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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am getting close to picking up a 95 S4 and understand the importance of past maintenance records. So, looking for opinions here. The car I am considering has no past records from the first and second owner but the third owner, who has had the car for 10 years, has had a belt change approx. 7 years ago and has done fluid changes himself (but no records). It does have a clean Carfax and Autocheck. I am having a full PPI done by a Lotus dealer and if it checks out, am ready to have a new timing belt installed per the Service C (car has just over 16K miles). My question is would you be leary of no past service history records if you were planning a PPI and timing belt change? In essence, I would be starting the record keeping with the inspection and new belt service. Thoughts? Thanks.
 

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I am getting close to picking up a 95 S4 and understand the importance of past maintenance records. So, looking for opinions here. The car I am considering has no past records from the first and second owner but the third owner, who has had the car for 10 years, has had a belt change approx. [snip] My question is would you be leary of no past service history records if you were planning a PPI and timing belt change? In essence, I would be starting the record keeping with the inspection and new belt service. Thoughts? Thanks.
I got my 88 in 2011 with 30K miles, no records from owners 1 or 2. Owner #3 bought in 2009 with intent to flip quickly; didn't do much service at all. However I did consult with the most recent mechanic for his opinion on its condition.

He gave thumbs up on the condition of the car. But did caution it would cost $$$ since the 30K miles service hadn't been done.

So, it worked out for me, but I may have simply gotten lucky. Other Esprit owners were not so lucky.

Check out my 'garage' under my handle on left if you want to see almost 3 years of maintenance.
 

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Service records clearly have value in confirming mileage, ensuring adequate and timely maintenance, and knowing what has been done to the car.
The higher the mileage and the more mods the more the value.

If you say this car only has 16k miles and you can confirm that, then I would be less concerned about the sparse records, as the car wouldn't have neede much done.

However, also understand that you really should do a thorough servicing of the car, because everything made of rubber is probably 20 years old.

Randy
 

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Cal H
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If the mileage is true I go with Randy. While in the past the opinion was cars are better when driven. That is still true but was more rule of thumb when the cars were newer as everything get circulated and seals and wear surfaces are kept lube wet to prevent premature wear and leaks. 20 y/o car needs all those items checked and/or replaced anyways. Service records just tells me a person took it to the shop rather than do his own work unless he keeps a log book, most use a PC these days to record such things and are easy to fabricate as anyone can write anything down. I would have someone who knows about these cars give you an opinion on its condition and true mileage. I would also go on gut feel of the seller if you are able. I don't know about you but in most cases I and few others familiar with these cars can spot BS just in a few minutes talking to a "car person" Not a 100% accurate but the gut feel of something not quite right has saved me many a time. BTW some of the better home mechanics are not the best record keepers but are entirely credible if they tell you it was done.

My 1st Esprit had zero records at 17K and at 40K had no service records when I sold it except for my memory and that of Tim Engel. But since I sold it to a person in the next down the road the car went with a personal 1 yr labor warranty on the drive train that the new owner never had to use. That car was built under a lucky star. Never been towed (came close a few times), never stranded an owner, with total mechanical down time about 14 days in 24 years. So good low mileage cars are out there
 

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Service records add value. Not having them is not the end of the world but if you had 2 equal cars and one had records and the other didn't which one would you want? That said, if you are doing the whole "ball of wax" then it doesn't matter so much since you will be starting off fresh. One area where not having records really matters is to see if there have been recurring, unrepaired problems. That could be a deal killer and often the seller would deny having any records than to show that. The fact that an owner did his own work is not so bad. Some owners are very particular about their car and would do more and better work than a shop. That is where a PPI can help show how the car was maintained. If you get up around 40K-50K miles and you have no record of the clutch or the turbos being done you must expect they are on "borrowed" time. It costs $$$ to get your service up to date and the purchase price should reflect that.
David Teitelbaum
 

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If there was no service history with only one owner, I wouldn't be as concerned. But with two owners would raise an eyebrow. Minus essential things you can have done upon purchase, like a C service, there will be other things that would bother me. The lack of use, seals drying up, contacts rusting and not firing, oil contamination/fouling, and the increased likely hood that things will creep up out of no where once you start to use it more regularly. Plus heed the advice for the LOTUS acronym.....Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious!

The ultimate servicing would be short video clip documentaries of showing the actual work being performed. Nothing crazy, but a mileage shot and few minutes of you actually doing the work, backed up by a work order ticket you created. Minus the video thing (which I have thought about), I used to create my own work orders as documentation.

Just some food for thought.
 

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Wingless Wonder
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I do most of my own service work but I DO write down everything I do. That is my Service History.

Otherwise I wouldn't remember WHEN I did something or replaced a certain part (brakes for example)
 

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Cal H
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Service records show an effort at service but if I have not heard of the facilitator of the repairs or maintenance it does not mean as much. If there was a trusted high profile person who vouched for the car I would probably do a deal. I would trust a well worn log book written into it with different pens, pencils and ink that attest to service details over a period of time. That is not usually something a lazy person fabricates that skimps or forgets the required maintenance on the car. But in this day of computers a fresh printout is so easy to construct so unless the author is known and trusted it does not mean much to me.

