegrated. So, it is worth checking when buying an Esprit. Wrinkles in the coverings (or a seeming lack of padding) indicate a potential need for restoration. So do crumbles of backing foam on the floor... o_O
 

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My 1990 Turbo SE was a full option car ordered like that on the factory when it was made in 1990. Lotus company archivist Andy Graham states in the CoP that it was a special request to complete the full option, when ordered. That means that everything inside in in magnolia leather from factory, incl. the headliner and all trimmings. Red carpets with magnolia leather as well. It also carries the head lamp washer system, a remote central locking and imobiliser, sound package, cd holder and other features. I have acquired the extended Certificate of Provenance from Lotus for confirmation. Only 1 car left hand driven was ever made with these options in 1990 - mine. Below is a picture of the original roof taken off the car for display purpose. And one more where you can see some of the trimming. The sunblinds are magnolia leather as well. Finally, I include a picture of my carbon roof I had made a few years ago, with it's magnolia leather I had copied from the original one as I wanted it to be axactly as the original one. So, when ordering an Esprit, it was possible at that time to order it fully spec'ed including the details I have mentioned.
I don't know precisely about the V8 cars, I only suppose that these options were available for the later V8 cars as well, amongst others. As every single Esprit with cloth on the roof, around the roof, sunblinds, firewall surroundings etc. I have seen, have been sagging more or less, I just thought I would advice to get the far more durable and arguably nicer leather trim. No problems what so ever with that leather interrior. Normally I think that cars made for the north american market carries a more full options list, compared to rest of world. As can be seen on the pictures, Lotus did not really make double stitching yet at that time, apart from say certain seat details. It came later on, as we have also seen on other brand sportscars. Anyway, here are the pictures. The two white strips on the underside of the original roof, are anti rattle thingies ;) as can also be seen, I have removed one of the brackets, as I renewed the screws and washers to keep it all nice.
On the last and fourth picture, I show the rear side "shelves" now covered in magnolia leather as well. This was something I did myself, as I wanted to get rid of the old thin grey cloth. I have the late style "esprit" embossed into the leather to be consistent around the car and had the stitching on my car replicated on those rear shelves. Not a factory option I have ever seen or heard about. As far as I know, they only opted to change the thin grey cloth for a nice thick one that is similar to the late style thicker american market/RoW interrior carpet in the cabin. No leather edging as well on those carpeted shelves as it was a cloth binder. The late V8's or maybe all of them, I cannot tell, also came with a nice carpeted front compartment floor. I copied that on my car, so that is not original on mine. But all the interrior is, save the seats on this picture, as I was fortunate enough to get hold of an original set of Sport300 seats and bracketry. Original floor mats had died when I acquired the car, so I have had red mats made to suit the carpets.
Kind regards,
Redfox
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