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.
So, the Peter Stevens shape car, the X180, had 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 Etna in the 909 V8 section under "History"), I have never swayed in my admiration for the original Giugiaro styling.... 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 (although owners still seem to think it's a "modern" design!?) 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.... I'm happy to say that 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, whi 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 wonderimg 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 ( first works entry for over 30 years) and in 1994 Thorkild Thyrring won the British National GT series driving a Sport 300. The Sport 300 was a very rare car but in 1995 it's power levels were made more available with teh advent of the Esprit S4S, which hade 285 bhp, with peaking at 300 bhp.
Chamberlain Sport 300 - Le Mans 1993
Some success had already been had with a 4 cylinder turbo car (engine bay pictured right, Lotus GT car, driven by Allessandro Zanardi and Alex Portman, stunts spectators at Donington, leading the GT2 class by over a lap and running up to third overall. Only a transmission fault five minutes before the end of the four-hour race prevents the team taking a fairy-tale result.
March 1: All-new Lotus Esprit GT1 car (type number 114) unveiled at Paul Richard circuit for first race of 1996 GT series. The new racer features the still-secret Lotus V8 engine, a new six-speed racing transmission, F1-style aerodynamics, carbon brakes, and is down to the 900 kg minimum weight limit. After showing promise, retires due to fractured exhaust. Dutchman Jan Lammers enthuses about car's potential.
March 5: At Geneva Show, the Lotus Esprit V8 is unveiled. The all-new Lotus-designed 3.5 litre twin-turbo V8 delivers 350 bhp and 400 NM of torque with a very flat torque curve. Unit is very compact and meets 1997 regulations world wide. Detail changes to the car include improvements to the brake system with a new Kelsey-Hates ABS controller and a new vacuum servo system. Top speed increase to 178 mph.
Esprit GT1 vs Porsche
Esprit GT1 on pole Vs McLaren
Esprit V8 Official Press Release
As 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 developing their
own compact V8 twin turbo engine, as the cover of Performance Car in 1996
on the left shows.
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 then with modifications to the clutch and timing belt design.
Esprit V8 Brands Hatch
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 (not shown here)
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 engien etc... well the V8 version is made with a lovely leather cover to (and the old Turbo Esprit one fits in the back!)
Being ever the optimist, I also got a V8 badge and
deacl for the engine compartment window!
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......