The Lotus Esprit is an affordable 1980s wedge

03rd November 2019
Andrew Willis

When you think of eighties supercars, the first names out of the hat may well be the Ferrari Testarossa or the Lamborghini Countach. Few would think of the Lotus Esprit, despite its iconic silver-screened links to James Bond within For Your Eyes Only.


At Eighties Sunday Breakfast Club however, we’re lucky enough to find ourselves looking over not one, but three of these lesser-known and increasingly rare British supercars with their low, wedge-like exotic styling. A look which is firmly-cemented in the annuls of 1980s motorsport engineering.

As we take in the finer details of a particularly lovely looking Esprit, its young owner Alex Merrison helps us analyse its vital statistics.

“It’s a 1983 Lotus Esprit high compression model in Calypso Red. This is my second Esprit now. I'm only 24, so a lot of people think I'm mad.”


Shining in the early morning sunshine the Calypso Red really does look resplendent, offset with the black bumpers and bodywork which help to age the car.   

“It's got the black bumpers because they didn't bring out the colour-coded bumpers until 1985. So, it's a very original car. I had a 1982 model last year which unfortunately I had to sell to buy my first house. This one is in much better condition though.”

Alex is clearly pleased as punch to be the owner of such an interesting British car, and despite being aware of how people consider his purchases a little strange, he’s quick and assertive to dispel any opinions of the Esprit being a bit of a dog when it comes to reliability.

“Contrary to a lot of people's opinions, they have both been incredibly reliable for an ‘80s classic. They do have a bad reputation. This one is the 2.2-litre variant which is the slightly bigger engine than the original Esprit that was in James Bond. This is when Lotus made their own engines, so previously they'd just put Lotus twin-cams on Ford engines and things like that.” 

“This engine was a full-build from the Lotus factory. So, it's actually a very reliable and well-balanced engine. And it puts out about 160bhp, which doesn't sound a lot now, but back in the ‘80s that was crazy in a car that weighs around 1,100kgs.”


It’s the low weight too which makes the slender Lotus handle so impeccably, a trait which Alex enjoys exploiting along the winding country roads from Horsham to Goodwood.

“You can take corners in this quicker than in any other car that I've ever owned. I bought a 996 911 and went from that into the Lotus, and it is completely different driving experience! The 911 is very subdued, whereas the Lotus is loud and shouty. You can drive it like crazy everywhere.”


And it’s not just the handling, or the glorious engine noise which attracted Alex to own two Esprits before the age of 25.

“It's the ‘80s supercar look without the ‘80s crazy supercar price. That’s what’s so appealing about them. There are three more here today, but I always say to everyone that you won't see another one on the road when you are driving. It's quite a rare sight to see these days.”

We’re sold. And if you are, Alex is selling this one, so keep an eye out for the listing for an affordable, smile-inducing, British, ‘80s supercar. If it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.

Photography by Joe Harding.

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