Story & pics by Steve Blackie.
Ten years ago my first Lotus Esprit (1981 S3) burnt.
This was just after six weeks of ownership. Most people would have walked away saying “I’m not doing that again”. But, that was not the case for me. In those few short weeks, I had discovered what makes an Esprit one of the world’s best Grand Touring Cars. I had never driven a car that ate up country roads with such ease. And I needed to get another one as soon as possible.
So within 4 weeks of losing my black 1981 Esprit, I was the proud owner of a red 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo with tan leather.
This was one of the 25 Australian delivered Esprit Turbos, which makes it unique, because Australia and the USA were the only places that were getting cars with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection in 1988.
This makes the car engine the same as the HCi cars that were sold in Australia from 1985 to 1987. The main difference being the 1988 was the first of the new Peters Stevens redesign, it is said that every panel of the car including all the glass was changed by only small amounts to soften the look with curves, without the loss of the overall feel of the car’s 1972 design by Giorgetto Giugiaro.
So why did I buy an Esprit?
That big wedge shape was what super cars looked like when I was a boy – Lamborghini, Ferrari and Lotus all made them. They were the cars pinned to boys bedroom walls. Let’s not forget James Bond drove one into the water, up the beach and to the snow.
Also Julia Roberts drove one in Pretty Woman, and Sharon Stone had two in Basic Instinct.
When I drove the Esprit, I had to buy it, then it burnt so I drove another and bought it too. In my view the Esprit was as good as Lamborghini, and Ferrari of its day, just a hell of a lot better value then, and still is even now.
The Esprit was built for 29 years from 1976 to 2004, with 10675 produced or about 300 cars a year on average. The Esprit, in its day was road tested against Ferraris as they were considered its main competition. If you would like to read more about how they stacked up in past and present views, here are some links:
Owning a Lotus Esprit
When you buy 20 plus year-old cars, you are buying cars that have a lot of parts at or close to the end of their life. With a lot of these parts, it makes no difference if the car is driven a lot or not at all, parts like rubber seals, foam rubbers, plastic and electrical components all break down with time and light and copper wires go hard with vibration. When I first started looking for parts for my 20 year old Esprit it was hard work, a lot of the parts had been made obsolete by Lotus, but had yet to be produced by anyone else.
It took me 9 months to find a set of rear discs, I found them in Pennsylvania, and 3 months later everybody I had contacted could get them for me again. This is why in the last 10 years there have been so many low-cost Esprits on the market, about 7 or 8 years ago there was a 1988 for about $20,000 (this was a car that cost over $200,000 new). In the ten years I have owned my Esprit things have changed a lot, and will only keep improving as more cars are being refreshed. Prices of cars being sold are rising again and to almost 3 times that low.
When I bought my 1988, it was an Australian delivered car, this didn’t mean much to me at the time. But, now I know that this means a lot, as the car had never been driven on salted roads in the UK, which in turn means a lots less rust on bolts, fuel tanks, and the chassis. When Lotus introduced the galvanised chassis in 1980 it was only given an 8 year warranty. My car chassis is 22 years out of warranty and still shows no sign of rust. A Zagame Motors Lotus mechanic once told me Australian cars were so much better, as they did not have rusted and seized bolts, thus making them much easier and cheaper to work on. I have even seen a 5 year-old personal imported Elise from UK that had to have struts replaced due to rust from the salted roads.
During my ownership of my Esprit, I have had to learn so much about sourcing of parts from all over the World. This was made a lot easier when I got my hand on a Lotus part books that covered 1980 to 1992 Esprits. When Zagame Motors rebuilt my gearbox, differential and later my engine, I was able to source all the parts that were needed. It is so much easier when you can look up a book and get a part number, though it took me a while to work out that the last letter is no longer used (it was the row number in the warehouse).
With my move from Melbourne to the Gold Coast about 5 years ago, I had more time on my hands, so I started doing more work on the Esprit myself. In Melbourne I had done some work like changing the seatbelts and the radiator. For things like the refreshing of brakes I still used Zagame.
For me, what started out as a bit of an engine misfire, turned into one of the greatest learning periods of my Esprit ownership. First I bought a new full workshop manual, the one that came with the car was missing, also the parts that covered the Australian wiring and K-Jetronic fuel injection. K-Jetronic had been used for years on cars such as Mercedes Benz and Porsche, but now I know that Lotus added to it solenoid switches and modules to control pick-up, warm-up (read pollution control), fuel pumps, over boost, rev limiter and others.
