Early Plans

I've owned my Giugiaro Turbo Esprit, pictured on the right, since 1992 (more details in People Section) and my desire to endow it with true multi-cylinder performance was there since the day I bought it - well before actually

I dreamt of buying one but couldn't help comparing it to the Ferrari 308, which, although inferior in performance and handling, had a V8 engine...

The Peter Stevens shape car, the X180, emerged in 1987 and with it, the last Giugiaro Esprit , the Turbo HC, had been produced

Actually, although I'm far from convinced that the restyling can be totally attributed to Stevens (compare it to the Lotus Etna in the 909 V8 tab in the History section), I have never swayed in my admiration for the original Giugiaro styling and I've never had any desires to own the rounded 80s car, no matter how much power they gave it

The 80s was a LONG time ago now anyway and the restyling is far from modern  I've always held the view that the Giugiaro original styling would become the true classic and the 80s shape would loose it's relevence...

This indeed now appears to be the case, with articles in current car magazines stating as much (click here to read). Also, when the Esprit stopped production all the reports showed photos of the Giugiaro shaped James Bond cars.

Things did arrive to tempt me though - or at least make me feel bad that the Giugiaro, the Esprit design current when Lotus had the fastest cars on the track, was no longer the fastest Esprit - Fuel injection plus higher compression ratio on the Turbo HC, had seen a modest 5 bhp rise from 210 to 215 bhp and more efficient multi-point injection saw 228 bhp in the Steven's Esprit in 1988 (enough in a "jelly-mold" shape to slightly peeve me!).  

Then in 1989 things took on a much more serious with the long vaunted arrival of an inter-cooled turbo engine, or more accurately "charge-cooled" (using an air/water inter-cooler, with a front mounted water coold radiator)... this gave the newly named Turbo SE 264 bhp (with 280 bhp over boost available for short periods)This started to leave the poor old Giugiaro performance behind, with 0-60 mph in 4.7 secs and 164 mph top speed... I wasn't happy!

Race versions, the Type 105/106 X180R (pictured left), produced 285/300 bhp and were campaigned with considerable success in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) by Doc Bundy, who won the drivers title in 1992

Worse still, 1993 saw the launch of the Esprit Sport 300 road car - with a re-worked head, hybrid turbo, larger charge-cooler and modified ECU, the power output from the venerable Lotus 4 cylinder engine was now 300 bhp! This gave 0-60 mph in around 4.4 secs and 168 mph

The Sport 300 was launched at Birmingham NEC - I was there, feeling bemused and wondering if I could get the engine in my car! (these are my own photos from the show)

Two works Sport 300's raced at Le Mans in 1993 for Lotus Sport/Chamberlain Engineering Sport 300 (the first Lotus works entry for over 30 years) and in 1994 Thorkild Thyrring won the British National GT series driving a Sport 300

Some success had already been had with a 4 cylinder turbo car when the Lotus GT car, driven by Allessandro Zanardi and Alex Portman, lead the GT2 class ay Donington by over a lap, running up to third overall

Only a transmission fault five minutes before the end of the four-hour race prevented the team taking a fairy-tale result

In 1996  the all-new Lotus Esprit GT1 car (type number 114) unveiled at Paul Richard circuit for first race of 1996 GT series


After showing promise, the car retired with a fractured exhaust nut Dutchman Jan Lammers enthused about car's potential

The car featured the then still-secret Lotus V8 engine, a six-speed racing transmission, F1-style aerodynamics, carbon brakes and was on the 900 kg minimum weight limit

Esprit GT1 vs Porsche
Esprit GT1 Vs McLaren F1s

The Lotus 918 V8 Engine was also used in the Elise GT1 race car for a short period, as seen on the right

Click here for more details

Time progressed though and as those who know me will say, my Esprit became garage bound after an exhaust manifold crack and subsequent engine removal

Lotus did me the huge favour of announcing the use of their V8 twin turbo engine in the production Esprit, as the cover of Performance Car in 1996 on the left shows.

Esprit V8 Official Press Release
Esprit V8 Promotion Video

The history of this V8 engine is quite well known now and as the cover of Car magazine in 1998 shows, a revised version appeared that year with modifications to the clutch and timing belt design

Esprit V8 Brands Hatch

So now it would be possible to endow the Giugiaro Esprit with an all Lotus design V8 engine and complete the original oblective of the Project M71 program from the 1970s

Planning got properly underway in 2001 when I formulated the idea of locating a 918 V8 engine, an Esprit V8 chassis and suspension, building a rolling chassis and then transplanting the Giugiaro body from my car

Here's my original scribblings of the plan - a real "back of a fag packet" scheme! Still, it's always good to make a plan and it looks easy on paper...

One thing was for sure,  I would need a lot of manuals to be able to do this project properly...

I already had the Turbo Esprit and S3 Service Notes and 1980-87 Parts List from running the car in standard form - but Parts Lists for all the 4 cylinder cars from 1993 onwards and the V8 models were added

I also have Service Notes for the V8 and, of course these days, all of these in pdf format

Planning well ahead, it was also fun to go to a local Lotus dealer parts department and buy a V8 owners manual...

After all I'll ready need two - one for the Giugiaro body and controls etc and one for the V8 engine etc.

The V8 version is made with a lovely leather cover and the old Turbo Esprit one fits in the back!

Being ever the optimist, I also got a V8 badge and decal for the engine compartment window!