The End Game
by Max Kinglesey-Jones
Taken from Club Lotus Magazine
Dan Collins is a very lucky man. For not only does he own two black and gold, V8-engined Lotuses – but his 358bhp 2003-year Esprit V8 is the slower, lesser-powered one! Dan's weekend toy is a 1982, ex-Mansell, JPS-liveried Type 91 Formula One car, powered by a 520bhp Cosworth DFY V8, which he races in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix championship series.
A long-time lover of the racing Lotuses, Dan realised his dream of owning a formula one type in 1999. The 91 is looked after by Clive Chapman's Classic Team Lotus organisation at its facilities opposite Lotus's Hethel plant.
When Dan received word of the demise of the Esprit, he was keen to bag the last one off the line to replace his then orad-Lotus, an early model Elise drew a blank when he was informed that none were left, but then a chance conversation with Clive put him in touch with Stratton Motor Company near the factory, which had been allocated the last six Esprits destined for the UK market.
"The deal for the Esprit was done over the phone with the Elise in part-ex." says Dan. "I wanted the car to be a little special and decided to pick up on the JPS black and gold colours to match my Type 91."
Dan specified that the wheels should be gold rather than the stock silver to match his racer. But this was not straightforward as Stratton found that extracting them from the factory for painting was no easy task, although they were eventually successful. the factory was more obliging with the interior specification, which the Lotus trim department decked out with black leather and gold Alcantara panelling.
With his desire to keep close links to Team Lotus' heritage, Dan decided to replicate the famous gold laurel wreaths that Lotus used on its F1 cars to commemorate each of its constructor's World Championships.
"I got the guys who used to sign-write and race cars to make me up some decals," says Dan. Appropriately, the seven wreaths are displayed across the Esprit's rear wing, as they were on the racing cars.
The JPS treatment extends to the back of the car (which has the US specification exhaust system with the central twin-pipe layout) with the "cheese-grater" rear valence being gold-coated. The final touch is the car's registration for four years awaiting the right car.
The hand-over of the last six UK Esprits took place simultaneously at a ceremony during 21st-22nd March 2003 at the former Team Lotus headquarters, Ketteringham Hall.
To mark the historic event, Lotus arranged for the six customers to be flown by helicopter to Norfolk on Friday 21st March and put them up in the stately Dunston Hall Hotel, near Norwich. That evening, Lotus acting chairman Victor Kiam hosted a formal dinner for the 'gang of six', and took the apportunity to garner customer feedback first hand to help with the 'Esprit replacement' concept.
The following morning the six customers were flown to Ketteringham Hall and Dan recalls looking down from the helicopter to see an impressive line-up, with the six Esprits surrounding his Type 91 on the driveway in front of the main building. After some brief formalities, the six owners were handed their keys and blasted off into the Norfolk countryside.
Although UK deliveries concluding on that day, the last Esprits did not leave the Hethel production line until February this year, with the completion of 46 "Final Edition" models exclusively for the US market. The actual last Esprit built was a Saffron Yellow example trimmed out with black interior.
Dan has meanwhile racked up 5,000 miles in his unique "World Champion" V8, making frequent trips from his Berkshire home to Norfolk and European race circuits. And Dan is considering one final tweak that would eradicate what has been the bane of all Esprit owners since the first S1s, the replacement of the existing gearbox with the Quaife-developed sequential box.
The author would like to thank Dan Collins and Classic Team Lotus for their help in compiling this article.
Previous Info on this car
Last (European) Esprit
With Esprit production coming to an end this year (2003) the last UK Esprit have already rolled off the production line and have been delivered to their new owners. These pictures show the last European Spec Esprit to be build.
The Black 2003 Lotus Esprit V8 is styled by Classic team lotus and has the graphic for each year that Lotus won the F1 Championship on the rear wing. Refering to the last issue of Lotus Life Magazine (Lotus Offical Club), which backs up that this was the Last European Spec Esprit off the production line at Hethel.
Owners Own Words
I am fortunate enough to own a Type 91 F1 car which Clive Chapman's Classic Team Lotus runs for me in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix championship (come and see us at Donington on 9/10th August). When I heard Esprit production was coming to an end, I asked Clive if he knew which dealer had the allocation for the last car and he put me in touch with Guy Munday at Stratton motors near the factory, I had previously bought an Elise from Guy when he was with SGT in Maidenhead.
I called Guy and the deal was done over the phone to trade the Elise for the Esprit (plus some cash of course!) and then all I had to do was wait!
Since it was to be the last Esprit, I wanted the car to be a little special and decided to pick up on the JPS black and gold colours to match my type 91. The wheels were extracted from the factory (and I mean extracted, it was like pulling teeth) and Stratton had them painted gold. The interior is black leather with gold Alcantara panels which was done by the Lotus trim dept. The car has the Federal exhaust system (ie US spec) and the rear "cheesgrate" panel is about to be gold coated and the windows have recieved a mid smoke tint.
I also wanted to commemorate the racing history of Lotus so I had some laural wreath decals made by the guys who used to signwrite all the race cars (and still do). There are seven decals, one for each constructors championship, across the rear wing.
The final touch is the UK registration of LOT 11S which I have had on retention for 4 years just waiting for the right car.
The car is based in the Reading area (so flash me if you see me) but makes frequent trips to Norfolk and European race circuit.
Pictures are taken in the pits at F1 circuit Spa in Belgium