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Now don't get me wrong. An Esprit is my dream car. However, what is the deal with things breaking on them so frequently? Sure, it's a high performance sports car built for high performance driving, not an everyday commuter, but what is with these posts I'm reading on various sites? "My Esprit has 7000 miles on it and I just replaced the transmission" and "got 12,000 miles on it, new exhaust, new fuel injection system and had all piston heads replaced." So, what's the deal? Are Lotus parts just pure garbage? Why are these things breaking on a cars that have so few miles, that are supposedly being driven by responsible, adult drivers? Does everything eventually have to be replaced on these things regardless of how well they're cared for? Has anyone ever seen a post saying: "Yep, got 45k on the ole gal, done the scheduled maintenance and she's runnin' like a top?" or is always 'just a matter of time' before something pops or leaks or blows up?
 

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I'm not sure what you're reading. I don't know anyone who's had to replace the transmission @ 7K or replace pistons @ 12K who didn't do something to deserve to have to do that. You can break anything with abuse.

I've had my 89 for 13 years now and have almost 61K miles on it now (should go over this weekend). I still have great oil pressure and compression, and I have no doubt I'll easily pass 100K. I can honestly say mine has been one of the most reliable cars I've ever owned (and I have owned many). Maybe I've gotten a little lucky, but the Esprit is a well engineered car that lasted almost 3 decades in production. Building crap is not the recipe for that kind of longevity.
 

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The cars was built during a period when good cars (Toyota, Chevy, Ford) were fragile and exotic sports car were, well, not daily drivers.

I would be willing to bet that your car is practically :D as reliable as the same year Ferrari (Who was much better funded) or Lamborghini.

Think of it this way. You get to enjoy the car twice as much as owning a reliable car. You get to enjoy driving it & you get to enjoy working on it.:clap:
 

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I am going to jinx my self, but here goes. this is r.e. the 4cyl

My car 89SE has 28k miles on it. Had ECM and waterpump, and one fuel tank replaced. 23yo car!
I have a 95 S4 which has been rebuilt after an accident. About 45k miles. The engine was rebuilt, but just to replace seals and because it was out of the car. The pistons had no significant wear and the bearings could have gone a lot longer.

I have a 70k mile S4 motor that we just tore down, it also has very little wear, but will benefit from new rings and a head cleanup in addition to seals.

My shop partner Tom M has an 89 non SE with over 70k. It was running fine with good compression , but he is repainting so he took motor out anyway and has rebuilt it, but again didn't need anything except usual.

We also acquired a 94 S4 with 88k miles. That motor had a poor rebuild about 5k ago after a broken valve(not sure if it was due to broken belt or not). It then had another poor rebuild to replace rear seal before we got it. It will need pistons and liners, and the head may have been taken down too far. The motor clearly had dirt/fragments in it causing further wear and damage.

So far all the cars have the original working transmissions with no major repairs except a couple clutches.

All the cars have some fuel tank issues requiring either replacement or refurbishing.

The interiors are pretty much consistent with age and use, as are the suspensions and brakes. The chasiss show no rust, the bodies show no rust, the paint varies with sun exposure, the gelcoat ranges from near perfect to several "spiders"
Electrical systems are mostly ok, but mostly Brittish.
Still runnning original injectors and fuel pumps on a couple motors.
Turbos pretty reliable.

So my opinion based on intimate involvement with 4 red Esprits and 5 engines, is that if the car is well taken care of with regular service at recommended intervals, and it is driven on a regular basis it WILL be reasonably reliable for an "exotic" and not that crazy expensive to fix.

Poor maintenance, and having the car sit too much contribute to problems. That is why very low mileage examples may actually have issues. Once a week is the minimum in my opinion, and the car needs to run at speed for 15-20 miles.

I have owned several Porches and numerous other cars, The 4 cyl Stevens Esprit is not all that unreliable, but perhaps less tolerant of neglect. And any Esprit will need the fuel tanks fixed at least once if it lives long enough.

Randy
 

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Now don't get me wrong. An Esprit is my dream car. However, what is the deal with things breaking on them so frequently? Sure, it's a high performance sports car built for high performance driving, not an everyday commuter, but what is with these posts I'm reading on various sites? "My Esprit has 7000 miles on it and I just replaced the transmission" and "got 12,000 miles on it, new exhaust, new fuel injection system and had all piston heads replaced." So, what's the deal? Are Lotus parts just pure garbage? Why are these things breaking on a cars that have so few miles, that are supposedly being driven by responsible, adult drivers? Does everything eventually have to be replaced on these things regardless of how well they're cared for? Has anyone ever seen a post saying: "Yep, got 45k on the ole gal, done the scheduled maintenance and she's runnin' like a top?" or is always 'just a matter of time' before something pops or leaks or blows up?
C'mon-what are you really trying to say ?!

