JALOPNIK: At $23,500, Is This 1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo ‘The One’ to Buy?

August 7th, 2018 by

Nice Price or Crack Pipe?

Photo: Craigslist

Is this used car a good deal? You decide!

While there may not be such a thing as a cheap exotic, today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe  Esprit is still pretty cheap and hella exotic. Let’s see if its price means it’s also a good deal.

Some people say that we should regulate Sawzalls, that there are too many Sawzall-related incidents in society to continue to allow their unfettered access. The NRSA (National Reciprocating Saw Association) naturally opposes any such measure, saying that the fallout is a small price to pay for our god-given right to hack shit up.

What is an example of such mischief? Well, how about yesterday’s 1991 Toyota Camry? It had been converted into a pickup truck with equal amounts of success and failure, and you just know that some sort of power tool or plasma cutter was involved in its conversion. Now that its builder is seeking to set it free upon the world, we’re here to possibly prevent that from happening.

How you might ask? Well, by addressing that custom Camry’s $2,900 price of course. That reflected the narrow audience to which the car might appeal, and turned to be egregiously to high for us. The end was a 58-percent Crack Pipe vote and a lot of comments demanding that something be done about all these OPPs (Other People’s Projects.) Remember though, Sawzalls don’t mess up cars, people mess up cars.

Okay, so that Camry was a bit of a home built, based on a production car but with a lot of bespoke bits and design work. Now that I think about it, that’s kind of how Lotus Cars has operated for most of its storied existence.

Colin Chapman, Lotus Cars founder, was probably best known for his long-serving mustache. Secondary to that was a series of racing cars and a tenuous business selling road cars to finance the racing endeavors. But mostly he was known for that mustache. I think.

The Esprit is, to date, Lotus’ longest running model, serving in various forms from 1976 through 2004. The design goes back even further as Lotus contracted with Giorgetto Giugiaro to pen the car back in 1971, and it was shown in prototype form at the 1972 Salone dell’Automobile di Torino.

The car was based on a steel backbone frame adapted from a similar design for its pappy, the Europa. That frame looks like a reclining capital Y, with the engine sitting in the V and the front suspension attached to the foot at the other end. Atop that was saddled a fiberglass body that was built in two halves and them clamshelled together top and bottom. Power for the original car came from Lotus’ DOHC 907 four. That 1973-cc mill cranked out 144 horsepower in U.S. guise (160 in Europe) and worked its magic through a five-speed transaxle sourced from Citroën.

The Esprit would evolve through multiple generations over the course of its life, adding turbocharging to the four cylinder engine, a later V8 replacing that, and eventually a turbocharged version of the V8 as the crescendo of its final act. According to the seller, this 1989 Esprit Turbo is however, the one you want.

This represents the X180 model, with styling massaged and updated by Lotus designer, Peter Stevens. Beneath that lies a pretty extensive re-engineering that included more space for the interior, and a stiffer body made possible by a new production method and source material.

Why is this the one to get? Well, the fly yellow over beige leather car looks to be in fine shape. That’s one reason. Beneath all that are a number of updates and refreshments, including new aluminum fuel tanks and the timing belt and water pump. The seller says he has owned the car for just over a year and claims it to be, in his words ‘remarkably trouble free and easy to maintain.’

It comes with a refreshed interior in two-tone beige leather but still looking as kit-car-ish as any Esprit might. Also, these cars are a bear to get into and out of if you’re anything larger than a professional jockey so keep that in mind. Two tops (plastic and glass) come with the car.

The odo stopped under the previous owner’s watch, but the seller says he’s had it repaired and tried to get the reading to be as accurate as possible. That’s 29,000 miles now and if you’re a little freaked out by something as simple as an odometer breaking with less than 30k on the clock, well, welcome to the wonderful world of Lotus!

There’s a Nardi wheel in the cabin, but the factory tiller comes along with the car if the Italian unit isn’t your bag. The A/C does not work and on a car like this that’s a royal pain in the ass to track down and fix. Maybe just learn to enjoy sweating.

The engine is a 215 horsepower edition of the aforementioned 907 now denoted 910 and sports Bosch fuel injection. This one appears to have an aftermarket POV on the intake plenum. The engine looks otherwise stock, at least at a cursory glance.

As noted, the seller says this is the Esprit to buy and claims that ‘these cars are only going to go up in value.’ That may be the case, but right now they are the bargain basement dwellers of the exotic car fraternity, owing mostly to their somewhat mundane cylinder count.

Yes, these will no doubt start tracking skyward eventually. We however, are all about the here and now, and that’s why I want your vote on this car’s current $23,500 price.

That’s a lot of beans for an X180 and you can find cheaper options out there. Based on the car’s description however, do you think that for $23,500, this might actually be the one to buy?

You decide!

Article By: Rob Emslie

Read more at Jalopnik.com/nicepriceorcrackpipe

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