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Discussion Starter #1
Hello Lotus Talk Community:

I am considering purchase of a 1991 Lotus Esprit SE. The car details can be viewed at the following link:


The car has extensive recent service history. I will be taking a look at the car this Saturday morning (24 hours from now). I am interested in knowing what type of potential issues to look for while inspecting the car. Obviously major items are of higher interest to me.

A few items I would like to have definite clarification on:
The timing belt service. From the pictures this does not seem to be the Gates Blue belt that read about so often. I think Lotus offers a updated version also. I have read extensively about Fuel tank issues. Is there any external clues as to the condition? Seems removing the fuel filter and looking for rust is common but I will not be able to do this on my inspection. I will bring a jack and if the owner is agreeable I will want to look at wheel bearings and general suspension tidiness.

I am not too worried about the mileage discrepancy. The mileage issue seems like a simple typo on the inspection paperwork in Ohio and it carried over year to year? When the car was titled in MA I do believe that the correct mileage was ~35K. It's not like the discrepancy in Ohio was from 76K to 34K . Then I would be more worried.

A bit of info on me. I own a 1980 MGB that I have had since 1988 (just turned 40 years old last October 2019). Quick side note it is funny that this Esprit has the same interior door latches as my MGB. I have owned a right drive1978 Mini Cooper and a 1972 TR6. I consider myself mechanically competent having completed a full restoration on my MGB, having rebuilt the B series engine myself and am in process of doing a Rover 4.2L conversion on the car. I have extensive maintenance work on BMW E46 and E90 platforms including spark plugs, ignition coils, oil changes, new brakes, suspension work, starter replacements, electric and traditional water pump replacements. I feel confident that I could handle some of the Lotus Esprit service requirements.

In advance thank you for any feedback and help here and possibly joining your community.

Tom
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Hi Tom,

There are active Lotus,Ltd chapters in Massachusetts @Keeper might be able to find someone local to evaluate the car.

I see from the listing's comments that @sleekgt (Eddie) weighed in.

My answers to your questions:

Timing belt: Many shops prefer to use the updated black belt even though it isn't as long-lasting as the blue one. It is easier to tension without whining issues. And with just occasional use ('weekend driver') you would need the other services that go along with a C Service based on TIME anyway.


Clues to fuel tank condition: Just SNIFF. Don't forget the little holes under the tanks in the undertray (which IS on the car). I see the vapor hoses were replaced.

I'll look at the listing in more detail later and help with comments.
 
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Hi Tom:

I am @eberin commenting on BaT on this car.

Aside from my comments there, I’ve been reluctant to post these up coming comments yet. From what I’ve seen it appears to be a pretty good condition Esprit.

I personally would not spend time actually looking at the bearings as the picture 224 receipt seems to show they did extensive and recent work. The pictures show nothing unusual to me on the suspension except for a few things that could be inconsistencies.

For a car with 36K miles I see pictures that are consistent with that mileage - the general cleanliness of the car from intact paint on the valve covers to the undercarriage condition.

But pictures 16 ( gas pedal), 134 ( sun roof view of interior), and 140 (driver seat missing thread) - look higher than 36 K. The gas pedal really look worn but maybe driver had dirty shoes a lot that worn it out. The interior has mismatched glove box with no Lotus logo and crash bar isn’t ruched and matches the leather on the glove box. I put 50K of the 80K miles on my late 88 Esprit and the seats didn’t have frayed thread like this one. My current 87 has 78K miles however, and the seats have frayed thread so for both similar mileages, my experience shows inconsistent wear results on any Esprit. Also, both my Esprits were reputed to be garaged always (87 was an East Coast car) and neither have the clear coat peeling. This 91 SE does and at relatively low mileage. My guess is it wasn’t garaged during part of its life.

The new catalytic is a head scratcher to me given the 36 K miles. I live In California and we still need to meet smog requirements of year of manufacture. Assuming Ohio or Massachusetts need to smog their cars? Anyway, the few reasons a catalytic die in my opinion are not good. Too rich a mixture ? It’s a GM EFI system known to be reasonably reliable.

