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by Jay Traugott
One of the most iconic sports cars of all time is also available at a bargain price.
There are some cars that become instant legends the moment they're revealed. The Lotus Esprit is one of them. The British sports car company has certainly had its share of ups and downs over the years, but they're still very much alive today with the latest announcement that Proton won't be selling the brand anytime soon. With production resuming at the Hethel plant, development also continues on the upcoming all-new Esprit. Set to now debut sometime in 2014, the Esprit will once again be the company's flagship.
For a long time, from 1976 until 2004 to be exact, the Esprit was considered to be one of the world's most beloved exotics. First launched at the Paris Auto Show in 1975 and styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Esprit was originally powered by a 2.0 four-cylinder engine with 160hp and mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Built on a steel backbone chassis with a body constructed from fiberglass, the Esprit weighed less than 2,200 lbs. Like previous Lotus models, the first generation Esprit was hailed for its handling and wonderful steering. The only thing missing was more power.
Lotus claimed it could go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and had a top speed of 138 mph, though many automotive publications at the time tested it and came back with weaker numbers. This was also the same Esprit generation that appeared as a car/submarine in the 1977 James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me". 1978 saw the introduction of the second generation Esprit, called the S2. There were some exterior changes that included air intake and cooling ducts behind the rear windows and a newly integrated front spoiler. Most importantly, however, this was the beginning of special edition models that commemorated Lotus track victories.
The first turbo Esprit premiered in 1980 and featured a new turbocharged engine with 210hp, which took it to 60 mph in a more respectable 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph. The third generation debuted in 1981 with a 2.2-liter engine. Lotus continued to refine the car throughout this time and by 1986, the final Giugiaro-penned Esprit came out along with a further power boost. The fourth and fifth generations were visibly different than the previous ones due to their rounder, less wedge-like styling. While the S4's engine options remained the same, the biggest breakthrough was with the body's construction method.
Kevlar reinforcement was also used on the roof and body sides. The S5 launched in 1993 and not only did it receive further exterior styling updates, but it was the first time the Esprit came with power steering. Power upgrades continued throughout the decade and into the next. Production finally ceased altogether for the Esprit in Hethel in February 2004. This 1977 Esprit S1 is not only all original, but it's also in great condition. The exterior is painted in what's described as 'Lemon' and the interior is in Lotus Green and a Tartan pattern covers the seats and trim.
With just 27,000 miles on the odometer, the current bid on eBay Motors was just $15,100 at the time of this writing. However the reserve hadn't been met yet, but we'd be surprised to see it anywhere above $20k. While we have to wait just a bit longer for the new Esprit to debut, owning this original S1 generation would certainly be quite something. Photos courtesy of tmc5158.