A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LOTUS ESPRITDate: 2019-06-07
The Lotus Esprit is an icon of British motoring and with a production lifetime of nearly 30 years. Now it's time for you to brush up on your history.
When someone says Lotus Esprit, those of us old enough will likely think of James Bond and his underwater car. Such was the futuristic appearance of the car, it made it into two Bond films but, besides its acting career, the Esprit has a colourful history too.
Lotus was founded by Colin Chapman in the late 1950s who introduced the Lotus 7 to the world, a car that is still sold today as the Caterham 7. Decades later, and wanting to move away from their kit-car image and into sportscar territory, Chapman met with car designer extraordinaire, Giorgetto Giugiaro, in 1971 and the Esprit concept was born.
In 1975, the Esprit was launched at the Paris Motor Show and received praise from the press and public for it's wedge-shaped 'folded paper' design. The fibreglass body sat atop a steel backbone chassis, was powered by a 1973cc four-cylinder engine that produced 160hp that sat behind the cockpit, and had a Citroën 5-speed manual sending power to the rear wheels.
Although regarded as underpowered by most, it was lauded for its handling thanks to its minimal weight. It would evolve over the years, receiving a turbocharged 2.2l in 1981 and a complete redesign in 1987 and again in 1993 and 2002. By 1996, four generations later, Lotus shoved a fat V8 into the engine bay which saw it through to the end of its 28-year production run in 2004.
In its lifetime, the Lotus Esprit dominated racing circuits around the world, winning the 24 Hours Of Le Mans and multiple supercar and GT championships. It's a car of legends and deserving of its status as one of Britain's best creations.