ADS ON TEST: 1991 LOTUS ESPRIT SE

This tidy Lotus is ready to go – once the overly racy brakes have been attended to, as Charlie Calderwood explains

Lotus 1991

by Classic Car |

Price £29,950

With first-rate bodywork, a strong engine and an interior free of electrical gremlins, this Esprit surely has all the traditional Lotus foibles sorted. It really is ready to go and its desirable colour and relatively low (49,274) mileage should make it easy to sell on again.

The bodywork is in great order though there are one or two small marks around the exterior including a few scuffs on the offside sill and some slightly rough paint on the offside headlamp cover. Perfectionists may want to replace the window trim and seals in a few places too. There’s some cracked non-structural plastic on the offside B-pillar and the nearside rear window seal looks past its best. We are nit-picking here though – the main fibreglass bodywork and paint is really very good and a look under the car shows nothing concerning. The wheels are also in very good order and wear decent-condition Kumhos all around.

Steering wheel

The interior is all-original and looks exactly as you’d expect a 49,000-mile interior to – good, but with evidence of use. The leather on the central armrest, handbrake gaiter, driver’s footwell and driver’s seat outer bolster show some wear but all are perfectly presentable and the dashboard wood is excellent. Some of interior window seals need replacing or at the very least re-positioning because they have dropped down the glass in places. All of the electrical equipment, including the air conditioning, works well and the functioning original Clarion stereo is connected to a CD changer in the boot.

It’s hard to see all of the Esprit’s engine but we could find no leaks from the top half of the engine that is visible through the access hatch. All of the coolant pipes and electrical wires appear to be in good condition though some components – and the two reservoirs on the offside of the engine bay in particular – are showing surface rust. The alternator looks new however and the finish on the inlet components’ red crackle paint is good.

The slant-four engine starts easily and idles perfectly, suggesting that the Delco fuel injection system is in healthy order. The clutch is a tad heavy and the footwell narrow but this isn’t a hard car to drive, offering sensible power at low revs and horizon-grabbing performance when you let the turbo sing at the higher end of the rev range. The track-specification Green Stuff brake pads deliver much reduced stopping power when cold however, so anyone planning to use the car primarily on the road should probably replace them. The suspension and steering perform exactly as they should and the car keeps its cool in hot weather.

The large history folder details all of the work and servicing the car has received from new with recent items of note including a Larini exhaust system.

A fundamentally sound car at a sensible price, this Esprit is in exactly the right condition – used but not abused. This is one of four cars for sale tested in the latest issue, part of 16 pages of buying tips and advice, including Quentin Willson’s Hot Tips, Ads on Test and Buying Guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars.

Price £29,950 Engine 2174cc in-line four-cylinder, dohc, AC Delco multi-point electronic fuel injection Power 264bhp @ 6500rpm Torque 261lb ft @ 3900rpm Performance 0-60mph: 4.9sec; Top speed 163mph Fuel consumption 28-32mpg Length 4331mm Width 1859mm

Lotus Engine
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