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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Update: After weighing all the pros and cons of the various models and options I decided sticking with a pre-V8 was the way to go. I’m the proud new owner of a ‘91 SE purchased from Kurt Tanner Motorcars in Santa Ana, CA (red SE that was listed on eBay until a few days ago). Car had its pre-purchase inspection today and should be making its way up the California coast via enclosed transport in the next few days. I was leaning more towards an S4 for the power steering and updated interior but this sub-30k miles example was just too nice to pass up. Thanks for everyone’s advice and feedback on my original inquiry. Excited to be part of the Esprit owners family! Here are some pics...

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Ok guys (and gals), as I approach the big FIVE OH I’m finally in a position to start playing with some not-so-sensible cars.

I was on the list for the new Corvette C8 but then decided it just didn’t get the blood pumping like so many other mid-engine cars over the years, plus soon enough they’ll be a dime-a-dozen on the road so I bailed on that idea. I’ve looked at Ferrari F355s and Mondials (not a huge fan of the 308/328) but Ferrari ownership costs aren’t something I’m keen on. My wife’s a big Audi R8 fan but when you sit down in one it’s like you’re sitting in ANY Audi. Just doesn’t feel special and exotic inside. I’ve checked out the Gallardo but pricing on those is still more than I’d like to spend at the moment, at least for one in good condition, not to mention the overall cost of ownership there as well. I like the Elise/Exige but at six feet tall they’re not the easiest cars to get in and out of and live with on a daily, or mostly daily basis.

And so that brings me full circle back to the car that basically kick started my mid-engine love affair, the Esprit. The first time I saw Bond in one, not to mention Jason Alexander’s silver SE in Pretty Woman, I knew I‘d need to own one eventually. Problem is I’m undecided on whether I go for an original turbo 4 or make the step up to the V8. I’m looking for feedback on the two, especially if you’ve driven and/or owned both types. I have a two-post lift in my shop and do most of my own vehicle maintenance, up to and including rebuilding engines in my older vehicles. How do the maintenance demands differ between the two? Is the list of special tools required too exhaustive to do your own maintenance on the V8? Does the engine have to come out for belt replacements and cam timing? How does the reliability compare between the two? Were there improvements to the transmission when they went to the V8? I’ve heard it’s a weak point in the car. How about the handling? I live in the foothills of California gold country so most of its life with me will be spent in the switch backs of the Sierras so I’m not overly concerned about power. The 4 has plenty, and if it’s hands-down better in the handling department than the 8 maybe that’s the kicker?

Basically I’ve got it down to either a late model S4 (power steering will make the wife happy) or a V8 with the updated interior (post ‘98 I think?). Any thoughts/advice from owners would be greatly appreciated. I’ve actually been a forum member for 15 years but having never owned a Lotus I haven’t really posted much. Looking forward to changing that! :)

Thanks all,
Eric
 
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Eric,
95 S4s has my vote.
Refined, nimble, well developed engine w/ Zeus head and large valves delivering 300HP stock. Powerful, but not prone to transaxle damage. Larger wheel wells allowing wider tyres. It has power steering and exhibits excellent handling. Upkeep is not expensive for mechanically astute person and parts are not as expensive as V8.
 

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Funny - your story sounds like mine - I visited the Lotus factory in 1990, but bought my first Lotus (88 Esprit) in 2011. I joined Yahoo Esprit group in 1990 but didn't become active until 2011 there and here lotustalk.com.

I daily drove an 88 Esprit Turbo (totalled after 50K miles/49 months) 2011-2015. Now driving an 87 Turbo Esprit (Giugiaro). Both cars were 4 cyl - prefer the Giugiaro and like the 4cyl. Never owned a V8 and it's very contentious to say that V8's require more maintenance and/or less reliable. I'm not a DIYer - have professional mechanics that do a great job here (located in Fremont, CA).

All that being said, there is a cool guy in Woodland, CA - he's not on this forum (Was on Yahoo Esprit group before it moved over to another site). But he has at least 6 Esprits when I visited him in person in 2018. I 'met' him on Yahoo Esprit group in 2011, but only in person in 2018. He had an white 84, 88 (red, white, blue, claret), and a V8 Esprit. When I visited him, he had just sold the V8. Given he had 6 Esprits, I asked him why he sold it. As a DIYer he was comfortable restoring his 4 cyl Esprits, but the V8 was apparently a concern.
Since he's possibly near you, would be a great person to talk about Esprits. Sadly with the Shelter-In-Place, it should be by phone. Send me your email in PM and I'll connect you.