Mechanically it looks good and the 30 sec drive sounded OK. Check for blue smoke and the usual noises to be reported here.

I haven’t posted on BaT yet about these as for me it’s still more speculative without strong basis. As I said the condition of the car overall seems good but the things I mentioned above seemed a bit unusual.


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One thing i noticed that is oddly enough not mentioned in the blurb or the service receipts is the fact that the transmission has definitely been out, and resealed (note the techs graffiti!). Not a negative by any means as at least the casings were separated and resealed, the question i would have is why? Were the syncros replaced (oh god i'm not going down that BAT yellow S4 road again :ROFLMAO: ) was the clutch or flywheel replaced? Would be nice to know that info.
 

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I missed the transmission rebuild. See? Is it just me, but the condition of car looks fairly good. But with a rebuild transmission, new wheel bearings, new catalytic - those are not things I associate with a 36K mile Esprit. Maybe the car's condition looks good because it wasn't driven much due to downtime? Again, I am on fence about posting this on BaT as the last Esprit auction was contentious with the negative, but realistic comments. It's a fine line to speculate on what happened vs. pointing out known issues.
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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In some cities, graffiti is considered Fine Art. I'll need to look at the listing again. :giggle:

BTW, new pedal pads are available from JAE (they had a batch made). That is a nit. Ours looked visibly worn at 30K so I switched them side-to-side. I think I replaced ours around 60K when JAE's became available.

EDIT: I found the pictures of my worn brake & clutch pedal pads. Despite moving them around to equalize wear, I finally replaced them at ~70K miles, in 2015.

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi All. Thank you for all the info so far. Yes the evaporative lines were replaced in one of the recent services. If the gas tank(s) are not yet rusted trough then sniffing is no help. In the CARFAX there is a service entry 2009 showing the clutch replaced and the transmission rebuild? Will make sure to ask a bit more on this history. Seems this seller bought the car from Bonhams's car auction and he does describe a bit of a tired car when he started doing some of the work since 2018 to tidy things up. Concerning the mileage discrepancy. I guess that is just a comfort level question or any buyer. Did the car have 34K and then some major amount of mileage beyond that and then the speedo was replaced or rolled back to 33K. I guess anything is possible. I will not have the opportunity to see a cold start since I will meet the seller somewhere else. The puff of blue smoke would be problems with rings or valve guides I assume. Is this observable on a warmed car?Maybe I can ask the seller to shoot me a start -up video showing the tail pipe? MA does not require smog test on this old of a car. It is illegal in MA for nay shop to remove catalytic converters. They can get into lot's of trouble if they are caught. I am not sure about smog in OH.

I think the seller is presenting a good solid car. I was more looking for feedback like "make sure to check the door jam latches for wear indicating a sagging door and frame issues?" or "look at the coil over mount and make sure there are no cracks". Are there any items like this where the chassis or body can develop cracks that could be catastrophic later? On a test drive is there value to do some lock to lock turns at low speed and listed for any noise? Like diagnosing worn CV joints on a front wheel drive car for example (not front wheel drive in this case : ). I will check for a slipping clutch since it does seem this one is 10 years old.

Thanks again so far for all the insight.
Tom
 

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I agree, and the Transmission shop has a tech by the name of Donny Gillette , could that be the DG he signed the transmission with? Jim and sons looks to be a very reputable shop and i'm sure has good records, also i imagine Donny doesn't get to tear out many Esprit transmissions so i would call and try to talk to him (or the manager) and see if they remember the car and what was done internally. My only concern would be the excess blue sealant doesn't look 10 years old, but then again very few miles since the rebuild if the mileage discrepancy checks out. As far as checking the transmission goes look for any leaks, in particular from the drive shaft seals at the transmission from sitting, and if you can drive the car then be a little aggressive with the 1-2 shift (not overly :)) as this syncro is a recognized weak point (unless you are a car dealer from Oakland :ROFLMAO:)
 

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[snip] if you can drive the car then be a little aggressive with the 1-2 shift (not overly :)) as this syncro is a recognized weak point (unless you are a car dealer from Oakland :ROFLMAO:)
See my 87 reflection in the door and the guy at the top (I didn't see him when I took the picture). Happen to be in the area (Alameda is next door to Oakland) - this was about 1 month ago.

