Lotus Esprit History Part One

Lotus Esprit –The Highlights of a Legendary Supercar

1972 Esprit Concept car unveiled

Lotus Esprit Concept
The November Turin Motorshow in Italy saw the unveiling of the Lotus Esprit concept car on Giorgio Giugiario’s Ital Design stand. Colin Chapman had seen the potential for a future mid-engined Lotus to replace the ageing Europa, and brought the car back to Hethel after the show to start the development process. Mike Kimberley and Tony Rudd led the M70 project, and the prototype work for the project took place at the recently purchased Ketteringham Hall.

1973/1974 Prototype vehicle development

These years saw the continued development of the Esprit with the first prototype vehicle running late in 1974.

1975 Paris Motor Show “Star of the Show”

With the development of the M70 Lotus Esprit Type 79 nearing the end, the first completed car was shown at the Paris Motor Show in October and was instantly awarded “Star of the Show”.

1976 Esprit starts production

Lotus Esprit S1
In June 1976, the first Esprit came of the production line. The Giugiaro styled wedge shape exterior was the latest in modern design and philosophy. The great looks with stunning performance from the 160bhp 2 litre engine; its light weight together with the legendary Lotus ride and handling, projected the Esprit to Supercar status.

1977 “The Spy Who Loved Me”

Lotus EspritThe Spy Who Loved Me
In this year Lotus Cars and in particular the Esprit gained tremendous publicity with the release of the new James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, with 007 emerging from the sea driving a submersible Esprit, arguably ‘one of the most famous car scenes of all time.’ In December the production of the S1 finished with 718 having been built

1978 S2 Esprit launched

Lotus Esprit S2
The early part of the year saw the start of the production of the Esprit S2. The development of the S2 had ironed out many of the problems associated with the S1 such as poor interior noise. Many detailed improvements including a new front splitter, rear valance, new rear suspension and a new camshaft offered improved performance raising the top speed.

1979 Celebrating Formula 1 success

To commemorate the 1978 Formula 1 World Drivers and Constructors Championships and the success of the F1 Type 79 100 Special Edition black and gold liveried Esprits were produced, each numbered sequentially.

1980 New Turbo Esprit

Lotus Esprit Turbo Essex
The start of the year saw the S2 fitted with the new type 912 2.2 litre engine. Then, to every body’s surprise, a lavish party was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London during February to launch the new Turbo Esprit (Type 82). The first 100 were painted in the Essex Petroleum (the F1 sponsors at the time) colour scheme of Red, Blue and Silver. The Turbo Esprit was not a bolt-on turbo pack but was fitted with the new long stroke 910-turbo engine producing 210bhp. The Turbo Esprit came with a new wrap around front bumper and new splitter, new rear spoiler and side skirts, and an improved backbone chassis featuring a redesigned engine bay.

1981 The Lotus Esprit S3 announced

The Lotus Esprit S3 (Type 85) was announced to stand along side the Turbo Esprit. The S3 became an affordable Supercar, with a cost reduction of around 12% from the S2.2. The S3 had 76% of its components produced at the Hethel factory and carried over the efficient and effective S2.2 engine.

Once again the Esprit is the chosen car of 007 in the new James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Bond took centre stage driving a fully equipped Turbo Esprit (see picture “Bond 1981”)

1982 / 1983 Active Suspension for the Esprit

Lotus develops Active Suspension for the Esprit with ex F1 driver John Miles taking the wheel of the test car. This development was to pioneer the development of the 1987 Lotus active suspension Formula 1 car.

1984 –1986 Federalisation of the Turbo Esprit

S3 and Turbo production continues. With federalisation of the Turbo Esprit complete, 1427 Esprits were sold in these 3 years around the world.

1987 Introduction of the first Peter Stevens designed Esprit

Lotus Esprit Turbo
This year marked the 21st Anniversary of Lotus at Hethel. This was celebrated by the introduction of the limited edition Turbo Esprit HC. The 16 valve 2.2litre engine was uprated to High Compression (HC) giving 215bhp and a top speed of 152mph. October saw the introduction of the first Peter Stevens designed Esprit. Stevens was able to re-draft the basic shape of the Esprit to such an extent that the Esprit was given a new lease of life.

1988 Lotus 40th anniversary

Lotus celebrated it’s 40th anniversary and a limited edition of 40 Esprit Turbos (as they were now known) were produced. The 40 cars were all painted in White Pearlescent paint with matching wheels, distinctive rear spoiler and blue interior.

1989 163 mph Esprit Turbo SE fitted Lotus announced their fastest ever production car. May 1989 saw the introduction of the Esprit Turbo SE fitted with the 2.2 litre 16 valve engine developing 264bhp, giving performance 0-60 mph in 4.7seconds and a top speed of 163 mph.
continues... | Part Two
Published 22 October 2002 Melanie Carter

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