CC Capsule: 1986 Lotus Turbo Esprit – Turbo Doorstop

Now here’s a  highly uncommon sight here in the heartland, at least outside of big cities like Chicago. While Paul’s S1 Esprit find was pretty remarkable, I posit that spotting a Lotus Turbo Esprit in the small town of Geneseo, IL (pop. 6,586) is an even more unlikely find.

If like me, you’re a child of the ’80s, your most vivid memory of the Esprit could be of the white S1 from the film The Spy Who Loved Me. Kind of funny, thinking a British car could be watertight, eh? I guess Q Branch had really stepped up their game.

But that was the S1; today’s CC is an S3 Turbo Esprit, one of the newer Lotuses preferred by Agent 007 in the early ’80s. This has got to be the most effective (if not the most practical) anti-theft device ever installed on a car. I don’t think this will buff out.


The S3 Esprits, introduced in April of 1981, added the ground effects and other niceties of the limited edition S2 Essex, but were available in something other than that highly collectible Turbo Lotus’s metallic blue paintwork and striking red leather interior. The 1981 “regular production” Turbo Esprit was basically the Essex, without its special colors and in slightly reduced trim spec.

Judging from the center brake light, our CC must be an ’86 or ’87. Regardless of the model year, it is a rare car, as one of only 1,845 Turbo Esprits built between 1981 and October 1986.

Not much break in the angle between the hood and the windshield, is there? With a cd of 0.30, the Esprit was appropriately slippery. In Turbo Esprit form, that translated to 210 hp @ 6250 rpm, 200 lb-ft of torque at 4500 r/min, a top speed of 150 mph, and zero-to-60 in a mere 5.6 seconds. Not too shabby.

The top half of the Esprit is an especially good look example of the wind-cheating wedge design.

The Esprit even shared a little something with the finest velour-clad Broughams of the ’70s–specifically, hidden headlights–but in this case, they were there for the sake of aerodynamics. All this might look a bit blocky to modern eyes, but this was cutting edge stuff in the ’80s. And unlike the bescooped and bespoilered Lamborghini Countach, the Esprit was rather elegant, at least for a supercar.

As you would expect of such a sports car, interior accommodations were luxurious, if slightly claustrophobic. I’ve never sat inside one of these cars, but from the looks of it there appears to be decent legroom; headroom, however, might be another story. Still, if you could fit, you’d get places fast.

I believe our featured CC has been repainted, as it’s missing the prominent coachlines and “Turbo Esprit” badging it would have had when it was new. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a Turbo until I saw the small logo on the center console.

I happened upon this striking black-over-tan Esprit in Geneseo, IL, where I was attending the excellent Trains, Planes and Automobiles car show. While you understandably might think it was part of the show, it actually was several blocks away, just up from the street where I’d parked. Perhaps another show attendee? Probably more likely than a local resident, eh?

In any case, this S3 is in fine shape, and looks quite sharp in black. And for the benefit of those motorists who do not frequent CC, “Lotus” is prominently stamped into the rear bumper. “Earl, what’s that funny-looking car?” “I don’t know Edna, maybe it’s Japanese.” I kid, I kid.

Since the Esprit and the ill-fated DeLorean both had bodies designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, there a number of similarities, especially from the rear.


Although the S3 was more powerful and luxurious than earlier Esprits, Lotus had even more in store for 1988 in the form of new sheetmetal and even more power. Nineteen eighty-seven was the last year for the squared-off Esprit, and in a fitting send-off for the original Giugiaro design, the ’87 Turbo HC got even more power, courtesy of Mahle pistons and redone exhaust manifolds. The HC produced 215 hp @ 6000 rpm, a top speed of 152 mph and a 0-60 time of  5.5 seconds. In the end, the Esprit would last all the way to 2004–as perhaps the last true Lotus in the lineup (for a full timeline of Esprit development, check out this chronology here). Not a bad run, all things considered.