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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I made the decision the other day that I’m going to sell my Porsche and get an Esprit. This is a bucket list car that I really want to own.
So I’m still in the very early stages and don’t know a lot. But at the moment I think I want either an S4 or a V8. I do most of the maintenance on my cars.
I don’t really care about how much horsepower the car has so I really don’t HAVE to have the V8 and I think the S4 would be simpler and cheaper to work on.
Can you guys give me any advice?
Any major issues with the S4 to look out for?
What should I pay for a nice S4 or V8? Could I get a decent car in the mid $30 grand range?
Anyone in Dallas that owns one?

Thank you
 

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Welcome!

I just came from air cooled Porsche's (got to expensive to play with) to an S4.

Love it! Working on them is not bad at all. Once you get your hand in there!

Definitely need to get the factory work shop manual.

I like my 4 cylinder but I do look longingly at the V8s. I am working on setting up my car for some fun lite track days and I have concerns that the transmission would be a problem in stock form.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Erik. I would like a V8 but I talked to a couple guys who owned one and they said they had very bad experience with them. But that’s only 2 data points. I see quite a few that have high mileage so they can’t be all bad.
 

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Wingless Wonder
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The Delco ABS system on the late 4 cylinder cars has been problematic. Some parts were special to the Esprit and are unobtainable.

V8s after '99 are less likely to have issues and the shift linkages are better (no translators).

As with any car, there are always common issues. Suggest looking at some of the Buyers Guides on LotusEspritWorld.com or the LotusEspritFactFile.
 

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Happy Lotus Owner
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Have owned multiple v8s, I’ll offer you this. I love them. To get a good example would put you in the 50s currently. I’ve done a number of engine rebuilds (for power) and they have been really reliable. I daily drove my 2000.

Prior to 2000 they had problems with the cylinder liner sealant. If you purchase 97-99, make sure it has the Hylomar sealant instead of Loctite. Make certain the cam belts have the correct tension and service records are up to date. As with all major car purchase make sure you get a PPI. Other than that enjoy. It will give you plenty of fun times.

I do not have much experience with S4 or S4S. However I can tell you that the people I know who owns them love them! Their performance is close to the V8s (in terms of engine output). 300 vs 350.

Hope this helps you. As Atwell mentioned check out Lotus Esprit Forum or Esprit Fact File.


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Scott M
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Can you guys give me any advice?
Any major issues with the S4 to look out for?
What should I pay for a nice S4 or V8? Could I get a decent car in the mid $30 grand range?
Thank you
The standard wisdom of finding the best example you can afford especially applies to the Esprit. I can speak mostly to the V8 having owned one for 4 years and I'm sure some folks can find issues with my broad generalizations about to come...
2002-2004 Low mile (<15k), well kept examples were going for ~$50-55k; Higher miles seemed to earn $45-50k. It's rare to see any with more than 40k on the odometer.
1997-2001 Most seem to be in the 30-40k range for miles where nice ones command ~$40k. Before you get down into "project" condition cars, I think the lower end for early V8s has recently been ~$35k. Exceptions definitely exist, and hopefully others will chime in if they believe I've botched the facts.

I just sold my own pristine 2003 V8 w/14k miles for $46k to a Miami dealer (wanted a quick sale, and got it). They spent ~$3k for shipping and some minor reconditioning with it recently listed for $59k and a "we can't let it go for anything less than $57k" position- based on feedback from two potential buyers who "knew me" whom I've spoken to about it since.

The knock on V8s is they are expensive to maintain vs the 4 cylinders (debatable, in my eye) and meaningfully heavier (can't argue that). Those who prefer V8s, generally mention the superior torque in lower RPMs.

I wish I'd done a TON more research before buying 4 years ago. I bought a great one, but may have chosen differently had I been more diligent.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Thanks guys. Molez do you see issues buying higher mileage cars that have been maintained....say 50-70k miles?
When you say you may have chosen differently ......differently how?

