Wednesday 30 March 2011
The Lotus Esprit is a sports car that was built by Lotus in the United Kingdom between 1976 and 2004, as well as a future release in 2013. The silver Italdesign concept that eventually became the Esprit was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1972 as a concept car, and was a development of a stretched Lotus Europa chassis. It was among the first of designer Giorgetto Giugiaro's polygonal "folded paper" designs. Originally, the name Kiwi was proposed, but in keeping with the 'E...' naming format of Lotus tradition, the name became Esprit.
The Esprit was launched in October 1975 at the Paris Auto Show, and went into production in June 1976, replacing the Europa in the Lotus model lineup. These first cars eventually became known as S1 (or Series 1) Esprits. With a steel backbone chassis and a fiberglass body, the Esprit was powered by the Lotus 907 4 cylinder engine, as previously used in the Jensen Healey. This engine displaced 2.0 L, produced 160 bhp (119 kW; 162 PS) in European trim (140 bhp (104 kW; 142 PS) in US/Federal trim), and was mounted longitudinally behind the passengers, as in its predecessor. The transaxle gearbox was a 5 speed manual unit, previously used in the Citroën SM and Maserati Merak; it featured inboard rear brakes, as was racing practice at the time. The Series 1 embodied Lotus’ performance through light weight mantra, weighing less than 1,000 kg (2,205 lb).
The original Esprit was lauded for its handling and is said to have the best steering of any Esprit. However, it was generally regarded as lacking power, especially in markets such as the United States where the engine was down-rated for emissions purposes. Lotus’ claim of 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph (222 km/h) may be thought of as optimistic - actual road test times indicated 0-60 mph in 8 seconds and a top speed of around 133 mph (214 km/h).
1977 S1 (modified into "submarine" mode), as seen in the film The Spy Who Loved MeThe S1 Esprit can be distinguished from later Esprits by a shovel-style front air dam, Fiat X1/9 tail lights, lack of body-side ducting, and Wolfrace alloy wheels. Inside the car, the most obvious indication of an S1 Esprit is a one-piece instrument cluster with green-faced Veglia gauges.
The car gained fame through its appearance in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) where it was featured in a long chase sequence, converting into a submarine.
A series of improvements made to the Esprit during its initial run culminated in the S2 (or Series 2) Esprit, which was introduced in 1978. The most obvious of these changes are intake and cooling duct "ears" located behind the rear quarter window, tail lights from the Rover SD1, and an integrated front spoiler. S2 Esprits also used 14-inch (360 mm) Speedline alloy wheels designed specifically for Lotus. Other changes included relocating the battery from above the right side fuel tank (under the rear quarter window) to the rear of the car, adding an access door to the engine cover, as well as replacing the instrument cluster made by Veglia with individual gauges made by Smiths and using different style of switches on the dashboard.
During this era, special edition cars were made to commemorate Lotus's racing victories. Sharing the black and gold colour scheme of Lotus' then F1 sponsor, John Player & Sons, these cars are commonly known as the John Player Special (JPS) Esprits. Lotus' records of production figures are notoriously vague, however best estimates suggest that 149 JPS Esprits were produced.
The S2.2 was produced as a stop-gap model in 1980, almost identical to the S2 but with an enlarged (2.2 L) type 912 engine used. This kept horsepower the same, but bumped up torque from 140 lb·ft (190 N·m) to 160 lb·ft (217 N·m). Importantly, the S2.2 also introduced the use of a galvanised chassis. These cars are extremely rare even among Esprits and only 88 are thought to have been produced.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 2000 cc
- horsepower: 140 HP
- gearbox: 5+1
- top speed: 200 km/h