The Classic - Lotus Esprit

Perhaps the most famous Esprit converted into a submarine at the behest of its secret agent owner. But the history of and fanbase for Lotus’ original performance ‘wedge’ extends far beyond the illusions of movie magic.

Dec 22, 2021


Launched in 1976, the Lotus Esprit is one of the British brand’s most iconic models, thanks in part to its starring role in the James Bond film of the following year, The Spy Who Loved Me. Even now, 45 years after its unveiling, it remains one of the most memorable and loved ‘movie cars’ of all time.


Built on a strong chassis, mechanically there was little to surprise seasoned Lotus fans. What really grabbed the headlines at the time, though, was the original ‘folded paper’ styling by Giugiaro, with finishing touches from Lotus design boss Oliver Winterbottom.


Less than a year after the first customers received their cars, Lotus announced the Esprit S2, which kept the Type 79 designation of the original. Upgrades included different wheels, new spoilers front and rear, plus the addition of air intakes just behind the rear quarter windows.


In March 1980 the Series 2.2 was announced, with a larger-capacity, higher torque engine though with the same 119kW (160hp) output. Just a year later – and after only 88 had been made – production of this body shape of the Esprit ended, replaced by the famed Esprit Turbo (Type 82) and Esprit S3 (Type 85).


The Esprit Turbo featured a new 2,174cc engine complete with a Garrett turbocharger. Boosting performance to 156kW, it turned the two-seater into a genuine 240km/h+ supercar. A bright blue Essex limited edition, named after the Lotus F1 team’s title sponsor, was also launched. Sales were further helped by another Bond collaboration, this time in For Your Eyes Only.


In 1987 after a top-to-toe redesign by Peter Stevens, the car benefited from a more contemporary exterior. Further improvements led to the S4, and new versions included the limited-edition Sport 300 and the Esprit GT3. All retained the classic characteristic – a striking sports car with outstanding performance.


The Esprit V8 arrived in 1996, with a new 3.5-litre engine providing a 0-100km/h time of under five seconds. In 2002 the styling was refreshed again before the decision was taken to end production the following year. The Esprit had been in production in one form or another for 26 years. For a generation of fans, the Esprit remains an absolute British (and Bond) icon.