I admire your candor.
 

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Roll off a line?

Piece of crap? Where have you learned about the marque? How many have you worked on?

:no:

You need to learn a little respect....

First they didn't "role" (sp roll) off a line - that's not how Esprits were built. They are not built by "big three" assembly line methodology.

Second, any 20+ year old car is likely to have some maintenance requirements. The extent to which they fail because they are "a piece of crap" is no different than any other high performance car. What do you think an Esprit is supposed to be? A Camry? The reliability of an Esprit is utterly dependent upon maintenance and integrity of the owner. That's no different than a Triumph, a Ferrari, TVR, Porsche, or a Toyota Corolla.

Third, all car blogs and forums are filled with issues related to problems. Why do you think people write into a forum to begin with? Largely to look for advice and suggestions related to something going on with their car. If you follow the LotusTalk Esprit forum you will see a fair share of "exhilaration reports" where people describe the pure joy of driving their cars. But most of the posts are people looking for help solving problems both large and small. Go to a DeLorean forum, a 300ZX forum, etc. You'll see the same distribution of issues.

I just finished a rebuild of my 1989 910 engine which was approaching 70k miles. It still had excellent compression and was running just fine. Like most 24 year old cars the paint need refreshing from punishing Florida sun, so when I disassembled the body and sent it to a professional painter for refinishing, I had the time to rebuild the engine. Did it "need" to be rebuilt? Hell, no. Was it a good idea to rebuild it? Hell, yes. I plan on driving the car until the throw me into the nursing home and steal the keys. I am sure it will make another 70k miles without any major problems.
 

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I would bet that the Esprit, at least the era that I own, 1988, is probably as finicky as any other exotic car made around the same time, Lamborghini, Ferrari. I have found that the older Countach's even have a Bosch CIS fuel injection system, except its got 12 injectors to need cleaned YIKES.

I myself knew about the Esprit's fragile qualities as I spent 10 yrs thinking about it before buying one. And I too was thinking "why do they have low miles and lots of problems, must be poor upkeep", but then you just see too many with problems at low miles for that.

Ownership, is a challenge at times. Of course im still a newbie, I havent even owned mine a year yet and im not tired of working on it yet. My wife goes around the house saying "Oh, now you know exactly whats wrong with it" quoting me of course.
 

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BUT-you must let him speak....To Fanaticals about Lotus or not.!!

I have thought these thoughts as well at one time. For some reason though , in my mind with the 'reliance' of the car and LOTUS. I do love the history and their tech.-this is always about weight. Reliance even to a -machine shop owner is questionable.-ask me.
My idea of Lotus is -weight v.s handling.
Exotic v.s mundane.-You cannot compare these cars as Porsches and vettes.
These vehicles are so much more foreign than that and they almost have a unique prehension.
Anyone and I say anyone who dedicates themselves to this car are in my mind show the carriages of benz and then FORD.
NOT AFRAID TO BE DIFFERENT.
 

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like mentioned compared to the cars they were designed to compete against (Lambo Countach, Jalpa, Ferrari 308/328/348) I would bet their reliability is similar to those cars however a fraction of the cost. Reliability on any car isn't what it is today..... trannies are a known weak spot however 12K I would guess would be considered abuse.

Just because you can buy a Esprit for the price of a Honda doesn't mean it will be reliable like one.
 

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[snip] You can break anything with abuse.
[snip]
This is a critical point -

When you talk about the Esprit - a car that ended production 8 years ago - the reliability is going to depend heavily on the previous owner's (PO) maintenance record.

You'll find posting that describe the Esprit (and other older exotic cars) that suffer abuse at the hands of owners who don't realize the expense of properly maintaining a high-performance automobile.

The Esprit has more frequent oil changes, manual valve adjustment, higher-stressed engine (215HP from 2.2 litres in the 1980s - that was state of the art). By design, it's going to require more maintenance; neglect it, and reliability of any car will deteriorate.

Your comment about not hearing good stories about Esprits? Try this one.

How many high-quality condition Esprits have you seen for sale? For every good condition car, there are probably 3-10 in various stages of neglected maintenance. That neglect is more a reflection of the owner, not the car.

And the Esprit volumes - 10K in 30 years - that's an average of 300 cars per year - low volume is a double edged sword. Some people like the design and exclusivity, but most people don't even know the brand 'Lotus'.

That unfamiliarity (supply and demand) creates depreciated Esprit prices - good for enthusiasts to buy, but also allows people who don't have the resources to maintain an Esprit to buy them (and potentially neglecting them).

The 88 Esprit was $62,500 MSRP - you can buy it USED for $14K-$18K, but trust me - the PARTS and LABOR are 2012 prices and did NOT depreciate with the car.