There are folks on this forum that are great V8 fans - I'm just biased to 4cyl as a simpler version of the Esprit.

I agree with MRDANGERUS - the S4/S4s is considered the pinnacle of 4 cyl Esprit - has power steering, 300HP, and the refinement the earlier cars lacked. The S4/S4s has a problematic ABS system, but this forum has work arounds.

If you want to see my 50K mile/49 month odyssey, go to gallery and look up 'sleekgt' and click on my late 88 Esprit history. The 87 also has history, but the late 88 had 50K miles worth of details.
 

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I love my 94' S4, but for me - wanting to do some track days and only driving as a fun car when I have time, If I was doing it over, I would probably look at the ~ 90 Esprit. No Power steering, No ABS and no Air Bags. Order of magnitude simpler. Still has the charge cooler, the out board brakes (even though I love in board brakes), and the later transmission. For me its the sweet spot.

For your use I think you have it right. I would recommend driving both. I have never driven a V8 but I hear the torque makes the car very livable and I think the interiors are a bit nicer. Plus something about the V8 is just bad a$$
 

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The C7 is probably my favorite Vette but the C8 doesn't do it for me. And no MANUAL??
The V8 Esprit is very visceral and torquey that takes some of the "elegance" out of it in that almost seems out of place if that makes sense.
soo...S4s but I'm biased. Basically if you have a rudimentary set of tools you can do 90% of the work yourself (4 cyl)
However the only thing "exotic" about the interior of any Stevens/Thompson Esprit is the smell. I go out to the garage and crack the door just to sniff sometimes.
 

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The V8 gets my vote. I am admittedly partial to V8s in general, especially aluminum 32v DOHC twin turbos.

But for the Esprit, although it sounds counterintuitive, the V8s seem to be simpler. Case in point there is no intercooler and attending extra radiators, pumps, etc. It could be seen as a disadvantage (less potential power) but again, simpler, so less maintenance worries. And the V8 already has more HP even than an S4s, and a lower stressed 3.5l engine in place of a higher stressed 2.2l.

I think the later V8 brakes and shift mechanism are upgraded, has the wide wheels/tires/fender extensions, interior quality seems higher (and more modern), and overall seems to be just better..."integrated." Also amazingly comfortable for long trips, like LOG. As far as maintenance I know some V8 owners have done their own cam belts (not necessary to remove engine) but it's not something I would personally attempt.

Bottom line though it's really personal choice, every model has its appeal. Important thing is to get the best example you can with decent maintenance history so as to avoid ownership-spoiling headaches. With that, as long as it's spelled E-S-P-R-I-T, you can't go wrong!

I will try to attach a PDF that may be informative with V8 model changes over the years, extracted from the factory service parts manual, hopefully it comes through.
 

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Forgot to mention I also drive a C6 Vette, and it's a very nice contrast in V8s. The 6.2l Vette of course is fast and incredibly torquey off the line, but in the upper rev range you can feel it start to run out of breath. Whereas the 3.5l Lotus V8 never runs out of breath, just keeps generating more and more power as the revs climb. It's an extraordinary driving experience.
 

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At six foot tall you are near the limits of fitting comfortably into a Lotus Esprit. Especially because of the pedals. Before you buy one you should try sitting in and driving one if at all possible. As for the maintenance, you can do a lot but some procedures do require special tools. Before you buy you should have some idea where you would take it for service and a PPI. Buy a Lotus (or any old car) in the best condition you can afford. The V-8 is more expensive to maintain but it is newer, has the most refinements in it, and has a bit more power. The S4 and S4s has a quirky and hard to repair brake system.
David Teitelbaum
 

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I have an 83 and love it because of the G-car styling and it's a drivers car- no computer and the windows are the only thing powered. Because of your size I agree with David above that you need to drive one before buying it. It would be sad if you spend all the time, effort, and money in getting a Lotus then finding out you barely fit in it and it's too uncomfortable to drive.
 

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If you buy some Dodge Charger/Challenger type iron...the question to expect is...> Has it got a Hemi ?

If you buy an Esprit, others will ask lots of questions.....
like > Uhh, is that a Ferrari?
or (worse yet) > Is that a kit car?
or > Who makes Lotus?
and of course the question that means they know little > How fast does it go?
......and other assorted vocalized noises from the throats of morons.........
but the question will eventually be asked by an occasional aficionado > Does it have the V8?
Imagine yourself answering such question one way or the other........then decide which Esprit to buy.

