Stuart McIntosh's 1989
SE Year: 1989 Colour: British Racing Green Interior: Sand Leather Driving Style: I say "normal" everyone else says "fast", including West Sussex police, who have just donated three points for my clean license, damn and blast. Miles per year: 6,000 (limited mileage: Sureterm Direct) Owned Since: Nov 2001 Purchase from: Private Sale Serviced at: The first owner took it to Bell and Colville and Frosts, the second to Haydon's and Steve Williams, and me, well I just followed suit, Steve knows the car so he gets to work on it on a regular basis. It goes to him every 6 months, alternating between services, and MOT/odd jobs. Other Cars: Citroen Saxo VTS Previous Lotus': I have lots of books, posters, and models, and I nearly bought an Excel in 1996, but sense prevailed and I bought a new car instead. I lapsed in 2001 when I decided I had to get a Lotus, by then, only an Esprit would suffice. Why an Esprit:
Why an Esprit: Are you nuts, look at the thing, it's the most beautiful car in the world. The only competition is the Aston DB7, the Ferrari 308, and possibly the De Tomaso Pantera. The first time I sat in it I thought it was perfect, perfect driving position, and very intimate. More practical than a Ferrari, more exclusive than Porsche, and more panache than a TVR. And best of all it exemplifies the best of British engineering, shame it also say's so much about British manufacturing!!
Upgrades: See below Problems: See below Info: See below
1989 (90MY) G reg Esprit Turbo SE from Bell and Colvill originally, I am the third owner, 90% service history, initially B and C then Frosts, serviced at Steve Williams in Eton since 1999. British Racing Green (A63) with Sand Leather interior and sand carpets. Bought with 53K in November 2001, now has 61K. 8K mostly sensible miles, with the odd outbreak of Ayrton Senna......
Limited to 6K per annum due insurance with Sureterm Direct on cherished policy, which requires a garage and Cat 1 alarm. Second car, but first Lotus, my other car is a 2002 Max Power Citroen Saxo VTS.
Maybe it' was too much TV as a child, or maybe it was the Essex Blue S3 parked outside a house on my walk to school, or the JPS S3 that my neighbors boyfriend drove. Hell, it could even be a trip to the NEC in 1983 when I first sat in a Lotus. An ice blue S3. It just fitted so well, so comfortable, yet so sleek. I vowed to have one by 35...............
....................and then 34 happened, and no Esprit, unless you count the models! So I investigated the feasibility of actually owing one. Magazines were good but the Internet was the most useful tool one could hope for. KFM's Esprit Fact File was the first port of call. I visited several dealers before coming to the conclusion that I should buy an early SE, that won't break the bank said me!!!!
Eventually I found the car in Top Marques, the seller was off to college. It was in good condition and had recently had a new manifold and clutch, so I had a rush of blood to the head and bought it. Then I took it for a service, 2.5K later I was wondering what I was thinking of. It was in good condition but it needed some work. New exhaust, brakes, SS-braided clutch hose, new slave cylinder, cam belt, new gearlinkage, and two new front tyres were for starters........
SS-braided clutch hose, Moto-concepts S4S chip #5, refurbished OZ alloys, 02MY sill plates, Laserline Cat 1 alarm, Kenwood 6 disc Cd autochanger, Pioneer speakers, screen mounted AM/FM aerial.
2 new front tyres (Goodyear Eagles), refurbished rear brake calipers, new rear discs, new exhaust (including EBPV, CAT, o2 Sensor), 1 x rear suspension link (bent), 2 electric window motors (oh how I laughed when the drivers side failed the day after I purchased it), 2 x cigar lighters, 1 x electric wing mirror (after being twatted), new horn (the old one was indeed very sad and not inkeeping with the car), new door handles and glove box lock (1 key instead of 3 makes life a lot easier), new battery, new ice detector probe, 2 x front fog lights, 4 x headlights, 2 x headlamp assembly masks (the old ones didn't fit properly and let in lots of water), new walnut veneer for the dashboard, new windscreen wiper assembly (including wiper blade and steering column stalk), 2 x new tailgate struts (after near decapitation).....and let's not forget the very big bill...........
The big bills
After 6 months of ownership some cracks appeared on the rear spoiler and rear bumper........hhhmmmmm, then a crack appeared in the rear nearside wheel well where the two body halves joined, and it started getting larger. Oh dear. I took it to Frosts the local Lotus dealership who have a bodyshop round the corner from my house. A quick fix turned into a dismantle and respray. Three months later the car was back and looking good as new and my credit card statement looked like David Beckhams payslip.........I also got the rusty window frames on the doors replaced, the aerial from the front wing removed, and new mesh on front and rear valances.
The effects of bad jacking practices on the rear lower suspension which connects to the hub carrier. The other shows the fine job Frosts did of removing the aerial and filling the hole where it once sat.
Why an Esprit?
I always thought I'd get an S3 as the thing that appealed to me more than anything about the car was it's handling and road holding. When push came to shove I had partial clarity. A colleague at work had a J reg red/magnolia SE which he was selling for 20K in 2000. It got me thinking about Esprits again and the conclusion I came to was:
1) G shape classic car, S shape still current
2) S shape still has good parts supply
3) S shape looks like an MR2 on steroids, still has "street cred"
4) V8 too expensive
5) ABS not necessarily a good thing
6) I like the little wing on the early SE
7) The price differential was minimal between SE, Turbo, and N/A
8) S4s was tempting but a bit Max Power (like my Saxo)
9) A £12K car would run OK but I would have money in the bank to fix it
10) A £30K car would be even better but I'd have nothing left to fix it
11) Depreciation, a 13 year old car has not got much further to go
12) Insurance, classic car insurance cheap....ish!
