Rob, long term TLF member and Welshman who lives and works in Zurich recounts 8 years of Esprit V8 ownership.

After nearly 8 years of Esprit V8 ownership, the time has finally come to move on… and I have to say I’m sad, really sad.

It seems that Esprit ownership is different for everybody. Some live a nightmare, while other live their dream. There are many lemons out there, but there are also many outstanding cars… and mine was, and still is, simply outstanding.

So before my Esprit and I part company, I wanted to provide the community (and potential future owners) some reflections on the last eight years of Esprit ownership.

First, the facts:
I bought my Esprit in summer 2005, with about 8,000 kms on the clock. It’s a 2002 model V8 in spice yellow, and was as new when I purchased. The deal was organized though my local Lotus specialist (Schaffner Racing), but I effectively bought the car from the previous (1st) owner. In all eight years of ownership, every bit of work (except 1 job) was done by that specialist, and they have been brilliant. The 1 job that was not done by Schaffner was done at Hethel (a minor service) while visiting for one of the TLF factory days. The car now has almost 24,000 kms, and has always been serviced as per the recommendations of Schaffner. Due to the relatively low number of kms covered in some years, the car was not serviced every year, but again, this was always following the advice of the Lotus specialist.

Now the ownership experience:
Anyone considering buying an Esprit will have first done their homework (or should have), and will be aware that the Esprit has a number of common problems, and needs to be looked after correctly. Everything you read will tell you to keep your eyes and ears open. If you see, hear or experience anything out of the ordinary, be prepared to investigate. Catch issues early, and it can save some major headaches (and empty pockets). This is all true, and meant that, when purchasing my Esprit, I was really prepared for a lot of problems, and a potentially unreliable car.

Maybe it was good that I was prepared for the worst, because it meant that my actual ownership experience was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. Nothing went wrong, nothing (should I repeat that again?), and the Esprit never let me down, not once! Ok, it ran out of fuel once, but that doesn’t really count.

Whenever I knew the car would not be used for a while, I disconnected the battery. Sometimes over winter the car would remain unused for 4 or 5 months at a time. Yet, every time I reconnected the battery, the car started perfectly, 1st turn of the key. I once got a dash warning light, indicating that the ECU had detected a problem. After reading down the error code, and enquiring on this forum and with Lotus, I found that the ECU just needed a recalibration of some sensors. The recalibration was simple enough, involving driving at fixed RPMs while the sensors re-learned certain values. But that was it, that was the biggest issue I ever encountered. Remember that this is an Esprit, this is a Lotus, this is a car that so many claim to be totally unreliable, poorly built, and expensive to own (more on this later).

Let’s put this into context. Before the Esprit, I owned a Merc 500 SL, also a 2002 model and also with 8,000 kms on the clock when I bought it (it was 2 years old at the time). I only kept the Merc for 1 year, and why? During that year I covered about 8,000 kms, and the car had to be returned to Merc 13 times for issues, ranging from trim falling off, to electric seats moving to the fully forward position and staying there, to the keyless-entry system letting me into the car but then refusing to allow me to start it. The list of problems seemed endless, and this was from a top-level Merc, supposedly one of the best quality cars in the world.

The rest of the experience was just as positive. The car was brilliant to drive when out to have some fun, the looks are (to my eye) one of the most stunning designs ever to grace the automotive world, the community is both extremely helpful and knowledgable (and also fun if you ever get the chance to go to any of the meets or factory tours), and the public feedback was always one of interest and admiration. I’ve never owned any other car that made me smile every time I saw it in my garage!

The car was even fairly practical, for a supercar! More than once I drove from Zürich to Cardiff, and back via Hethel. Always in comfort and style, and always without issue.

What about the cost of ownership?
This one is a little trickier to put into context, as I live in Switzerland (probably one of the most expensive countries on Earth right now), and any figures I can offer will be in Swiss Francs (CHF). However, let me give it a try.

Instead of using exchange rates, which varied greatly over my 8 year experience, let me use the following as a basis for putting costs into perspective:
– The average amount I paid for a minor service was 900 CHF
Some services included recharging the aircon, or similar minor jobs, but that was the average.

Now, for me to offer a “total cost of ownership”, I’ll add up all the bills for work done to the car in the eight years of ownership (I have them all filed in the extensive service history folder!). I will include any parts that needed to be replaced, all regular servicing, and all other bills for “unexpected” work (such as when I scratched my rear wheel and needed to have it refurbished). I’ll exclude the cost of all modifications, as these are a personal thing, and are certainly not necessary. I’ll also exclude fuel and insurance as again, these are variable by owner. Keep in mind that my Esprit has always received the very best of care, never neglected, and Schaffner tell me that in their view it is probably the best example of the Esprit in Switzerland today.

GALLERY – Click the images to enlarge.

So here goes – The “total cost of ownership” (as defined above) for 8 years of Esprit ownership was 22,500 CHF

Maybe you think that sounds like a lot… well, here’s the killer – that cost also includes depreciation! I’ve already sorted the sale of the car, so I know exactly how much depreciation I need to swallow, and it’s included in that total cost of ownership.

Again, let’s put that into context. That lovely Merc I mentioned above – when I finally managed to get rid of it after the one year of ownership, I lost close to 50,000 CHF just on the depreciation! That’s more than twice what the Esprit cost, and I owned the Esprit for 8 years compared to 1 year for the Merc.

Now, would anyone like to try to tell me that a Lotus is unreliable, or expensive to own? Ok, as mentioned earlier, this is just my experience, and I know there are many out there who have a totally different story to tell. But for me, the Esprit will always be remembered as the best car I have ever owned (so far at least), and certainly the most enjoyable.

So finally, why have I sold it? Well, to me one of the biggest up-sides of the Esprit is its character. It is a true supercar, old-school style. It looks stunning, it is incredibly quick, it sticks two fingers up to the latest creature comforts, and it’s so low that you cr*p yourself whenever you have to go over those nasty traffic calming speed bump things. These things I love because it means that you need to be a true enthusiast to put up with them. But for me, this also became the biggest down side. The 70’s ergonomics and fairly weak climate control meant that you cook in the strong sun (quite common here in Switzerland), and that’s exactly when you want to take it out to play. Also, the low front spoiler, and the need to have plenty of space when parking (so you can fully open the doors when getting in or out) also mean that you hesitate to take the Esprit when going places you may not know so well. Now, these are all fairly small niggles, but over 8 years they start do take a toll on a relationship (a bit like the small niggles do over years with a girlfriend).

And the final nail in the coffin – she’s called Evora S, and she arrives next week. I love my cars, and given unlimited time, space and budget, I would own a collection. But back in the real world, I can’t justify more than one Lotus in the garage. It’s time to move on. It’s time to try the latest and greatest that Hethel has to offer, and it’s time to give someone else a chance to own this outstanding example of Britains’ finest supercar.

The big question for me now is, can the Evora fill to the huge shoes the Esprit leaves behind?


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