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Tom Silknitter's 1986 TURBO

Tom Silknitter from Coatesville, PA, USA, owns a 1986 Turbo in British Racing Green, with a Tan interior.


Year: 1986
Colour: British Racing Green
Interior: Tan
Driving Style: Very Fast
Miles per year: 4,000 - 8,000
Owned Since: August 2002
Purchase from: Private Sale
Serviced at: Don Galbraith Motoring in Devon
Other Cars: 97 Mustang, 87 Lebaron
Previous Lotus': None
Why an Esprit: The perfect exotic, Italian Looks, and British ruggedness
Upgrades: The last owner was luckly the type of owner who put the proper money into the car. When I got the vehicle the only real issues were AC inoperative and oil leaks which I found to be very common. The last owner also babied the car and it got about 1500 miles a year. I am of the school of thought you have to drive these cars, and some of the small bugs that I have decided to address are to A. be safe, and B. have the car running where as I want it to be. If you go into buying an Esprit (and especially the older ones), you gotta know they do cost money to run. So since buying the car, I have put about 6,000 into the Lotus (counting supplies, service manuals, parts lists). I just had what many consider to be the C service. The timing belt was coming of age (5 years), and I wanted to address the majority of oil leaks.
So here in November 2002, I had done: Timing belt, motor mounts, Valve adjusting, cam housing gasket seal, cam cover seals, V belts, front gasket, and front crankshaft seal, new clutch cylinder, new clutch slave, stainless steel clutch hose, Brake flush refill, new radiator cowl (and this was an expensive mistake on my part, when putting the car into the garage, there is a small dip between the outside ground and the garage floor. When pulling in the board broke, and the car slipped down a notch, when I moved the car back, the board slammed up into the left side fan shroud, cracking the cowl. Luckly I caught the fan before burning the fan motor. When all is said and done with labor and parts it was a good $800 or so... so be very careful with dips and speed bumps). New trunk carpet kit.
I have also replaced air filter, oil filter, trans fluid change, spark plugs and wires. one tip, have the front of the vehicle raised a little, like on a ramp that will not rip the front off of the car. When the front of the car is lifted then you can lean right into the distributor. One of the little tricks when fooling around with these cars. Some of the work that I plan do to over the course of the next few months. New fuel injectors, new rubber insulators for shocks, new bushes, repaint louvers (show stress cracks from heat), repaint window door trims, engine paint touch ups, stronger starter .... and whatever else decides to go wrong, or wears down.
Problems: Even though I have put money into the car, it could have been spaced out longer, but I am of the school of thought, get everything done at once to bring the costs down. I haven't really had any problems, in the first month of ownership I put about 1200 miles on it. I then started to worry about the timing belt because of age. However, keep in mind these are not cheap cars. Anyone considering one of these cars, be sure to have the work history, it really does make a difference. Also gives you an idea to know how much it will cost. For example, I can tell you this car has had $17,000 in repairs since 1995. The two largest bills being my current one, and when the last owner had the dreadged problem where the clutch shaft got thrushed forward because of the spigot bearing wearing out. You do not buy on these cars because they are cheap, you buy them because they are the perfect car for you. It is also important to find a shop you can trust. After fishing around, I found my previous owner made the right choice, and I have decided to stick with the mechanic who has kept this car running for the last 7 years.
Info: See my Esprit Stories below


Ever since I was a kid I always dreamed of owning some super sports car. We all did, we had the books with photos, posters of certain cars, we would talk to each other about this car show coming up and that. I was born about a year after The Spy Who Loved Me, so my first introduction to the Esprit was not James Bond (well except for the little Corgi toy I had, but had no idea at the age of three what car it was) but was buying exotic car picture books, and video games (I still have that old Commodore 128 game Test Drive... guess which car I always picked...

Well as I grew older I got into the Back to the Future films, I collect all sorts of items from those films (including owning one of the original outatime plates from production of the film). I thought hmmm maybe I will get a DeLorean someday. Well when I was able to get a second "weekend" car, I was looking at the DeLorean, but thought, its too big... and slow... a car I will get someday... but not yet... so I was looking at some of the high end current American cars (Mustang Cobras, Corvettes), but realized, they are too common. Looked at Porsches, but Porsches are also too common (latter on I would buy the ad that they advertised my model year comparing the Esprit to Mass production Vettes and Porsches.


Ahhh... a very common sight to the Lotus owner... the car being worked on.

So while I was online searching, I remembered the Lotus name from my youth. I started to research them again, dig out my old books, and knew this is the car for me. Also my uncle is a huge British car nut, and I never appreciated the appeal of owning a British car till I started to fall in love with the Esprit. Well the more I hunted the more I realized there is only 2 model years for me, the 86, and the first half 87s. I prefer the older style, it has the look that when I was young that is what the supercars looked like, steep wedge, sharp edges. Also those years had the faster engines in them (as well as beefed up internals which addressed several piston isues).

I was searching and searching for months. There are so many BAD examples out there it is really sad. When you figure numbers of the HC's that were made in the old body style are said to be in the 400 range, it doesn't give you much choice. Then to find one after another where the owner bought it cheap and never put money into it. "so what work has been done?" "well none, but one guy took it for a test drive last week and said its really good..." Hmmm.... sounds like my wallet is going to fall and never come back up (and of course there is tons of paint issues).


Lotus Engines run hot, and after 16 years its starting to show. This will be addressed in the next few months.

I found my car through the Lotus clubs. I was able to find a car that was only 20 minutes away. Which made it real easy to have test drives, get mechanical inspections and all other things a buyer should have done. Needless to say when i wallked in the darkened garage and saw it sitting there, I knew I was in trouble. When I sat in the passenger seat, I thought I may be getting into more trouble.

When I finnally lifted up the clutch and gave it throttle, I knew this trouble was going to be mine. A lot of people say the clutch on the esprit feels heavy, I found the whole car felt like driving a feather. The pedals just need little touches, the gear shift is not designed for wham bam thank you mam shifts, its delicate, but matches the nature of this car. The turbo on this car is also smooth, and the handling of this car is amazing (my uncle who has driven a few Europas said, if its a Lotus it will be telepathic). So after buying the car, I have been tackling issues to make as good as it can be. They are not Minny Mouse cars, and deserve the respect of true Lotus owners.


Left: When I looked at the service records I used to think... this much labor to change a filter. Well this shows you how much fun it is to just find the oil filter. It was an adventure getting it off.
Right: Its not very exciting under that cover, but when going over the car, its best to look all over to make sure hoses and the such are in good condition.

This is the carpet that was next to cats. The last owner had a cat breakdown and led to higher amounts of heat to be generated. No there was no fire, and that bad cat has been sent to the giant kitty litter in the sky, but the carpet was still melted. Its a very easy repair. A couple pop rivets to be removed, lining up the pieces, and you are set to go.

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