A fond farewell to a fine lady
More than 60 of the great and the good most closely associated with the Esprit assembled in the Lotus factory and outside to share stories and reminiscences of their relationship with a car that is recognised world-wide as the most classic of supercars.
Matthew Jones, Esprit Line Manager opened proceedings, welcoming the guests who included Colin Chapman's widow Hazell, and several names synonymous with the Esprit including Oliver Winterbottom (present at the first meeting about the Esprit with Giugiaro in Italy) and Morris Dowton. If Matthew looked a little jaded, it was because he had spent most of the night in hospital where his wife gave birth to their second child. He used this as an opportunity to link his own personal experiences with the purpose of the day, which was as much about looking to the future as anything else.
Whilst acknowledging the dedication and professionalism of the whole team, Matthew reserved special praise for Brian Angus for his support over the last three years, and the role Brian would be playing moving forward in supporting existing customers.
Matthew was followed by Morris Dowton who reflected on more than 30 years history with the car. He referred, albeit briefly, to the now legendary story of the birth of the Esprit, and the directive of Colin Chapman to build a car for Paris within 10 days which despite everything, they achieved. 'And,' he added, 'the car is still the star of the show.'
Clive Dopson, Director of Manufacturing at Group Lotus also looked back briefly through fondly on a the passing of a great lady, from the first Giugiaro-designed models to the work of Peter Stevens, Julian Thompson, and Russell Carr. 'We are very proud of the fact that our supercar is now regarded by many as legendary,' he said. 'It has stood the test of time, demonstrated by the fact that it is still one of the highest performing cars in the world.
'For enthusiasts and fans, the end of the Esprit will be a sad time,' he added. 'But for Lotus, this is a time for celebration.'
The speeches where concluded with a brief word from the Chairman's representative Victor Kiam who as well as praising the commitment and support of those present, also talked about the growing strength of Group Lotus, the improvements being made across the business, and has confidence for the challenges of the future.
With the formalities over, it was time to head outside for the obligatory group photograph and various smaller shots huddled around two of the last Esprits. There was a brief comedy moment when the photographer – our own Jason Parnell – asked Russell Carr to move away from the vehicle to which some wag retorted (LEW's own kato): 'You've done enough damage as it is!'
It was then back inside (in the warmth) for a glass of champagne and a chance to talk and view several items of Esprit memorabilia on display, including the original press reviews, literature, and other such interesting ephemera.
Since production started in 1976, precisely 10,675 Esprits have been built and sold all over the world. It has been linked with many famous celebrities and racing drivers, but perhaps best known for its starring roles in various feature films from the James Bond classics The Spy who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only to the more recent Pretty Women and Basic Instinct. Whatever the film, it has always had main billing.
The actual last Esprit is Saffron Yellow with black interior, and will be delivered to an anonymous customer in the US. The last Esprits to be sold in Europe were delivered to customers in mid 2003 and 46 'Final Edition' Esprits built exclusively for the US market are being delivered to USA dealers throughout early 2004.