This is not an S4 is it? It looks like a bit of an updated interior from the SE of the late 80s early 90s.
 

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That Craigslist car may even be/probably is a 93.5. I think $22k is a good price for a Stevens. Make sure you drive as many variations as you can. You will likely have your heart set on a FE but find a 91 SE gives you all you need and more at a fraction of the cost. I am also looking. I have driven and S4s, 93.5 and a V8. The 93.5 was a little looser and weaker than I would have expected. The S4s (guy was asking $45k. Yikes!) is really comfy and inviting and exhilarating. But its like you are on the tip of a rocket. once the boost is on youre just along for the ride.I have been most impressed with the V8 with the High Torque upgrade (it went on BaT for $45k in the with fees late last year) But will probably settle on an S4 if I can find one but I am leary of an Esprit that creeps above 60000 miles.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
So a car built in 93.5 is an s4 but earlier is an SE?
Are the seats in that car available in the SE as well?
 

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Scott M
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Thanks guys. Molez do you see issues buying higher mileage cars that have been maintained....say 50-70k miles?
When you say you may have chosen differently ......differently how?

This is not an S4 is it? It looks like a bit of an updated interior from the SE of the late 80s early 90s.
I simply haven't seen many (could be "none") high mileage V8 Esprits (in person at LOONY events or 3 LOGs, or even online) where
A) I knew they were high mileage and
B) They appeared to be in good condition.
Someone wrote on LT over the summer about how the issues tended to become more prevalent once the entry price dropped into the $30k range. Those who spent more or at least own a more expensive vehicle tend to pay greater attention to its upkeep. There's nothing truly different about Esprits need for care and feeding (or any Lotus for that matter): If they are maintained well, including proactive, preventive activity and driven regularly, the miles almost don't matter.
I've only ever closely examined a single high mileage Lotus (an Evora S this past summer) with the mindset of a prospective buyer. At 70k miles, it was a beater. A nice-ish beater with some potential, but a beater never the less and it wasn't because of the miles per se. I've purchased a number of high mileage vehicles in the past decade (1 Miata, 1 M5, and 2 X5Ms), where they were actually quite nice and with critical service or build records.

For my own purchase, it was a silver '02 with 5,600 miles from an anally retentive owner. I failed to think about a couple things that could have been a huge problem:
  • Car had only been driven ~1,500 miles in 10 years since the original owner sold it in ~2004. I bought from the 3rd owner who drove it ~500 in four years. That would have been a HUGE red flag for me had I known then what I think I know now... sitting is brutal for these things. I had completely forgotten about the sh1tty experience I had with a 5 year old 2,000 mile X5. Broken record here, but sitting without being driven is often a recipe for trouble.
  • Finding a tech I truly trust wasn't as simple as finding my nearest Lotus dealer. I might not have even purchased an Esprit had I known I'd be driving 5+ hours to visit Ralph Stechow in northern NJ (RS Motorsports) when I wanted any real work done on the car.
Other less problematic ones:
  • I compromised on color. Only after I saw other beautiful blue, green, red, and yellow Esprit in person did I face the unavoidable fact that I own a boring shade of grey. ;-)
  • Biggest of all... I hate weight on sports cars. As awesome as the Esprit is, its ~3100 lbs ain't light and I felt every pound of it on the twisties and intersections when driving the country roads near me. By any reasonable assessment, I probably should have been looking for an S4S.
That's more than enough out of me for now- especially since I'm a relative noob regarding Esprit facts and real world knowledge. I'd trust the opinions of others with hundreds or thousands of posts on LT more than my own.
 

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In general, in the US:

93 is an SE
94 and some 95s are an S4
some 95 and 96s are an S4s
97 and later is a V8

S4 was my favorite Esprit DD because you could actually see out the back window. The S4s is the best handling imo and is stupid fast. It would be my fav look on an Esprit except the US did not get the wheel well extensions (that are on the V8s) because they didn't want to re-certify the US car for just one year. 97 V8 is my fav looking car because I'm not a huge fan of the Condor wing on the later cars. My only feedback is to find a well maintained car and pay up to get it. Unless you really want to spend a ton of time, or money, working on one (which I don't) spending a bit more will result in a better ownership experience imo.

