1986 LOTUS Esprit Turbo

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1986 LOTUS Esprit Turbo


I’d love to say that Ursula Andress emerging goddess like from the Caribbean sea, dripping wet in a white bikini is my over-riding early memory of James Bond films, but it’s actually a white car. We didn’t get to the cinema much when I was a kid (we made our own entertainment in those days) but for my 12th birthday treat my dad took me to see The Spy Who Loved Me where I fell in love with both Bond girl Barbara Bach, and the Lotus Esprit.  Then the Turbo Esprit like this, was featured in "For Your Eyes Only" in 1981.

It’s dramatic chiselled wedge profile is still striking today, but in late 70s depression ravaged Britain it was a revelation. I remember thinking it must have been built specially for the movie, but of course it had actually been released by Lotus a year earlier, as a replacement for the Europa. The usual Lotus construction method of a steel backbone chassis with glassfibre bodywork was retained from the previous model – but that was about all that was, which was entirely intentional.

Lotus boss Colin Chapman knew that producing low volume kit cars was a tenuous existence, as the likes of TVR, Marcos and AC proved by lurching from one financial crisis to another. Always a man with unlimited aspirations, Chapman wanted to launch Lotus into the luxury performance car market and compete with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. It was a heady dream, and one that few thought realistic, but that wasn’t going to stop him trying.

The enigmatic Lotus boss knew the company would need to produce something a little more exciting than the Europa’s Renault engine, and that the 1600cc Ford Kent based Lotus Twin Cam wasn’t up to the job of providing the kind of performance he needed from the new car. A 2-litre, double overhead, cam 4-valve per cylinder slant four was in development by Lotus (Chapman envisaged it being the basis of a future 4-litre V8), but with the cylinder head finalised they still had no block designed to fit it to.

GM’s Vauxhall had, however, launched a 1973cc slant four a few years earlier, with an 8-valve iron head. The bore spacings matched the new Lotus head, so the Norfolk firm bought 10 blocks and four engines, and development of the 907 engine began in earnest. The new powerplant was production ready in 1970 and Chapman did a deal with Jensen to sell it 15,000 907s for the new Jensen Healey sports car, the money from which he ploughed back into the development of the Esprit.

With only 160bhp the new Lotus looked, on paper at least, as though it would struggle against German and Italian competition, but with a kerb weight of under 1000kg its power-to-weight ratio gave it a fighting chance, and although most road testers struggled to replicate the factory’s claimed figures of 0-60 in 8secs and 133mph top speed, its superb handling was universally lauded – and it was oh so beautiful.

The S1 Esprit was made for two years before Lotus addressed a lot of the car’s shortcomings by improving the seating and interior trim, upgrading the instruments and switchgear and fitting a new wraparound front spoiler and custom built alloy wheels, which raised the car’s luxury image considerably. In 1978 Lotus won the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship and celebrated by releasing a limited edition Esprit trimmed in their sponsor’s JPS livery.

However, the supercar buying public wanted more power. A stop gap 2.2-litre (912) engine powered just 88 cars before Chapman revealed his masterstroke, the 910 turbo engine. Blowing through twin Dell’Orto side draught carbs, the engine now made 210bhp and 200lb-ft, lifting the Esprit’s performance firmly into supercar territory, with a 150mph top speed and the sprint to 60mph now down to a shade over six seconds.

Finally, after a 28 year production run and 10,675 versions of Giugiaro’s iconic wedge, in all its forms, the Esprit was retired, having brilliantly fulfilled its brief of establishing Lotus as a manufacturer of high performance supercar alternatives to Ferraris or Porsches. The agile English company’s next move would take it into a different market sector altogether, but for us the Esprit years remain the most exciting of them all. We like to think 007 would agree.

The Vehicle

This is a very rare and collectable 1986 Turbo Esprit in its original JPS colour scheme, complimented by a tanned leather interior, and is one of the last four built in 1985 in this combination of colours. It has seven previous owners and displays a mileage of 82,000.

The high original specification includes:

Glass sunroof (detachable)

Turbo Gauge

Air Conditioning

BBS Wheels

Original Blaupunkt radio cassette

The current owner says, ‘I acquired this UK supplied Lotus Turbo Esprit in July 2016 to add to my car collection. The car can be traced to Holland and later to Belgium where the previous owner bought it. The car comes with a substantial history file going back to when it was first registered.

‘Since I took ownership, it has been through a thorough restoration, (all invoices to support this come with the car) which included the removal of the engine and gearbox which were split in order to carry out the following by Geoff Downhill of Esprit Engineering.