By the way, these days the answer I like to give the ones that know little, rather than something like > 175 mph.....is....."How fast does it go? Nearly 1 G in the corner." .......and then they just stare at you with a blank face and eventually ask > What's that mean?

Stats from the stock Road & Track/Car & Driver type mags you can find said 0.93 Gs on a skid pad but I'll bet it can be easily better than that with a little suspension tuning and a sticky tire compound
 

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I've owned a 'few' :unsure: last one was an S4, present one is an 01 V8. The later the version the more room, in particular the pedal box area giving more rearward movement on the seat, the V8's were more prevalent with the glass roof which gives you more headroom. 94 and on should not give you any problems at 6 feet and the glass roof makes the interior feel roomy in comparison. The 4 over 8 debate is like asking wing or no wing around here (definitely wing :ROFLMAO:) but as you mention you have a lift i'm pretty sure you know your way around an engine and these are not that complicated, just a 'little' cramped. The belt(s) can be done with the engine in, as can most other repairs, the V8's do not have the valve clearance adjustment requirements of the 4's. The V8 has a lot more low end grunt and as mentioned it not highly stressed (its actually de-rated to protect the transmission) Later V8's are, in my opinion, the one to look for with the updated instrument binnacle, rear lights, exhaust and overall no more complex or expensive to maintain than the 4 cylinder. Yes it has two turbos and the clutch is not cheap, but how many times will it need to be replaced? And yes, you will be asked 'does it have the V8 twin turbo' :rolleyes: Ideal world, V8 for cruising and long distances, 4 cylinder for weekends and occasional track day, and at the current pricing you can get two for the price of a 355 (which will cripple you with maintenance and parts costs) YMMV, and IMHO :)
 

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I can't add much to what the Esprit experts have said but I've wanted a V8 forever but at 6'4, I just don't fit to drive it comfortabley. I had an Elise for 11 years so the Esprit is that tight. My point is if you find an Elise too small, then an Esprit might not work as it is tighter inside, even if getting in and out is slightly easier.

Saying that, based on the cars you listed, you could consider an Evora, as its just as fast as an Esprit, more comfortable and roomier than an Elise or Esprit, handles great and with the Toyota drivetrain, running costs are not crazy. Thats not to take away from the Esprit, just a more practical, less compromised option and depending on which Esprit you want, the Evora could be cheaper.
 

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Corn beef - interesting observation.

I am 6'4" - I guess its all how you are apportioned. I drove an Elise one time and could barely manage. But I am able to fit my Esprit no problem....well I have to want to be there.

I wonder if I could get used to an Elise. With the Esprit once I put small shoes on and changed the way I hold my feet I was fine.

Might have to give an Elise another shot...if the prices ever come down.
 

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Buy the car that gives you a chubby. Drive it like you stole it and enjoy life. Also, buy the best one you can afford!!

I have an '84 Turbo and LOVE it. The sounds it makes when hooning around are epic.
 

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I can't add much to what the Esprit experts have said but I've wanted a V8 forever but at 6'4, I just don't fit to drive it comfortabley. I had an Elise for 11 years so the Esprit is that tight. My point is if you find an Elise too small, then an Esprit might not work as it is tighter inside, even if getting in and out is slightly easier.

Saying that, based on the cars you listed, you could consider an Evora, as its just as fast as an Esprit, more comfortable and roomier than an Elise or Esprit, handles great and with the Toyota drivetrain, running costs are not crazy. Thats not to take away from the Esprit, just a more practical, less compromised option and depending on which Esprit you want, the Evora could be cheaper.
It's interesting how different body types fit in the Esprit. I'm a slim 6'3" and I think most of that is in my giraffe neck but I do have long legs. I have to bring my knee into my chest to get my leg into the car but once I'm in I might as well be in a aircraft hanger. I did take my 6'5" 14 size shoe father for a ride and he would not have been able to operate the car as a driver due to space. I have to duck my head to see stoplights and out the tiny rear window but there is absolutely no headroom or legroom issues. You should definitely try one on for size. I didn't notice any real difference between the S4s and the V8.
 

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I'm 5'11" and my head just barely cleared my late 88 Esprit with the factory glass top. I believe I have a long torso and big head (when doing a track school, they had to find the biggest helmet to put on me). Yet my friend (6'5") was able to sit in passenger seat with at least 1" clearance. So it is best to sit in an Esprit just to make sure your body configuration is workable.

FYI - I cannot get into an Elise with the top on - try as I might, I tried several times - despite being only 5'11", I can't seem to bend my leg enough to get in. Yes, I have seen other taller folks do it - that means my long torso/big head are not Elise friendly.
 
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