Then I started to refresh the aforementioned things that time kills. Seals and foam rubbers were easiest to do, as most could be bought off the shelf, here in Australia. The electrical components were not so easy.
I refreshed all the hardened section of wires, as well as putting new pins and plugs on it, (you can still buy all the Bosch plugs). I then moved onto modules, some I could buy some and some you could not. The ones I could not buy I rebuilt using frequency switches with solenoid switches. Then I refreshed almost all of the electronic parts of the ‘Lucas High Energy System’ and to my surprise the key to fixing the misfire was the coil.
The end result of all these hours of work is that the car now drives beautifully again, a true Grand Tourer!
By Vyvyan Black
While scanning an old edition of ‘Lotus World’ LCV Member, Guy Stevens, came across a write up of Lotus 1983 in Queensland. Check out the article (full text below), written by Anne Blackwood, who is still connected with Lotus Club Australia. The magazine layouts back then were pretty haphazard and the article was broken up over three different pages.
Meanwhile, this year’s event, Lotus 2019 also in Queensland, will mark the 36th anniversary. Make sure you get along, it should be as much fun as the 1983 version!
Lotus 83 – “Australian Letter”
Anne Blackwood of Club Lotus Australia wrote to us about Lotus 83, a most successful event organised out there for owners of Lotus’ (sic) held earlier this year which, going by Anne’s report, will no doubt be repeated in the future.
Organised by Club Lotus Queensland, members of Club Lotus Australia together with those of Club Lotus New Zealand were invited to attend the 4-day event held on Queensland’s Gold Coast at Surfers Paradise and comprised of social as well as competitive events, enthusiasts coming from New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Anne found quite a surprise waiting after her 500 plus mile Lotus journey to walk into the foyer of the multi-storey hotel complex to find a Lotus Type 31 to greet them. When they drove out of the hotel later in the evening, they were barraged by a call coming from 28 storey’s elevation. The faces may not have been all that clear but the call was certainly familiar and, if nothing else, it signified that other fellow New South Welshmen had arrived safely on the Gold Coast.
“Many tinnies (beer) and a delightful evening later, we retired”, wrote Anne. LOTUS 83 was well on the way and off to a flying start.
Approximately 20 Lotus arrived the next morning at the Surfers Paradise International Raceway for the drive to the hinterland behind the Gold Coast. Many visitors to the Gold Coast forget about the natural scenic beauty of this region or are unaware of it and delightful roads wind in and out of dense rainforest with some of the most spectacular views back to the Coast.
Morning tea and homemade cakes by a cool mountain waterfall followed. Bliss. Back into the cars after this pleasant sojourn and on to Kooralbyn Valley, which is a sporting and holiday complex situated in the rolling green hills of the Gold Coast hinterland. It has its own airstrip (we wanted to hold standing 1/4’s but resisted the temptation) polo fields, village, creeks, ponds, etc.
Once again, the catering was terrific. Here we stopped by a lily pond and were served another great meal. People were starting to know one another better by this stage and different faces were seen behind different steering wheels, passenger seats, etc.
A drive back down to the Coast, more magnificent scenery was passed and we returned to our hotel very satisfied with the day.
Saturday night was left free to do as we pleased and because of the attractions of the Gold Coast there is never any shortage of things to do.
One group I know of, not mentioning any names, headed down to a delightful seafood restaurant for dinner. I don’t really think I could give them a good report but it was certainly another memorable evening.
Sunday dawned hot and sunny. This was the day of the Concours and “Regularity Run”. Then back to the Surfers Paradise International raceway.
More cars appeared that had not been seen over the weekend. These included an Eclat and a just-restored Elan Lightweight. Approximately 21 Lotus lined up for the judging which was won outright by Col Matheson’s Elan Lightweight.
Class winners were: Best Elan: Col Matheson Best Super Seven: Henry Hancock Best Elan +2: Eddie Bryant Best Esprit: Graeme Beedell Best Europa: Glen Battershill
The Concours over, we proceeded with the “Regularity Run”.
Cars were taken out in two groups (to enable both drivers of the same car to have a familiarity run) to follow a pace-car. After one lap the pace-car pulled off the circuit and we were able to continue but were not permitted to overtake in the interests of safety.