1263748
 

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Wingless Wonder
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Are there any items like this where the chassis or body can develop cracks that could be catastrophic later?
Not a catastrophe, but the fiberglass at the body mounting bolts in the rear trunk are worth inspecting. This can be repaired. Many owners reinforce this area when/if it needs attention.

Here is MrDangerUS's post with pictures, shows you where to look.


Listen for creaks or knocking when driving diagonally over driveway aprons.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hi All. Did not see the last post until after my test drive. I think the car is well represented. The seller came across as very genuine and trustworthy. I got no sense that anything is out of sort or being hidden on the car. No noticeable fuel smell, no foamy residue under oil filler cap and the coolant looked clear of any oily film. Exhaust looked clear. The car idled in place for another ~20 minutes after my 20 minute test drive. No drips under neath the car at all. The car shifted fine first to second and all other gears. I did not get too aggressive since a test drive in my opinion is not to try to break the car. The owner agreed I could exceed revs beyond 5000rpm but on my drive I stayed within 4000-5000rpm. Plenty of fun there. I can say the car was a pleasure to drive. I am grateful I have small feet. I now know how to properly release the handbrake : ). I did some low speed circles in first and revers in the parking lot with no worrisome noises from the car. The ride was a bit rough when on less than ideal pavement. On the highway the car felt solid as any newer car I have driven. ABS light came on after hard acceleration and clears when the car is turned off and back on. Brakes felt fine on my test drive (short of trying to engage the ABS). I did a few brake checks and the car tracked straight and felt safe. I can see that driving carefully is something to be very mindful of with limited visibility.

I felt like I was in the cockpit of a fighter jet! I'll see how the auction goes and will hopefully have the opportunity to own this car.

Thanks agagin for all the info. Thanks, Tom
 

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Wingless Wonder
1988 Esprit Turbo
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Read up here on the Delco Powermaster III ABS system. There are several things that can happen with various fixes (look especially for posts by @pete inno and @ian29gte )

I hear ya about foot size, you need narrow-soled driving shoes in the appropriate 'colours' (unless you enjoy driving barefoot, teehee).
 

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These cars don't grow on trees such that you can find one just anywhere whenever you wish. Buy it. Owning one is not about the money.
 

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Talking of footsize and footwear... I love these driving boots. I have a wide foot, but these fit great, with a narrow sole. Cheap as chips too! Amazon $50.
Goodyear.jpg

Goodyear clutch racer sneaker.
 

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I have a 91SE exactly 100 cars earlier than this one, based on the serial number, and with a mileage that's very similar. The car for sale looks very consistent with mine in terms of wear and chassis dirt and surface corrosion. If anything this one looks to have a bit more wear on he outside than mine, but the interior has worn better. I looked at the listing on BAT and it seems like a pretty good car overall. I'll be interested to see what it fetches, Recent cars of similar vintage have gone for about $31-2k, aside from a recent X180 that went for a lot more. I'd be disappointed if this one didn't reach about the same level
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Another few items I wanted to see if the Esprit community has any opinions.

The seller describes an issue with the windscreen showing delamination. When I viewed the car it was daytime and the windscreen looked fine to me. The seller described the issue being driving at nighttime. Under artificial light or oncoming traffic he describes that the glass looks hazy? Any feedback would be appreciated. I googled and searched these forums for windscreen delamination and see nothing that would indicate a reoccurring problem. I wonder if this is simply a artifact of the windscreen being at such a slant? We are all used to driving modern cars with windshields angled at 30-45 degrees. I can see how nighttime light could simply refract different in an Esprit and since we are not used to it maybe it looks different at night?