So in the end I bought privately as the warranty at a dealership ain't worth the paper it's printed on. I thought I knew what I was doing and bought a private example and saved some money. Good job really, as I then went about rectifying the faults, the I started rectifying the cosmetics, then I got obsessed......then the money really started disappearing!
Respray & Bodywork
Respray, hmmmm, don't go there. You start off with a simple request, could you fix the front valance, and the rear spoiler. Then a big crack appears in the wheel well, could you fix that too, and then you get a phone call reference all the other blemishes, well, why don't you fix them all, and remove the aerial. Certainly sir that will be £6K, cough, splutter.......
I could have had the job done at Steve Williams, Kevin his bodyshop man does some good work (see attached picture of Green Excel), he reckoned it would cost 4K. But Frost's is just round the corner from me and Phil the manager gave me good vibes. They had plenty of experience and there work was very good. The finish on my car is as good as the original Lotus work. The expense is in dismantling the car (all the bits are rusty), and fixing any faults in the gel cracks. Stress is the only problem with GRP bodies. I also got new badges, nuts, bolts, screws, and a final finish of TST to protect it. I also had a new wing mirror fitted (the old one had been twatted), replaced the grills on the front and rear valances. With hindsight I would recommend doing what Dermot did, and get some stainless ones made.
I also replaced the door frames, which had started to rust in typical Esprit fashion. So all, in all, a pretty extensive makeover. The original wooden veneered dash was falling to bits, due to the different contraction/expansion rates of the veneer and the wooden frame. This is another typical Esprit fault. I removed the instrument binnacle and took it to Steve Williams to remove the veneer panels. You need small hands, and lots of patience for this. Don't lose any of the bits either. I then sent the panels off to Christopher Neils. They sent the panels to their "veneer guy". It cost £250 as opposed to £500 from Lotus. The panels were then returned and Steve put it all back together again. He charged me about 50 quid for labour. I contemplated doing it myself, but I didn't want to break anything as many of the parts are obsolete. You have a later model car so the instrument cowling should come off to reveal the instruments. The veneer panels are held on with small screws and sealant.
The new chip is excellent. I decided to go for it after meeting Jon Sandall with his red SE. He had just had it installed and raved about it. I went for number 5 initially as it mean't I could have improvements without needeing to change the exhaust and charge cooler. The chip is plug'n'play so I can change it at will (or when I get some money again). Am not worried about the engine going "pop" as myself, Steve Williams, and Malcolm at Frosts have all pored over the engine and replaced any duff parts, including the EBPV. The EBPV is a rather expensive waste of time, but heh, another lesson learned.
All in all it's been a rather expensive little hobby. The car cost £11.4K, and I have subsequently spent approx. £15K on it. When I say it quickly it doesn't sound too bad. I have just been for a spin and it's just running beautifully. Externally it looks like it's 6 months old, the interior looks like it's done 50K miles. Interestingly, I visited Frosts a couple of weeks back and saw a P reg V8 with 20K on the clock. The light interior had faired much worse than mine.
Ideally, I would like a complete retrim, only 3K from lotus. But at the moment only the gearlever and handbrake gaitors as well as the drivers seat bolster look worn. A newer steering wheel would also be nice. But heh, that's in the future.
The main thing is that it's driving even better than when I bought it. The more I use it the better it gets, shame i now need to replace the rear tyres, too many wheel spins I guess. I have looked at replacing it with a V8 but whilst it's a slightly better driving experience I like the old style interior and it's so cool to have such an old car in such great condition. People always stop and stare. It always seems a shame to let such beautiful cars go to rack and ruin, especially as there as so few about. Scrap all Ford Escorts ( I have had loads) but save all Loti.
After 18 months of ownership I can honestly say that it's been great fun. The car is like the Forth Rail Bridge,every time I finish one job another comes along. It's now in great shape with only a few things left to do. I would like to improve the interior at some point and also recore the radiator. But apart from split front suspension bushes I think it's as good as I can get it.
It has been all over the country in all weathers and has never broken down. The only problem has been with a flat battery, a problem solved with a trickle charger.....
It is a car that has capabilities well beyond mine and I suspect the next thing required is an upgrade to the driver........it's great fun to own and most people I meet have been very positive about the car.
The Internet has been as useful as the Parts and service manuals I have purchased, and the meet ups have been great fun. It's nice to know that I am not the only looney with too much money and too little sense. It may not be expensive, but it certainly ain't cheap.
My first petrol stop soon dispelled that myth........Lotus, for those that know the difference.
(29th July 2003)
And so it came to pass that more of my hard earned cash had to be rescued from my clutches. After the Stoneleigh meet I noticed that the rear 3 quarter light windows sealant was rapidly persishing. Since I don't want to accelerate fuel tank failure I thought I would get it sorted sooner rather than later.
So I got my local Lotus dealer (Frosts) to find a reputable travelling auto glasier. That was the easy bit, in typical Lotus fashion the finishers also needed replacing, obviously this would take 4 weeks to wait for delivery of two strips of plastic (and expensive plastic at that). Still, a nice job was done, and no more leaks.
I also replaced my instrument binnacle with a new one purchased from Lotus at a knock down price during their recent "crazy prices" sale. Nice one.