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Lotus Esprit V6
Practical Performance Car
December 2006

There's a lot to like about the Esprit. The wedgy, Giugiaro-penned looks for one thing – this is the definitive supercar shape, and we love it. However, there are also a few less attractive bits.

The old Lotus Twin Cam is a sweet lump, but it's both unreliable and very costly when it does go wrong. Of course, you can get a later Esprit with a twin-turbo V8, but they cost a bomb and that flat plane crank engine is more impressive on paper than in the flesh, with its uninspiring four-pot drone. A reliable Esprit with a really nice sounding engine for peanuts, though, now that would be some car. This car, in fact.


Nigel Cowell's had three Esprits along with an Excel, and one way or the other has ended up rebuilding three Lotus 900-Series four-pot engines. Needless to say, he has little respect for the Lotus Twin Cam. His first attempt at a solution was putting a 2-litre Zetec into his old S3 Esprit, which apparently made a superb car but which lacked in the noise, power and cylinder count.


2-litre Zetec into his old S3 Esprit
2.2-litre 900 series engine
Engine removed, ready for V6

Ready for a bigger challenge, Nigel spotted an Esprit on Ebay with engine problems (surprisingly enough) for £4k and snapped it up. With seized brakes, no carpets, the front suspension in bits and having not turned a wheel for three years there was much to be done, but the most pressing task was to find a better engine.

One solution was a Rover V8 and off-the-shelf bellhousing to suit the Esprit's Renault box, but it soon transpired that this package would be far too long. Nigel considered using an Audi V6 too, but sump issues and parts prices soon put paid to that idea. Then he noticed a Mondeo V6 on Ebay, with a slipping clutch and a £250 price tag. This was more like it. A Porsche-designed, Cosworth honed, all aluminium quad cam V6 for a few hundred quid. After a headache or six Nigel got it running on the original ECU and mated the Mondeo manifold to the standard Esprit exhaust system with a T-joint above the gearbox.


Meanwhile, used front springs, dampers and a steering rack got the rest of the Lotus back together and it's now Nigel's daily driver. What's more, the £1k he recoup'd from selling the ill-running 2.2-litre Lotus lump easily paid for the Mondeo and various other parts needed to complete the conversion, meaning the whole stands hime for under four grand.


Newly badged up
two line-up tool made for the conversion plate.

There's some tidying in the engine bay and a bit of paintwork needed to finish the Esprit, but the quad cam V6 looks prefectly at home, and freed of cats and silencers, sounds gorgeous. A reliable supercar for used Fiesta money, enough said.

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