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Esprit Picture History

ITALDESIGN CONCEPT CAR: Commissioned by Colin Chapman to pop up Lotus's image. Created in double quick time on a Europa chassis. The Esprit wows crowds at 1972's Turin Show. Giugiaro wanted to call it Kiwi because of its long nose.
ITALDESIGN PROTOTYPE: By Genova 1973, the Esprit's look is set. The bonnet louves are gone, you no longer have to tilt the entire engine cover back to get at the engine and there's a midrift ridge where the body halves are bonded.

ESPRIT S1: Paris show 1975, and the production Esprit is revealed to the world. It's powered by Lotus' own 2.0-litre, all aluminium engine, mounted in the middle in supercar mode. Technical hitches keep it off sale until summer '76.

Production: 1976-77 Units: 714
JAMES BOND'S ESPRIT: The Esprit S1 found its filming glory as a submarine and glamour wagon in the 1977 James bond epic 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. The Ski-laden Turbo appeared in the early eighties epic 'For Your Eyes Only' starring Roger Moore once again and the venues were Corfu and Cortina D'Ampezzo rather than the underwater world.

ESPRIT S2: Using valuable feedback from its test team, the customers. Lotus revamps the Esprit in 1978 with improved ventilation, engine access and cosmetic changes to the cockpit, and Rover SD1 tail lights. Ditching the Wolfrace wheels helps to lessen the kit car look.

Production: 1978-81 Units: 1,060

ESPRIT S2 WORLD CHAMPION: Mario Andretti wins the Formula One World Championship in a Lotus in 1978, so a Commemorative Edition of the Esprit duly appears. Black-and-gold livery mimics the John Player Special colours of the grand prix cars.

Production: 1978-79 Units: 147

ESPRIT S2.2: Type number becomes engine capacity in 1980, when engine grows from 1973cc to 2175cc. Still a noisy car, though, partly because the engine is bolted solidly to the chassis so the driveshaft can act as a suspension arm.

Production: 1980-81 Units: 88

TURBO ESPRIT: Now we're cooking. Blow through the twin Dellorios with a turbo, and 160bhp becomes 210. Saves developing a bigger engine, too. First examples (1980) come in gaudy livery of shadowy Lotus sugar-daddy Essex Petroleum.

Production: 1980-87 Units: 1,537

ESPRIT S3: The Turbo is smoother and quieter with its popular rear suspension, as a year later, in 1981, the regular Esprit gets the Turbo's chassis with the same system. Lotus has always claimed that the Esprit would do 135mph, S3 finally cracks it.

Production: 1981-87 Units: 767

TURBO ESPRIT HC: Bigger carburettors, and a higher compression ratio releases more thrust for 1986, and bits that were black become body-coloured. The cleaner looks point the way to the following years major Esprit re-design.

Production: 1986-87 Units: 528

ESPRIT TURBO: it's 1987 and the words are now reversed. Peter Stevens designs a new rounder body, clearly related to Giugiaro's original but rounded out to convey a muscular mood. Citroen SM gearbox is replaced by Renault 25 unit.

Production: 1987-90 Units: 1,207

ESPRIT NA: The same year sees the simplest Esprit name of all, applied to the new-look Turbo's normally-aspirated stablemate. Tell it from the Turbo by its simpler rear valance, with two grilles instead of a giant under bumper air exit. Few sold.

Production: 1987-89 Units: 268

ESPRIT SE: Emissions rules mean in 1989 it's goodbye to the snorting Dellories, hello to fuel injection and a water-cooled chargecooler, and a heady 264bhp. Numerous suspension tweaks keep it channelled in the right direction. New nose to incorperate the coolers. A/C, leather and electric everything help give the SE its name 'Special Equipment'.

Production: 1989-91 Units: 1,546

ESPRIT X180R: Racing Esprits blitz US tracks during 1992, with Paul Newman among the drivers. SE based X180R (X180 is the Esprit code name within Lotus) delivers 335bhp. Similar cars compete in Europe, a 2.0-litre version in Italy.

Production: 1991-92 Units: 20 (USA only)

ESPRIT SE HIGH WING: Esprit gets it's most radical wing to date along with a revised front bib increasing the top speed to 165mph. A repacketage interior provides extra space. The SE now has a 'CAT' and runs only on Unleaded fuel. The High Wing was the only model Lotus produced in 1992 after the Elan was killed off.

Production: 1992-93 Units: 62

ESPRIT S4: New look for 1993 has five-spoke wheels, a curvier front, air intake and side scoops, slim indicators from the Elan, new door handles, and a rear spoiler moved forward. Suspension is improved, power steering is standard, engine stays at 264bhp. Interior updated from the Vauxhall parts bin.

Production: 1993-96 Units: 622

ESPRIT SPORT 300 : 1993 sees the roadgoing version of the X180R, lightened, stripped-out (still with power steering) and delivering 302bhp. Split rim wheels and monster tail-spoiler gives a clue to 162mph top speed and 4.5 second 0-60 time.

Production: 1993 Units: 64

ESPRIT S4S: Yet another comination of available parts: S4 gains Sport 300's wheel arch eyebrows and that mad rear spoiler for 1995. It's destined to be the last 2.2-litre, luxury-trimmed Esprit Turbo, because Lotus is finally readying its new V8 engine.

Production: 1995-96 Units: 332

ESPRIT V8: Lotus has planned a V8 for the Esprit since the late 1970s. Finally it's here for 1996, but not in tis original form (which went to the Corvette ZR-1). This one is 3506cc, delivers 350bhp, has twin turbos, sounds flat and has a seriously heavy clutch.

Production: 1996-99 Units: 435

ESPRIT GT3: it's late 1996, and the four-cylinder Turbo is not dead yet. Reduced to 2.0-litre and 240bhp, it powers the stripped-out, (relatively) bargain-priced GT3. There's no wood, no leather, just a techno feel and the better for it.

Production: 1996-98 Units: 196

ESPRIT V8 GT : For 1998 the V8 getss a new twin-plate clutch for lower pedal effort, and a much needed quicker gearshift. All Esprits finally get a modern interior. The V8 GT, essentially a V8 with GT3 trim.

Production: 1998-2000 Units: 204

ESPRIT V8 SE: As the less well trimmed and 10k cheaper GT is launched with a new interior, its big brother, with leather, A/C and a spoiler is re-badged the V8 SE.

Production: 1998-2000 Units: 674

ESPRIT SPORT 350 : Special Edition Racing Esprit, light magisium wheels, carbonfibre spoiler, front spliter, uprated AP brakes, modifed ECU. 80kg of weight saving produces the fastest ever Esprit and the most expensive at £65,000.

Production: 1999 Units: 42

ESPRIT V8: New for 2002, the Esprit has 350 brakes and front blip, new split-rim alloys, round rear lights. Inside sees two-tone leather seats with an embossed lotus logo and aluminium theme incorperating the gearknob, handbrake and doortrim. Basically a V8-SE with new lights and wheels for V8-GT money. The last Esprit.

Production: 2002-2003 Units: 250
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