I don't write down much. I do have an real good idea when work has been done. I keep parts receipts so it narrows down the month. As far as reminders about follow up service, I have a whole club reminding me about service and winterization. With our short driving season the service intervals are like clock work and it would be considered Lotus blasphemy by the LOON's to skip compulsory service and repairs. If a person did not do those required things there would be a loss of stature within the club, it would be like being shunned by the Amish.

If a person due to financial circumstances is unable to afford the service work and if he was decent guy, I would pitch in the labor portion to help out, as would many like Tim. So there is no excuse for a neglected car in our club.

Those in the immediate LOON territory knows how each other cars sound and the character and quirks of the individual cars. If a car is unknown to me I just ask around the membership, someone in the club knows the strengths and weaknesses of a particular car. So that being said. Where is this car from? I would not be surprised if someone on one of the Lotus lists, forums and the local clubs knows something about the history of this car
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks everyone for the great insight. I am having a full PPI done by the Lotus Dealer in Boston which is where the car is from. I have been told they have one mechanic who is the expert on Esprits and has been around them for many years. He will be doing the inspection so feeling pretty good that it will be a comprehensive review. I will ask for detailed pics of the inspection to go along with the final report. Assuming it passes with nothing other than the required C service, I will buy it. Any surprises and I will most likely pass. Now the big question for you all.....what is a 95 S4 with 16k miles worth?!
 

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Thanks everyone for the great insight. I am having a full PPI done by the Lotus Dealer in Boston which is where the car is from. I have been told they have one mechanic who is the expert on Esprits and has been around them for many years. He will be doing the inspection so feeling pretty good that it will be a comprehensive review. I will ask for detailed pics of the inspection to go along with the final report. Assuming it passes with nothing other than the required C service, I will buy it. Any surprises and I will most likely pass. Now the big question for you all.....what is a 95 S4 with 16k miles worth?!
Now you are asking the 1,000,000 $ question! Typically the way an appraiser tries to put a value on a car is to look at recent sales figures from auctions. You try to get the sales price of a car in #1 condition and that is the value of that particular year/make/model at this point in time. Now you examine the car in question and start with that #. Any deficeinces that reduce it's condition from #1 have a price set to them and it is then deducted from the value of a #1 car. For instance, if the car is in #1 condition but it needs new tires you subtract the cost of the tires from what a #1 car is worth. I think right now a '95 S4 with low mileage in #1 condition is worth somewhere around $30K. That # is also geographically dependent. You might get more in the South (Florida) than in the North (Maine). That assumes all service up to date, all of the bits, no road rash, etc.
David Teitelbaum
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Now you are asking the 1,000,000 $ question! Typically the way an appraiser tries to put a value on a car is to look at recent sales figures from auctions. You try to get the sales price of a car in #1 condition and that is the value of that particular year/make/model at this point in time. Now you examine the car in question and start with that #. Any deficeinces that reduce it's condition from #1 have a price set to them and it is then deducted from the value of a #1 car. For instance, if the car is in #1 condition but it needs new tires you subtract the cost of the tires from what a #1 car is worth. I think right now a '95 S4 with low mileage in #1 condition is worth somewhere around $30K. That # is also geographically dependent. You might get more in the South (Florida) than in the North (Maine). That assumes all service up to date, all of the bits, no road rash, etc.
David Teitelbaum


Yes, I know I opened the door to the most arbitrary question next to "when do I need to change the belts" question! I think you are spot on for a car that is turn key with recent service including belts. However, since this car needs the Service C and has a scratch an nick here and there, I am in at the low$20s. Service C is running about $4k and with a new set of tires, you should have a reliable car brought all up to date for less than $30K assuming no surprises during the PPI. Hoping that is a reasonable price of entry into the Lotus world. Since I think they only imported around 40 some cars in 1995and you have to figure a third of the cars have been wrecked or trashed, this makes finding the last year S4 in really nice condition with low miles pretty tough.
 

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I think the better question is not what the car is worth, but what are you willing to pay? A car with 2 owners and no service history may not be worth as much in comparison to the same car that has one. At the time I felt I overpaid for my car by 2 thousand, but I was OK with that because it was an S4s.

In all fairness a thorough and detailed service history, may not only increase the value of the car, but more importantly peace of mind that the car was well cared for and not neglected. That could mean less money out of pocket for you down the road. I would take some of the aforementioned factors into consideration when looking at the price. Also...is the cost of PPI coming out of your pocket, or are you splitting the difference with the seller?

If the car you are looking at turns up some issues, my S4s is still available. Good luck with your PPI.

Dom
 

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I get very little out of service records. I can evaluate the car's condition quickly and effectively first hand myself....and prefer this to relying on some old pieces of paper and some past mechanic's statement about what he said he did. Half of the work professional mechanics do is crap anyway.

I have lifts and all the proper tools, etc., so I can tell what condition the car is in today, as in right now. If the service history shows a water pump was replaced three years ago or the valve cover gaskets were replaced a couple years ago - that show's what was done then, not the condition of all wear items today/now. If I'm buying the car today, I want to know what condition things are in today/now.