That means the pool of desireable condition Esprits goes down over time.

So the challenge is to find a well-maintained Esprit at a higher price than the median. Many have said 'Buy the best condition Esprit you can afford' as that's the most financially sound way to Esprit ownership.

An Esprit is not an inexpensive car to maintain (by the factory books).

For me, I know first hand after 9 months of ownership (and 6 months of daily driving - 7 days/week, 7200 miles to date) that my 88 Esprit is fairly reliable considering it is a 23 year old car. The previous 3 owners kept the car in excellent cosmetic condition, but did not keep the maintenance up for the timing belt or soft rubber parts.

It was running 100% fine, but depending on 23 year tires and timing belt for going to work every day is not a good idea.

Once I replaced all critical maintenance subcomponents, the car has been daily-driver reliable.

Short summary - an Esprit is only as reliable as its previous owners. Find a car with either excellent service records and/or have an extensive pre-purchase inspection. If the price sounds too good, there is a reason (usually bad).


Take a look at my 'garage' for details on my experience.
 

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Care to re-phrase that?

Or do you just like insulting people's taste in cars?

The Esprit is a hand built car! They built fewer Esprits per year than some manufacturers build just for testing and validation! Of course they are't perfectly sorted!

I've met some of the people who were involved in designing and manufacturing the Esprit, and they didn't do it to "role crap off the assembly line"??? They actually cared about what they built! Maybe they were constrained by the budgets and the scales of economy of the times, but they definitely didn't make crap!

These are in fact old cars now! My 89SE is 23 years old and had 80,016miles on last time I drove it, which unfortunately resulted in the head gasket blowing while driving the crap out of it on the racetrack... ok, maybe they do break sometimes...

I can definitely say, without a doubt, that if you think the Esprit is crap based on what you have read, and that you haven't done enough homework to answer this question for yourself... then you absolutely should not buy an Esprit! It is not the car for you! Have fun with your Scion, mustang, or whatever.
 

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Care to re-phrase that?

Or do you just like insulting people's taste in cars?
[snip]
It is not the car for you! Have fun with your Scion, mustang, or whatever.
I noticed the questionable phrase of the question, but I cut the guy some slack because manners and etiquette simply are of different levels nowadays.

I grew up in a generation where 'Yes sir' 'Yes M'aam', 'Thank you' and 'You're Welcome' were expected and courtesy was common. But this is 2012 with 'reality' TV and alot of that gets thrown out the window.

Back to topic - as a professed Esprit fanboy who didn't consummate his Esprit ownership until he was 51, I actually understood where the OP was coming from.

The Esprit was my dream car too. The early reports of the S1 and S2 did nothing to dispel the reliability image.

My first drive in an Esprit S2 was in 1990 - phenomenal handling and ride.

And I helped my buddy replace the roll bar bushings - a 12 hour nightmare that scared me straight about NOT owning an Esprit for years. In 1990 I could only afford an S1 or S2 - a Turbo was out of the question (although that was the 'best' at the time).

Fun to drive - YES! Fun to repair? Oh, hell no!

Sure - the S3/Turbo models are magnitudes better, but the abuses of previous owners rears its ugly head and perpetuates the negative reliability image.

If he's truly an Esprit fan, like me, nothing will stop him from getting one eventually - conventional car-owning logic does not apply to cars of the Esprit's class.
 

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Wow... that first post... I coulda swore I was in the Evora forum lol.. I know where the OP is coming from but he hasn't yet learned that "hand-built" doesn't mean quality.

OP.. Remember. L-O-T-U-S. Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious. Got it? Good.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Jackpot! Now, forgive this newbie for barging into your forum tossing around words like 'crap' and 'garbage' when talking about the exalted Esprit, BUT I knew that was a much more likely way to generate solid, detailed feedback from you Esprit experts than "Hi guys, I'm new here. My question is: are Esprit's reliable?" would have!!! I certainly meant no offense to anyone, to Lotus as a company or to the Esprit model and, as I indicated in my post, it has been my dream car since I was a teen (I'm 39 now). I understand that owning an Esprit is not like having a Civic and that they're unique animals. I was becoming disappointed in doing my research by the bad rap that the Esprit was getting and I was feeling my dream becoming more and more unrealistic for a married father of two and that, well, just made me really, really sad. But, as some of you pointed out, it doesn't matter if you're a married father of two, a lone wolf, a retiree, whatever... it's crucial to understand that the Esprit is in a class of its own, with it's own 'genetic' defects, quirks, etc. and, in some way, part of the pleasure of owning it is tackling its unique problems (not just driving it.) Thank you to everyone who replied. Thanks especially to those who posted success stories of their daily drivers or 70k Esprits that are doing just fine with the maintenance handled diligently. Other good points were the obvious age of the cars (I prefer models '98 to '04, so not as old as some), that hand-built doesn't mean quality, that other forums for performance cars will have the same 'woe-is-my-car' complaints, that people rarely post GOOD maintenance news and that some of the horror stories I've read might really be due to lack of use of the car versus any Lotus idiosynchracies. I feel better knowing that there are Esprit experts out there who don't support the idea that it'll take 5-10k per year just to keep my dream Esprit on the road! Thanks again!
 