On my run, I was second in line behind an Esprit and looked lustfully at it all the way. After a couple of laps I entered the esses at the bottom of the circuit to see the car lurking in some very long grass. Most un-Esprit-like. So there I was out in front, with Margie Simms in hot pursuit in her Elan, with no pace-car in front. Oh, what fun we had!
We lost count of how many laps we did but eventually came into the pits – reluctantly – grinning from ear to ear.
The first run consisted of one car at a time running two flying laps with the object of completing these two laps in as near identical times as possible.
I was beaten resoundingly by my husband but was content that I had more fun.
Class winners were: Class Driver Vehicle Time A: Series Production Tony Galletly Elan +2 97.24 B: Production Sports Peter Simms Elan S1 1/2 DHC 97.20 C: Sports Racing Col Matheson Elan 26R 91.26 D: Ladies Marg. Simms S1 1/2 DHC 114.78 Best Consistency Between Laps (time difference shown) Class Driver Vehicle Time A: Series Production Maurice Blackwood Elan S4 DHC 0.15 B: Production Sports Alistair Rees Elan S4 DHC 0.00 C: Sports Racing Henry Hancock Super Seven 0.29 D: Ladies Marg Simms Elan S1 1/2 DHC 0.90
The second run of the day was four flying laps.
Late Sunday afternoon we saw a fall of rain but by this stage we had completed our event and lunched, once again with great style, on spit-roasted meats accompanied by delicious salads.
Ten minutes drive and we were back at “Equinox” preparing again for more excellent festivities.
This evening was to be our last official “do” of the weekend.
We gathered at the Japanese restaurant attached to our hotel where we once again dined superbly. The food was prepared at tables in groups of eight by showmen-type chefs – much to the delight of all the Lotus loonies.
Following dinner we returned to the Conference Room and the presentation of awards to class winners.
The Sunday evening dinner was the culmination of a great weekend. A weekend that cemented and created new friendships that will be with us for many years to come. Discussions at the various events of the weekend exposed previously owned cars that mysteriously turned up in the oddest of places but they still live on.
Monday dawned clear and sunny as we headed south for the drive home which proved as uneventful as the trip north – except when encountering another Lotus on a winding piece of road! It is a rare sight, particularly in Australia, to be driving in a Lotus and pass another one … or try to pass it … Over the weekend we covered almost 1,500 miles of “virtually” trouble-free motoring.
I cannot commend Club Lotus Queensland highly enough on the excellence of Lotus 83.
On behalf of all who attended… thanks.
P.S. Just mention LOTUS 83 to anyone – if they don’t break out into smiles they weren’t there!
By John White.
Recently I joined the Lotus Club of Queensland.
I have yet to attend a meeting or participate in a Lotus Club event as I do not yet have a suitable vehicle in one piece. However, I recently read in the Club magazine of the “Forgotten Lotus” written by Giles Cooper. In the article, he mentioned his trip across America in his Elise.
In 2012, I was in Denver inspecting and preparing for the transit of two Lotus Europas, one 1969 and the other a 1970 model, that I had purchased off a fellow in Denver. As luck would have it, and by coincidence, even though I was in Denver for only a few days, one of which happened to be the Lotus Club of Denver meeting night.
The vendor from whom I purchased the two Europas was a member of the club, and despite my being pushed for time, was intent on going to the meeting. He rang then Club President, who was pleased to know that there was a representative of the antipodeans in Denver. He asked me if I would give a talk to the meeting telling them of the virtues of Australia. Of course, I accepted.
So, as the preparations for the night progressed we bundled into a van (of sorts as I am not really sure what held the thing together) and headed for central Denver where the Club met at a restaurant with copious car parking provided.
All was well, I was comfortable, quietly rehearsing in my own mind what I was going to say about Australia, hoping that there were no questions about Lotus as my knowledge was limited on all but Europas of the 60s and 70s and of Bill Gates’ exploits of the 60s in his Elans.
We arrived at the restaurant and it was there that, in front of my somewhat bleary eyes that I saw an Elise with Queensland Sunshine State registration plates. Surely this cannot be correct – I am a million miles from anywhere, at a Lotus club meeting in the United States and here is a RHD car from Queensland.
True it was and it was there that my invitation to be a key note speaker at the meeting was quickly quashed and overshadowed by Giles who proceeded to dominate the night with a colourful and wonderfully informative description of his exploits thus far of his travels in the U.S. What an entertaining night it was.
I have not met Giles from that day to this, but his story was wonderful and I still cannot believe the coincidence. Perhaps at a later date there will be a story on the Europas thus far.