Full engine and gearbox inspection

Clutch refurbishment.

Gearbox retaining clip replaced

Crank spigot bearing in the crank replaced

Stop spacer for the bearing recess in the crank

Cambelt replacement

Replaced cambelt tensioner bearing

Replaced cam seals

Replaced cam cover gaskets

Oil leak on the top end repaired

Engine and gearbox shot blasted

Engine bay cleaned up and treated

Replaced the alternator

Exhaust manifold gasket replaced

Replaced heat shield for nearside engine mounting

Replaced heat shield for oil cooler 

Replaced heat shield for nearside radius arm

Replaced V belt for water pump

Replaced alternator belt

Fitted reconditioned clutch cover

Fitted reconditioned friction plate

Replaced clutch slave cylinder

Replaced all fluids

Repaired gearbox/stick linkage

Replaced window lift switch

Engine fully tuned

‘Other works I have commissioned are:

New stainless-steel exhaust

Speedo repair

Re-charged Air conditioning

Replaced electric areal

Adjust headlight pods

Replaced gas struts

Repaired electric window mechanisms

Replace some ball joints

Replaced rod ends

Majority of the cabin upholstery replaced

New leather headlining fitted

Fitted leather sun visors

New carpets in cabin and rear boot fitted

Dipped, fully stripped, then complete wheel refurbishment all round

Front and rear paint work to bring the car to a high standard together with a deep polish for the rest of the car.’

On the Outside

With fresh paint at either end and a polished centre section this iconic Lotus looks absolutely gorgeous in its John Player Special colour scheme. There are some rubbing marks inside the door shuts, some light marks on the tailgate, sills and door bottoms and very slight stone chipping at the very tip of the nose, but otherwise the paintwork is in fine shape.

The remains of an old radio ariel on the nearside front wing detract somewhat from the car’s stunning lines.

Under the engine lid the crackle black finish on the intake tract and cam covers has obviously been recently reapplied as it looks excellent. The BBS wheels, having been completely refurbished are immaculate.

On the Inside

The interior is in largely beautiful condition thanks to the large amount of reupholstering that was recently completed – the seats and door areas look like new.

The original radio cassette player still sits in the dash and save for a small hole in the trim on the transmission tunnel and some key marks near the ignition switch, we couldn’t find any faults.


There is surface corrosion on some of the steel bodywork and suspension parts whose paint has failed, but nothing untoward. The stainless steel exhaust silencer looks recent.

History Highlights

This Esprit comes with a Lotus Certificate of Provenance, a large amount of old Belgian and Dutch official paperwork, the original owner’s handbook with service history up to 48,000 miles, two sets of keys, and a wealth of old bills and receipts, highlights of which include:

December 1990. New heated rear screen – £155.

January 1991. New locks – £25.

June 1991. Braided Teflon Flexies – £32.

August 1992. Rolling road tuning – £66.

November 1992. Various new parts – £952.

June 1991. New timing belt, cam cover gasket and wheel bearing – £383.

July 1991. Service pars – £233.

July 1991. Reconditioned turbo wastegate – £390.

December 1991. Various parts – £2700.

January 1992. Air conditioning service work – £57.

January 1992. Rolling road tuning – £77.

August 2008. Major service €862.

November 2008. New dampers – £343.

June 2009. New fuel pump – €305.

November 2009. Oil change €196.

September 2010. Clutch master cylinder – £140.

October 2011. Servicing and brake pads – €232.

August 2014. New engine mounts – £143.

September 2014. Interior cleaning and refurbishment – £1000.

August 2017. New exhaust manifold and major service – £3752.

August 2017. Engine and gearbox overhaul – £5755.

August 2019. Reupholster interior – £1920.

October 2019. New alternator – £868.

November 2020. Wheel refurbishment – £626.

May 2020. Custom made car cover – £345.

New Turbo wastegate – £563.

October 2020. New clutch fluid – £147.

December 2020. New electric ariel fitted – £429.

What We Think

A very presentable Turbo Esprit in the iconic JPS livery and fine mechanical fettle. Few come to market and interest from Lotus enthusiasts will be very high, as some in the know, claim this was the best Lotus of all time! 

Our estimate for this car is £30,000 - £40,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this car is located at our headquarters near Abingdon; we are open weekdays between 9am-5pm, so to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. 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 suppliers we work with regularly including finance and storage companies, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

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.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

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, return policy 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: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 82050
  • Chassis Number: SCC082910FHD12163
  • Engine: 2.2L
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: RHD
  • Color: Black
  • Interior: Sand Leather
  • Estimated Price: £30,000 - £40,000

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