1987 LOTUS Esprit Turbo HC

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1987 LOTUS Esprit Turbo HC



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The Esprit went through a number of important model revisions throughout its life, which is hardly surprising given its longevity; first introduced in 1976, it finally snuffed it in 2004, by which time it was a very different car to the one the public had gazed at in wonder 28 years before.

It started life with just 160bhp from its two-litre, mid-mounted engine. Designed by Giugiaro following a meeting in 1971 with Colin Chapman himself, the Esprit took several styling cues from the Maserati Boomerang concept car.

A simple car at heart, it comprises a glassfibre body on a steel backbone chassis. Inboard rear disc brakes add a touch of racing heritage, and its gearbox was shared with the Citroen SM and Maserati Merak. Simple it might have been but it also ended up tipping the scales at under a tonne – and handled as brilliantly as every Lotus should.

Unassisted steering and coilovers at each corner kept things nice and pure, but the genius was, as is almost always the case with Hethel-fettled cars, in the way it was tuned and set-up. It was an absolute delight to drive - but the fine handling and more-than-acceptable ride served to underline just how underpowered it was.

The Series 2, or S2, cars offered tweaked styling and (eventually) a 2.2-litre engine with the same power output but 20lb/ft more torque, which made them usefully, but only marginally, quicker than the early S2 and S1 cars.

The Essex Turbo Esprit, named after the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation rather than the county, was born in 1980. Boasting 210bhp and 200lb/ft of torque underneath blue, red and chrome livery, the Esprit finally went as well as it handled. A top speed of 150mph and a 0-60mph time of just over six seconds added a good 20mph to the top speed and slashed two seconds off the acceleration time.

The S3 and Turbo Esprit arrived in April 1981, but styling aside the new models offered the same power as the S2 until the HC (for high compression) arrived in 1986. The HC cars saw power rise to 170bhp and 160lb/ft of torque for the normally aspirated engine, and to 215bhp and 220lb/ft of torque for the turbocharged version.

The Peter Stevens-designed Esprit arrived in 1987. Now easier to build yet 20% stiffer and much safer than the older cars, the so-called X180 Esprit was faster and more reliable than ever before.

The Julian Thomson-refreshed S4 arrived in 1993, and proved that small changes could bring about a remarkable transformation. The Esprit, by now almost twenty years old, now looked fresh enough to compete with much younger machinery.

Just over 10,000 units were built over the years and because that fiberglass body means they don’t rust a surprising number still exist, a state of affairs helped no doubt by its status as not only a Bond car, but one of the most iconic Bond cars of them all.

The Vehicle

This particular Lotus Esprit Turbo H.C. Limited Edition is recorded as being number 10 of just 21 cars from the production run built to celebrate 21 years of Lotus production at Hethel: any Esprit Turbo H.C. is a very rare car but the 21 Limited Edition models truly are the ‘Holy Grail’ of the model – and if that weren’t enough, it is one of only five ever finished in the iconic two-tone Essex Blue coachwork.

Signed off by the factory in Hethel on the 27th of February 1987, it was then sold new by the Norfolk Motor Company in Norwich to a company in Corby.

Still completely standard, the paintwork is, according to the Certificate of Provenance that has been supplied by Lotus, ‘dark blue metallic (formerly known as Essex Blue)’ with Mediterranean blue metallic on the sides between the body side moulding and side sill, and between the bumpers. The tailgate louvre was also painted the same colour as the body.

Standard equipment included a Clarion headunit and graphic equalizer, air conditioning, a glass sunroof, and matching luggage. It also featured a sterling silver plaque inside the car giving its number in the run of 21, plus unique decals on the exterior, again with the car’s unique number.

Showing just two former keepers on the V5 registration document, the Esprit went to Portugal in around 2004/05, where it spent around 14 years in a private collection. It wasn’t driven in this time, hence its condition and mileage.

It returned to the UK in 2018. Now in the hands of an Esprit enthusiast since April 2019, it had been intended to be his ‘forever car’., hence the extensive recommissioning. (More details to follow.)

However, his plans have since changed which means he’s looking for a new owner who will continue to keep it in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

Being offered with no reserve, it will sell from the very first bid.

On the Outside

While many Esprits of this period are looking a little jaded and tired, this one is in a staggeringly good condition with some of the best paint and panel alignment we’ve ever seen on the model.

Fresh and vibrant, the colour ‘pops’ beautifully and suits the cars lines to perfection; heaven knows why Lotus only sold five in this colour scheme. The car’s paintwork is almost completely free of blemishes bar a tiny scuff on the corner of the nearside front bumper and a paint run on the nearside front wing near the aerial.

The car’s flanks are free of ripples, and even the little stuff like door seals are in great shape. We’d urge you to spend some time examining the photographs to satisfy yourself as to just how good it really is because superlatives simply aren’t enough to describe a car like this.

The smoked glass sunroof opens and closes as it should, and still seals tightly, keeping wind and rain at bay. It also offers a little much-needed extra light into the cabin.

As part of the car’s recommissioning, the stainless steel trims around the windscreen have been replaced, along with the black plastic finishers. This was a serious undertaking, but one the owner was determined to carry out as they tend to deteriorate over the years and so spoil the look of the car.

The headlamps rise and fall as they should, although the presence of a pair of beam deflectors points to the car still wearing its left-hand-drive light units. Still, changing these would be simple and cheap as it is highly unlikely that Lotus went to the expense of tooling its own unique headlights…

The BBS alloy wheels are in fine fettle, being free of scuffs, scrapes and other signs of a misspent youth. The tyres – Goodyear Eagle NCT on the front and Pirelli P600 on the rear – are in good shape and still have plenty of tread.

