LOTUS ESPIONAGE … An Esprit Story

The Spy Who Loved Me – if you were born too late, it may not even ring a bell. But for those more experienced in life who have been around during the 70s and had been following some little known action packed-less dialogued movies called the James Bond series, you probably know what I’m talking about. And you may not exactly remember the storyline, but the one thing that stands out in that film, at least for car junkies like most of us was of course the hero of the movie – not James Bond himself, but his car – the Lotus Esprit

It was early one Saturday morning when somebody knocked at our door. It was an old friend that dropped by for a visit. I know he is a car guy, but still had the surprise of my life when I saw the car he was driving that day. A red Lotus Esprit and it was loud.

Dr. Frank Ilem is not only a close car buddy of mine, but my dentist as well. Yes, we love to talk about cars – even during some days when he is drilling my own tooth. Frank works hard and runs a clinic in Los Angeles but in spite of the busyness of his daily routine, he always finds a way to do the things he loves.

Frank is one of the earliest followers of Lumang Oto. He is a music nut, a guitar freak and a big movie fan. And did I say he is in to exotic cars too? And probably why he always wanted to own a Lotus – he wants to be a James Bond – sort of. After spying around these cars for a while, the time finally came for him to acquire the car he needs (need of course is relative). He bought the car, trusted the seller from Texas, sight unseen. 18 years later, he still own the Esprit.

The Lotus Esprit was first introduced in 1975 at the Paris Auto Show and came out in production a year later to replace the Lotus Europa. Although the Esprit is a British car, the lines are very Italian as it was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the same person responsible for many Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis.

What’s interesting with the Esprit is that while other market competition cars of its day are using V-8s or even V-12s, the Esprit is a four cylinder car in a mid-rear engine configuration, a third of the cylinder number of some exotic car motors of its contemporary..

Frank’s car is a 1987 Lotus Esprit S3 (meaning third generation). This Esprit is powered by a 2.2L inline 4 turbo motor with a Bosch KE Jetronic fuel injection, a 5 speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels and making 215hp. That’s why the Lotus Esprit is sometimes called the mighty mouse of the automotive world as these cars produce the most horsepower you could squeeze in per liter, and we are talking stock. The car weighs just north of 1200 kg, so you can do the math with its power to weight ratio, thus putting the Esprit in a super car category of its day. It had been voted as top 10 cars of the 80s among the “cost no object” category by Motor Trend Magazine.

Frank’s Lotus is all original and the “arrest-me-officer” red still has its lure even when the car is more than 30 years old. Thanks to Frank’s love of waxing the car on a regular basis which concerns him sometimes that the car may one day turn pink if he keeps doing his routine. Car sits on stock BBS alloy wheels wrapped with 195/60R15 front and 235/60R15 rear Yokohamas.

Of course, the compromise of a high output horsepower will sooner or later catch up on him, especially now that the Lotus Esprit is an old car. And as Frank would say, you need a lot of passion (and I add to that resources) in order to maintain and love this exotic car.

No the car does not become a submarine – that’s too much James Bond movie magic. Head turner? Definitely. But as Frank or any other old exotic car owners would agree on – it cost so much to keep them running, and the only definite return of investment is the smile on their faces when driving them – that is if the car is not overheating. Kudos to Frank for having the heart to keep old exotic cars like this beautiful Lotus on the road and driving it as often as he could.

Happy Lotus Motoring!

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