If you're not very mechanically inclined (you...first hand...with your own hands and tools....not via paid mechanic) then a service history is obviously helpful so it will add value to a car being sold.

I've bought a lot of exotic cars with absolutely no service history....ferrari, porsche, rolls, etc.....and I've always ended up with good cars in great condition based upon my own evaluation. Because the cars haven't had full service histories I've usually gotten a very favorable price in buying. Whenever it's come time to sell a car I have always made a profit on the car because I started out with a good car in decent condition and made it better with my own attention.

That's just my approach and $.02.
 

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Service history is vague!
I rather buy a car from those owners who are knowledgeable in the esprit and does its own work..........
i have no service history -- however, i do have the time and date of all the changes and maintenance i made.
 

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Cal H
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16K miles for Boston is a good reason for low miles just as in all northern states except he has a lot milder temps in Boston than in MN where I live. He is not driving 1/2 the year and its a weekend car. If he does not seem like a heavy track day driver I think the car would be fine as there are 16K easy road miles or 16K hard track day miles. A 10 yr owner? I would not be surprised if he is lurking on the forum and lists watching what we are chatting about. I have seen S4's go in the range (low 20's)you talk about but they tend to have a lot higher miles with many into the 40K+ miles. Prospective owner is probably paying PPI, it appears they have not even discussed final price yet. Split PPI is usually for a done deal with sale contingent on passing.

People always try to buy low and sell high, its human nature in the car world. Ask yourself what you would sell the 16K mile S4 for. It most likely is a tad different than your buy price. If I was the seller, its early in the driving season, people are getting tax returns, got the whole summer to sell, no need to take a low offer now. I would wait and shake the tree and see what falls off. If I was the seller I would not even consider a price below 25K this early in the season. It would be different if it were still winter

I go with Beerman and S2kseven. Makes sense
 

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Cal H
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Just going on what S2kseven said about those knowledgeable about Esprit and do their own work. Such a person would know what they risk in parts and labor then modify their driving and maintenance behavior based on that knowledge. Such a person would be in tune with the car to detect an anomaly and in most case catch a repair item before it grenades. Sure catastrophic failure can happen to anyone but I bet much less to the competent DIY'er.

I would rather buy from a knowledgeable person too.

Oh the only exception would be those hard driven cars owned by hardcore people that have had their engines out 1/2 dozen times or more as I do believe there is a life limit on how many times one can take apart and put a drive train back together LOL.
 

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Yes, I know I opened the door to the most arbitrary question next to "when do I need to change the belts" question! I think you are spot on for a car that is turn key with recent service including belts. However, since this car needs the Service C and has a scratch an nick here and there, I am in at the low$20s. Service C is running about $4k and with a new set of tires, you should have a reliable car brought all up to date for less than $30K assuming no surprises during the PPI. Hoping that is a reasonable price of entry into the Lotus world. Since I think they only imported around 40 some cars in 1995and you have to figure a third of the cars have been wrecked or trashed, this makes finding the last year S4 in really nice condition with low miles pretty tough.
A "C" service should be more around $2.5K-$3K for the S4 and tires can cost around $1K so you are really saying you can pay $26K for the car + - $1K. Any car with mileage is going to have some road rash and nicks and wear on the seats. S4's and S4s's are rare and do not come up for sale often so jump on it or you may lose it. Especially if it is low mileage and clean. BTW, although the S4 is a very desirable car the S4s's are even more rare and desirable. Last production year of the 4 cyl.
David Teitelbaum
David Teitelbaum
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
A "C" service should be more around $2.5K-$3K for the S4 and tires can cost around $1K so you are really saying you can pay $26K for the car + - $1K. Any car with mileage is going to have some road rash and nicks and wear on the seats. S4's and S4s's are rare and do not come up for sale often so jump on it or you may lose it. Especially if it is low mileage and clean. BTW, although the S4 is a very desirable car the S4s's are even more rare and desirable. Last production year of the 4 cyl.
David Teitelbaum
David Teitelbaum
The quote I got from the dealer was just over $4k so not surprising that it is a bit higher having a dealer and not a good independent to do the work. I do like the S4S as well but know they will command more money. I thought they made over 300 during the production run so would expect those to be a bit easier to find although still very low in production numbers.

Thanks everyone for the good dialog. I am inclined to take the results from the PPI as to what the current condition of the car is versus what it might have been from years ago. While old records are helpful to ascertain how previous owners maintained the car, the results of a current inspection will be the most helpful at this point. Getting it done in two weeks so fingers crossed that this is a good one.
 

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I do most of my own service work but I DO write down everything I do. That is my Service History.

Otherwise I wouldn't remember WHEN I did something or replaced a certain part (brakes for example)
I am similar too, Atwell. I have an entire record book that is chronologically ordered since I have owner my car...it is BIG...
 

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Personally I wouldn't trust a Lotus dealer unless knew a mechanic there as it is doubtful many, if any, have any experience with Esprits. Heck, for som years they might've not even been born yet!
 
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