The second item I wanted to ask about is information on a post on the auction. The post describes the radiator breaking (on more than one occasion) when the car was parked at a slant (uphill/downhill?). I asked the post to be clarified. Nothing so far. Another poster (I think member here) clarified that this was likely an auto correct mistake (break versus leaked). The same person posted the same exact issue for another Esprit auction. I guess auto correct mistake twice or cut/paste? Could be possible. I described what I would think the problem could be (see the auction my comment under Linear82). Again I googled this and I did not see a systematic issue.

Thanks in advance for any insight.
 

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I have owned my 91 SE since 2006 and have "suffered" many of the common issues. I have never heard of a windshield delamination on these cars. Similarly, I have not heard of any unusual radiator issues and not experienced any of the leakage described. Obviously radiators will eventually leak, although the one in my car hasn't. A few things that I have dealt with include the driver's side fuel tank that rusted out the bottom. and was a real pain to remove, headlamp pods-replacinng the nylon bearings, brake accumulator and regular maintenance. I replaced the dampers and springs as the old ones wore out, but haven't had any real problems with the ABS system that attracts a lot of negative comments. I've changed the brake fluid regularly, and invested in a modern replacement pressure switch in case the one in the car fails. It's my impression that, given regular maintenance and care these cars are pretty reliable.
 

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Another few items I wanted to see if the Esprit community has any opinions.

The seller describes an issue with the windscreen showing delamination. When I viewed the car it was daytime and the windscreen looked fine to me. The seller described the issue being driving at nighttime. Under artificial light or oncoming traffic he describes that the glass looks hazy? Any feedback would be appreciated. I googled and searched these forums for windscreen delamination and see nothing that would indicate a reoccurring problem. [snip]

The second item I wanted to ask about is information on a post on the auction. The post describes the radiator breaking (on more than one occasion) when the car was parked at a slant (uphill/downhill?). I asked the post to be clarified. Nothing so far. Another poster (I think member here) clarified that this was likely an auto correct mistake (break versus leaked). The same person posted the same exact issue for another Esprit auction. I guess auto correct mistake twice or cut/paste? Could be possible. I described what I would think the problem could be (see the auction my comment under Linear82). Again I googled this and I did not see a systematic issue.

Thanks in advance for any insight.
Yes I made the comment on BaT 'eberin' about 'LEAKED' vs. 'BREAK' autocorrect - as many know, I wear it as a badge on my sleeve that I daily drove my late 88 Esprit 50K miles/49 months - putting a lifetime of Esprit catchup into 4 years. I have never LEAKED or BROKE a radiator 'parking at a slant'. So yes, I agree it may have been a one-off defective car from Lotus (the poster claimed he bought his new).

But think about this - if a cooling system actually LEAKED (i.e. open to atmosphere and not fully sealed), when at operating temperature, it would blow steam like crazy. So the only 'leak' I can imagine is an overflow tank was full and leaked onto the ground.

RE: delamination - the car has 36K miles - the probability of an OEM Triplex windshield from the factory delaminating is likely low. I have heard of Chinese-made windshields replacements on eBay that delaminated only after a few years. ProSource Massachusetts (out of business now) was the source of my late 88 replacement windshield - it was a recent manufacture Triplex (date code was 2014 in 2015) and genuine. It was $550 plus shipping. ProSource also at one brief time offered Esprit windshields made in China (about $450?) but I stayed away after reading about delamination on no-name windshields.

I don't know the BaT auction and the glass - photo 203 looks like windshield but not sure. But if it is delaminated, note that not easy to find a Triplex windshield, ProSource used to reliably put them up for sale on eBay - not sure who is carrying torch today.
 

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[snip]Similarly, I have not heard of any unusual radiator issues and not experienced any of the leakage described. Obviously radiators will eventually leak, although the one in my car hasn't. [snip] It's my impression that, given regular maintenance and care these cars are pretty reliable.
The reason why Esprit91SE (BaT 'Linear82') is asking is that BaT 'wwahl' claims he bought his Esprit NEW and it was 'Break' (sic) parking on a slanted road. So the impression was even NEW Esprits had some kind of cooling system issue (which I speculate as no in my immediate previous post).
 
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