∙Numbers matching - chassis, transmission and engine
∙Built by TV show, Salvage Hunters: Classic Cars
∙Effectively now a brand new car again
When you think of Lotus, you think of the Esprit. It is a model that grew in popularity over the years to such a point that the name Esprit was more widely known than Lotus. There is of course the James Bond effect, which served as jet fuel in terms of propelling the name out there. But suave spies aside, the Esprit was a brave, bold machine that took Lotus into the future. It was a sharp, focused machine that offered a drive like nothing else. Some even said the only way you could find something better would be to drive a race car.
It’s perhaps somewhat unimaginable then, that the Esprit very nearly never happened. Colin Chapman, unimpressed by the wind tunnel performance of the ¼ scale model produced by Italdesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro, actually halted the project. But in true Italian fashion, they ignored this and built a full scale one anyway. And then they put it on the Italdesign stand at the 1972 Turin Motor Show and, well, the instant demand swayed Chapman to change his mind. Good job, too.
First registered on the 1st of September 1977, this stunning Lotus Esprit was already an interesting car. Finished in Colorado Orange, it was only one of fifteen right-hand drive versions painted this way. Furthermore, the car was specified with no optional radio, meaning no unsightly aerial. Of course, it sat on the staggered, polished Wolfrace slot-mag wheels cast specifically for this car, and the interior was the stunning orange with green and red tartan. It was, nor indeed is, a car for the shy and retiring type.
Over the years the car covered some miles, it changed hands a few times and eventually it found itself with Matthew Oxley. Well known in Lotus circles for his knowledge, passion and ability, he set about breathing life into what was at that point a car in need of some love. However, after refurbishing the suspension and engine he opted to pass the car on. In fact, we even wrote a Project Profile piece about it!
Essentially being offered as a big kit of parts, it was bought by Drew Pritchard and Paul Cowland to be restored as part of the hit TV show, Salvage Hunters: Classic Cars. They took the car on, and with their expert team and dedicated workshop, they subjected the Lotus to a mammoth restoration resulting in the car you see here. At the workshop each car is subject to enviable levels of care and attention. There is no TV magic nor 'make it look good on camera' corner cutting. This is a proper, full scale workshop with a team of experts on hand. The interior is new, the engine is fresh, the tyres, brakes, suspension and other mechanicals are mint. The body has been repainted in the original colour and, well, the final result is nothing short of magnificent. It truly is one of, if not the best Lotus Esprits on the market at this moment in time.
There isn’t a great deal of paperwork with the car, largely due to the fact it has all been done in house at the show's bespoke facility. There are some old invoices for parts bought many moons ago, but given everything has since been replaced, such paperwork is moot.
Back to the paperwork, there is an MOT certificate valid until the 7th of July 2022. There is a reprinted owner’s handbook and wiring diagram. There is a V5 present, of course.
Let’s not be subtle here, the interior is incredible. And while it may well have been created in the image of what was there originally, it is of a much, much higher quality than anything to come out of Norfolk in ‘76. The entire cabin has been retrimmed by Steve Fulcher of Fulcher Coachtrimmers and he has spared no effort in the pursuit of perfection. The seats are as new, trimmed in green with red and green tartan within the squabs and on the head rests. The door cards are new, and have benefitted from the same treatment. Everything fits with exquisite perfection. Nothing is adrift or awry.
The dash, including the green Veglia gauges, is immaculate and in perfect condition. The amusingly large switches all function, they show zero sign of wear and even the lettering is still bright and clear. The steering wheel is mint, too. Then there is the binnacle surround, which the team has gone to great length to ensure was painted in the correct Nextel grey as per the original. As such, it looks - quite literally - as good as new.
Finally, we have the carpets. Again, they are all brand new and have been custom made for this car. They are a wildly uncompromising orange in hue, and work perfectly with the rest of the interior. No wear can be observed. In fact, the whole cabin even smells new. It’s quite remarkable.
Colin Chapman’s mantra was to ‘add lightness’ and it’s evident when you look at the clean cut lines of this Esprit. There is nothing superfluous to be observed. And in the case of this car in particular, there is also nothing negative to observe. This car, in its restored guise, has covered only a handful of miles. It hasn’t been given the opportunity to gather any wear and tear. It’s fresh.
The body, which was in excellent condition to begin with, has been refined and painted by SMS Autospray, who specialise in fibreglass work. The finish on the paint is truly - and this isn’t a word we throw about - flawless. It’s as close to a new ‘76 car as you’re ever going to get.
The door handles are new old stock (despite their BL origins, they were surprisingly hard to find). The door hinges have been fitted with new, modern inserts to replace the aging old plastic factory offering. The rubbers are all new, the glass is all original and still has the registration etched in. The staggered Wolfrace alloys have been polished to a high shine and show no damage or wear. The tyres are new, too.
The all-important pop-up lights - the early single motor on this car - work with a pleasing urgency. Around the back, the rear light clusters are mint, and again have the car’s registration etched into them. The bumpers are a rich, deep black and have no damage, nor do the indicators and marker lights fitted within them.
The important Esprit decals are present and correct, as is all the Lotus badging including the plaque that reminds onlookers of Lotus’ many motorsport victories. The same goes for the emblems on the sides, which state the car was “styled by Giugiaro”. If that’s not enough faithful restoration for you, the number plates are new reproductions of the old style construction. Even the wiper blade is the correct drilled item - added lightless, remember. It’s just stunning.
The important thing you’ll be champing at the bit to know about is the chassis. Happily, we could get the car on a ramp to have a better look, and we weren’t disappointed. It’s a vision of rust free, shiny gloss black goodness. In fact, we’re told it’s never been welded. This is great news. More great news comes in the form of all new bushes, new suspension, new brakes and new lines from front to back. Honestly, it’s a ‘new’ car in many respects. In fact, it probably wasn’t this good when it was new.
Then we have the 1,973cc four-cylinder engine. As we touched on earlier, this was completely rebuilt by Matthew Oxley. The same can be said of the transmission. Both of these important components are the original, matching numbers items fitted at the factory. And as such, Matthew rebuilt both to original specifications. Once fitted back into the car, all the lines were replaced for new, all new fittings were used too. The engine and transmission are still within their 500 mile ‘running in’ period.
The Esprit recently passed an MOT with, as you would expect, no advisories. It is in outstanding mechanical condition, and while we run the risk of sounding like a broken record, the fact is this Esprit is pretty much a new car. No nut nor a single bolt has been left unturned in the name of perfection.
Do we need to sell you on this car? We don’t think so. This is your chance to get one of the finest examples of the Lotus Esprit S1 to ever hit the open market. The amount of work, time, effort, care, passion and of course, money that has gone into this restoration is staggering. It’s a work of art, frankly. One that is not likely to be for sale again any time soon.
This is an early car, it’s in completely original specification, it has been rebuilt to a standard far greater than when it was first assembled in 1976 and it’s covered but a handful of miles since the restoration was completed. There is no other Esprit in this specification, in this condition, with such a rich and interesting history available for sale. This is it.
But if you still need us to sweeten the deal, how about this? The producers of Salvage Hunters: Classic Cars have told us that, should they be willing, the winning bidder will have the opportunity to be on television with Drew and Paul for the handover of the car. You could own a motoring legend, and get your face on the box - now that’s what you call a deal! If you haven't seen the show, you can see all the previous episodes on the Discovery+ app/streaming service.
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1976 Lotus Esprit Series 1
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