Good luck.
 

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Wingless Wonder
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You CAN see out the back window if your car doesn'r haver a rear WING! (Running Gag)
 

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Will not part anytime soon with my '97 V8 (11th one made) bought for 39.5K and since sunk about 20K into. Buy the color you like....and fix what needs it as you go along. Drive it hard to find the weak links after you buy it
 

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Thanks Erik. I would like a V8 but I talked to a couple guys who owned one and they said they had very bad experience with them. But that’s only 2 data points. I see quite a few that have high mileage so they can’t be all bad.
I think that the wrong type of owner will always have a bad experience with an Esprit.

25 year old hand built brit car.....and Lotus was always on the brink financially so they were not able to test every part like Toyota. Also the Esprit is very focused, performance was the priority more often than even a lot of other sports cars, comfort, access, ease of maintenance not so much.

If you have to take it to a shop that is not convenient to you every-time a light comes on, or you dont enjoy scouring old posts on the internet for clues as to why all of a sudden the car wont go into reverse. Owning an Esprit might drive you mad.

The PO of my car was a busy successful mid career MD with kids. He had limited tools and I dont think he was an experienced DIY car guy - probably to busy for that. The passenger side window quit working on him 3 times during his ownership he said. The independent lotus shop was pretty far away. If that had been the only problem he had that probably would have soured him on the experience. And he had others.

I sort of enjoy that stuff (masochist) and I think a lot of us here do as well. During my 15 months of ownership I have had several little problems. Most of them fixed for < $20 and some sleuthing on the forums and a bit of wrenching. I find it therapeutic.

I had a BMW m3 once....it never broke and I was bored stiff with it...seriously great car but if I own another one it will be in a constant state of performance modification.

I really like my S4 because its not so rare that I dont want to tinker and modify. Its so much fun and its simple enough that I am never intimidated to work on it. I would be totally game to rebuild the motor in a straight 4. The V8 is a little intimidating...but the flat plane crank....oh man, if the V8 was also dry sump I could not resist.
 

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Getting back to the OP's original question, the 1995 S4s was the pinnacle of the 4 cyl development of the Esprit. If your choice is either an S4, S4s or V-8, the one in the best condition is the one to get. S4s's (in good condition) are rare. Much rarer than any V-8. As for the V-8's I would choose a '99 to 2004, the 97's and 98's do not have some of the more significant improvements. Do not limit your search geographically. You will have much too small a selection. If you find a good deal it is worth having it transported. You MUST get a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection). Buy the best car you can afford and make sure it has a service history and is up to date. The V-8 is more expensive to maintain than an S4 or S4s. Mainly because most work on the motor is doubled. Get in touch with a local club and actually drive one. Make sure you fit and it is comfortable. An Esprit is a tight fit. Any Lotus in good shape is a BLAST to drive. If possible buy from a Lotus enthusiast. It will have been taken better care of. A dealer is just pushing cars and will say anything to sell it and price it high.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Thanks for the responses guys. If I decide to go ahead with this 100% it’s going to be pretty exciting. I love the chase then getting a car home and making it my own with lots of elbow grease. I can fly pretty much anywhere for free so traveling to see a car is no biggy. BUT I bought my last 2 Porsche’s and my Ferrari in Long Island New York (just by chance) and this current Porsche in Pennsylvania so just this once I want to find a car in my own state or at least close by!!!
This whole deal is going to hinge on how much I can get for my Porsche.
 

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It took me almost 2 years of actively looking to find my S4s. They do not come up for sale all that often, and hold their value just as good as an comparable V8. Good luck in your search, and feel free to ask any questions. The search is part of the fun!!

Dom


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