The exterior badging is present and correct too, including the side-mounted ‘Limited Edition 10’ scripts.

On the Inside

The blue leather and suede interior has stood up to the test of time very well, remaining soft and free of wear and damage. The blue leather and suede steering wheel is very of-the-period and has worn well; aficionados will know that the suede Lotus used in the eighties doesn’t age well, and is usually a bit threadbare and grotty by this time, so to find a car with its original upholstery and trim looking this good is unusual, to say the least.

Speaking of period-correct features, the original Clarion headunit is still in place and is supplemented by a natty little Clarion graphic equalizer; peak-1980s, it looks fabulous – and still works!

The two-tone seats, with their unique blue pigskin leather inserts, look wonderfully of-the-moment too – but they’re still firm and comfortable, and the driver’s seat wears only the very lightest of patinas. And, if you think that’s impressive, just take a look at the passenger seat. It looks like new, bar some very minor cracking to the colour on the right-hand edge.

The dashboard might be a little plain by supercar standards, but it’s in very good shape and the dials are a model of clarity. The simple wooden gearknob is as purposeful to look at as it is comfortable to hold; form-over-function has never been more beautifully executed.

The front ‘boot’, which is incredibly clean, is full of fluid reservoirs plus a spacesaver spare wheel with a good Goodyear Grand Prix S tyre. It is also home to the jack and lovely little factory toolkit that comprises three open-ended spanners, a plug socket and an extension bar and handle, plus a pair of pliers, and flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers.

Oh, and it still has the unique two-tone briefcase and three-piece wheeled luggage (complete with Concorde luggage tag, natch), which is finished in the same materials as the rest of the interior. These are lovely items and, because they are unique to the 21 Limited Edition cars, very, very rare.

The Esprit also still has the front and rear window stickers and tax disc holder from The Norfolk Motor Company of Norwich, the original supplying dealer. That these, along with the luggage, have survived with the car since 1987 is a small but important insight into how well it has been conserved over the past 33 years.

Work to do is limited to (possibly) re-colouring some of the small cracks in the seats. We’re torn on the need to do this: on the one hand doing it would be a cheap and easy way to bring the interior to nigh-on factory fresh condition, but on the other a car is only original once…

And if we are being really picky then the twin control stalks on the steering column have faded a little over the years and are now grey rather than black. That we have sunk so low to find something negative to mention should tell you all you need to know about the condition of the interior.


The freshly powdercoated rocker covers and turbo pipe look fantastic, and set the (very clean) engine off a treat. The mechanical recommissioning was extensive and included refurbishing the carburettors, fitting a new camshaft belt and tensioner bearing, and a new speedometer cable plus a full service including all the filters.

The engine and gearbox were also removed, along with the car’s brake calipers. All were stripped down, refurbished as necessary, and then refitted to the Esprit (see photos in the Gallery).

The car then had a full stainless steel exhaust system fitted, including the exhaust manifold, something enthusiasts will recognise as being one of the Esprit Turbo’s few weaknesses.

The fuel tanks were replaced with stainless steel items, and all the parts were supplied by SJ Sportscars, the Lotus Heritage dealer.

The freshly powdercoated rocker covers, inlet manifold and plenum, and turbocharger pipe were refitted, all with new gaskets etc as necessary. The suspension dampers look to be recent, too. The owner estimates he has spent in excess of £10,000 in all but he, like us, clearly thinks that a car of this quality deserves nothing but the best.

As a result, it drives like a dream and feels so much tighter and sharper than any 33-year-old Lotus Esprit has a right to. It starts on the button, ticks over and revs cleanly, and drives, handles and stops virtually as well now as it did when it was new.

Please see the video for footage of it starting and running, and the invoices for further details of the work that was carried out on it.

History Highlights

The Esprit’s MOT certificate expires in October 2020, and was gained without a single advisory point.

The service book contains 8 stamps from 1987 to 1994 (see new Gallery photos). The car also comes with a large number of expired MOT certificates and tax discs, plus a sheaf of invoices and bills to confirm the work that has been done to it over the years. 

It also comes with the original dealer folder, the owner’s handbook, the original service history booklet, and a schematic of the electrical system.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been maintained to the very highest standard.

NB. We know that you will be limiting your social exposure over the coming days and weeks, so please give us a call and we can shoot a personal video of the car honing in on any areas you’d like us to concentrate on. Or, even better, contact us with your mobile number and we can set up a WhatsApp video call, where you can direct us in real-time.

What We Think

One of the best, if not the best, examples of its type, this freshly recommissioned Lotus Esprit Turbo H.C. Limited Edition is in need of absolutely nothing.

Ideal for gentle use or as the centrepiece of a classic car collection, we think it will sell for somewhere between £40,000 and £50,000, at which price point it offers a unique opportunity for the discerning enthusiast to buy a genuine reference-quality, museum-grade example of one of the most desirable Esprits of them all. It is quite an honour for us to be offering this car.

Yes, there are cheaper Lotus Esprits out there but we’re willing to bet that none are in as good a condition as this; and remember, when the market falters, it reverts to what it knows - and what time has shown is that the very best cars will always find a willing home, even in uncertain times such as these.

This particular car is also being offered with no reserve and is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and AnyVan for transporting it.

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Abingdon
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 54600
  • Chassis Number: SCC082910HHD12436
  • Engine: 2200
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Colour: Essex Blue
  • Interior: Blue Leather

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