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Well I was not one of those offended, just trying to help a misinformed soul.
Not sure that you need to manipulate the board to get the info you want though.

Based on the years you mentioned, note that the 4cyl and V8 are just about identical in all areas except the engine. The engine difference is magnified by the rarity of the V8. There are previous threads discussing the pros and cons of each. You should choose based on the engine rather than on the year built.

Randy
 

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Now don't get me wrong. An Esprit is my dream car. However, what is the deal with things breaking on them so frequently? Sure, it's a high performance sports car built for high performance driving, not an everyday commuter, but what is with these posts I'm reading on various sites? "My Esprit has 7000 miles on it and I just replaced the transmission" and "got 12,000 miles on it, new exhaust, new fuel injection system and had all piston heads replaced." So, what's the deal? Are Lotus parts just pure garbage? Why are these things breaking on a cars that have so few miles, that are supposedly being driven by responsible, adult drivers? Does everything eventually have to be replaced on these things regardless of how well they're cared for? Has anyone ever seen a post saying: "Yep, got 45k on the ole gal, done the scheduled maintenance and she's runnin' like a top?" or is always 'just a matter of time' before something pops or leaks or blows up?
Go read up on Ferrari's and Lambo's from the same time frame and you will find the same thing. People complain about the build quality now, but it was a lot worse in the 80's and 90's.
 

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Well, I'll do some math for everyone:

Ive driven my '87 Turbo roughly 18,000 miles since I bought it a few years ago. The ONLY non-planned replcement items were the clutch slave and master, both of which were original and 24 years old but we'll *allow* that as an unplanned servicing. The brand new parts were under $200 combined. It took me and a good buddy about 2 hours or so to replace both and then another half hour to bleed and adjust everything. Lets assume my time is worth $50 bucks an hour so we have a number to pin on it.

So, I calculate that my cost per mile driven, when viewing it via unplanned services is about ONE cent per mile. One cent per mile. I'll take that. Sure, I do very frequent oil changes, gearbox oil changes, coolant flushes, and brake/clutch fluid changes so that adds some cost. I use premium fuel. Still, even factoring that in, my costs MIGHT reach 10 cents per mile. Probably not even. I will do a major service at the end of this driving season so that will add about $1000 in parts plus our labor but even then.... Im so far ahead its not even funny. And, this major will only get done every 4-5 years so that spreads out the cost pretty nicely. Beer and pretzel money!

Im just saying that my '87 has been a pleasure to own and drive and has exceeded my expectations in just about every way possible. Sure, I paid a premium for a well-sorted, top conditon car and Id do it again in a second. The early Esprits had some issues - no doubt. But, like any small mfger Lotus figured it out and by the time they got into the 80's and 90's the cars were great and still look better than 99% of whats on the road to this day. Automotive folklore, baby.

Go talk to owners of 80's and 90's Italian cars if you want to hear about horror stories. Thats why those all have 5,400 miles on them - you dont DARE drive an older Italian car.... rotfl They "looka good but you dont a dare a to drive a"

:UK:
 

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OP: I think the replies you've gotten a little harsh.

By today's standards (R8, 911, Gallardo, 430) yeah, they're total turds. Even by 80's standards, they're not fantastic. They are much more "kit car" than, say, a 328 or a 930. They just are. But those cars are much more abundant and were built by much bigger companies.

The Esprit is one of the last, true, exotics in my mind. It'll try killing you -- either by hitting a tree or by fuming you out – and it'll try emptying your wallet, but you can’t name another car with such a low purchase price that will turn as many heads, scare the **** out of you, and make for a great story as much as the Esprit will.
 

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hit the nail on the head! I would never mess with one and the whole thing just looks like a confused teenager. sorry but I hate those cheese wedge lambo wannabees. JMHO

There are some other cars that are junk from this period too, look at the Countach and the early Diablos. It has a lot to do with the backing company of the manufacturer because during this same period is when the Ferrari 328's were made and they're one of the more solid cars, maybe thats why they are still bringing $40-50k and 80's Esprits bring $10-20 at most!
 

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I have a porsche 930 from the same era. Arguably the toughest "exotic" of the era. It can still be a PITA sometimes.

OLD, British, Exotic.....well yeah an esprit migh require some occasional love.
 
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