LEW meets Geoff Davidson
LEW gets an exclusive interview with Geoff Davidson, Esprit Engineer
Geoff has worked
on the development of the Esprit for
over 19 years and is considered to be Mr. junior Esprit.
Q. What was your background before joining Lotus?
A. Automotive Engineering Apprenticeship,Ford/Vauxhall Franchise. Service Manager Rover/Triumph Franchise. Transport Manager for Cumbrian Police. Golden Acorn, Company in LA California, Federalising Grey Imports, Range Rover/Jaguar. Lotus Engineering.
Q. What year did you join Lotus and what was your role?
A. Joined Lotus, July 1986. Senior Technician in the Emission Lab.
Q. What were your first impressions of the Esprit (before and close up)?
A. Another great car from Lotus, close up, what a FANTASTIC car from Lotus.
Q. What was your first involvement with the Esprit at Lotus?
A. Exhaust emissions programme, prepping and testing all Federal Esprits.
Q. What are your best memories of your early involvement with the Esprit?
A. Driving them. I collected the development Esprit from Switzerland and had a high speed return journey, recorded V-max.
Q. Any stories about the development of the Turbo Esprit?
A. During the period as Vehicle Safety Engineer. I had just completed a frontal impact test at an offsite Crash Lab. When requesting the crash data, I was informed the data logging equipment had failed during impact, loosing 150 channels of important data. oops! retest required at £100k. Mr. Esprit was summoned to the directors suite to explain the purchase order for another new Esprit, the story get worse. A successful test was completed a week later, the following day Sales & Marketing were searching for a particular yellow Esprit, one of a special order of a matched pair, need I say any more! back to the directors suite for Mr. Esprit.
Q. What was Colin Chapman like?
A. My one regret, I never had the opportunity to meet him, he was deceased before I joined Lotus, I do enjoy hearing stories about him from colleagues. I have meet Mrs. C, enjoyed our conversation immensely.
Q. Which model do you think you were most influential in improving the Esprit?
A. Improving the Vehicle Safety. Crash development testing for the passive restraint system (airbags).
Q. The motoring press always brought up the fact of only 4 cylinders, what was your feelings on this?
A. The motoring press always add a negative comment. S300 with 300 bhp has great performance with good reliability. When the Esprit V8 was released there was no increase in sales. I mostly drive V8's these days, but S4s, Sport 300 and GT3 are more exhilarating to drive.
Q. Did you ever look at what Porsche and Ferrari were producing when developing the Esprit?
A. Yes, all the time. Car Manufactures continually swap vehicles for evaluation, P's & F's are often on site as are many others.
Q. Tell me more about the transmission. Could anything have been done?
A. Not for the cost, engine torque has increased with
variant, Renault have given great support providing unique internals for
our requirements, chipped engines take the transmission over it's limit of reliability.
Q. Tell us more about what's involved in testing a new Esprit?
A. Pass, it's a massive cost undertaking, it's not just
current model. It's a multi million £ full vehicle development project,
plus component testing and thousands of miles durability. Durability mileage accumulation can be great fun.
Q. 4 cylinder or V8?
A. Horses for courses! if it's a V8, delete flat plain cranks, if it's 4-cyl must have variable valve timing for better torque.
Q. Tell us more about the restrictions place on the team when developing a new model?
A. It's Financial, Time and Type Approval restrictions that cause the problems for low volume car companies. Ask McLaren about the F1 and SLR costs.
Q. What effect did the various take-overs have on the Esprit Team (GM/Buggati/Proton)?
A. GM created the best environment for Esprit, development, quality, reliability and profitability. S4s completed development during Buggatti and they inspired the GT3. Esprit replacement approved by Proton.
Q. With an unlimited budget, what was the one the you would have changed on the Esprit?
A. Built the Esprit replacement 5 years ago.
Q. How do you feel about the bad press Lotus is given about it's build quality?
A. It hurts, but good changes come from constructive criticism.
Q. What to you is the best version of the Esprit and why (and in what colour)?
A. GT3 is a favorite with revised instrument binnacle, improved Hvac system. Yellow, association with AC,BC Motive.
Q. Must be fun with the Esprit and a test track in the playground?
A. Yes, Great fun. I don't go 10 tenths, explaining an off when I don't have the top license would take explaining, I wish to keep the privilege holding my track /development license.
Q. What is your favourite upgrade made to the Esprit?
A. The revised Interior.(small binnacle)
Q. How did you hear and what did you feel when you heard that Esprit production would stop?
A. It was not a shock we did know about 3 years earlier, I'm disappointed the replacement was not ready to follow.
Q. Any info on the Esprit replacement?
A. Looks fantastic, orgasmic!
Q. What are your hopes for the Esprit replacement?
A. Ferrari prestige
Q. What does the future hold for you now, with the Esprit line closing?
A. The support is still needed for the next 10 years, I love it.
Q. What's your best memory of working with the Esprit?
A. The shear driving pleasure. It's been great fun, all the way.
Q What's your worst memory of working with the Esprit?
A. Missing out on brake testing in Sweden.
Geoff at his desk at the Lotus Factory in Hethel
Many thanks for the opportunity for allowing this interview on LEW. Lotus will continue supporting clients with any issue on all Lotus products any time.
Mr. Junior Esprit & Mr. Esprit.
Geoff & Brian.
We would personally like to thank Geoff for agreeing to this interview and giving up his valuable time. We have invited Brian to any of LEW's future events, so we hope to see him in the future.
The views contained
in this page are those of Geoff Davidson
and not of the Factory, Lotus Cars Ltd or Lotus Engineering.
None of the information above can be taken as official information.