1978 LOTUS Esprit S2 'JPS Edition' #21/100View vehicle description
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I’d love to say that Ursula Andress emerging goddess like from the Caribbean sea, dripping wet in a white bikini is my over-riding early memory of James Bond films, but it’s actually a white car. We didn’t get to the cinema much when I was a kid (we made our own entertainment in those days) but for my 12th birthday treat my dad took me to see The Spy Who Loved Me where I fell in love not with Barbara Bach, but with the Lotus Esprit.
It’s dramatic chiselled wedge profile is still striking today, but in late 70s depression ravaged Britain it was a revelation. I remember thinking it must have been built specially for the movie, but of course it had actually been released by Lotus a year earlier, as a replacement for the Europa.
The usual Lotus construction method of steel backbone chassis with glassfibre bodywork was retained from the previous model – but that was about all that was, which was entirely intentional.
Lotus boss Colin Chapman knew that producing low volume kit cars was a tenuous existence, as the likes of TVR, Marcos and AC proved by lurching from one financial crisis to another. Always a man with unlimited aspirations, Chapman wanted to launch Lotus into the luxury performance car market and compete with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. It was a heady dream, and one that few thought realistic, but that wasn’t going to stop him trying.
In order to transform Lotus from specialist sports car producer to one with showrooms in London West End, he needed a car with arresting looks, neck snapping performance and impeccable handling, and for the first of these ingredients he turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro, whose folded paper designs had already attracted the likes of Maserati and Volkswagen, for whom he went on to design the Boomerang and Golf.
The second of the trio of ingredients of Chapman’s signature dish were delivered to Giugiaro’s Ital Design studio in Milan in 1971 – a modified Europa chassis with its dimensions changed to suit the M70 prototype Lotus engineers had designed as the underpinnings for the new supercar. The final part of the dish was a new engine.
The enigmatic Lotus boss knew the company would need to produce something a little more exciting than the Europa’s Renault engine, and that the 1600cc Ford Kent based Lotus Twin Cam wasn’t up to the job of providing the kind of performance he needed from the new car. Handily a 2-litre, double overhead cam, 4-valve per cylinder slant four was in development by Lotus for Jensen (Chapman also envisaged it being the basis of a future 4-litre V8).
With only 160bhp the new Lotus looked, on paper at least, as though it would struggle against German and Italian competition, but with a kerb weight of under 1000kg its power-to-weight ratio gave it a fighting chance, and although most road testers struggled to replicate the factory’s claimed figures of 0-60 in 8secs and 133mph top speed, its superb handling was universally lauded – and it was oh so beautiful.
Lotus PR manager Don McLaughlan’s triumph of getting Roger Moore’s 007 into the driving seat of an Esprit, albeit with a dazzling array of non-factory options added to the car's aura.
The S1 Esprit was made for two years before Lotus addressed a lot of the car’s shortcomings by improving the seating and interior trim, upgrading the instruments and switchgear and fitting a new wraparound front spoiler and custom built alloy wheels, which raised the car’s luxury image considerably. In 1978 Lotus won the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship and celebrated by releasing a limited edition Esprit trimmed in their sponsor’s iconic JPS livery. The black and gold has often been sited as the best race-car sponsorship colour scheme out there.
In the 1978 Formula 1 season Mario Andretti was finally rewarded for his patient development work at Lotus with a car in which he could dominate the World Championship. He became world champion and JPS Lotus won the Constructors’ Championship.
The Hethel factory marked this fantastic achievement by producing a limited run of 100 S2 Esprits finished in the black and gold colours of their race sponsor, John Player and Sons. This is the 21st of those 100 cars. It’s covered just 13,600 miles in its 42 years and is astonishingly original.
The JPS features the original spec 907 engine of 1973cc with twin side draught carburettors. It’s about as pure as an Esprit gets, and in this condition possibly unique.
On the Outside
If you’ve stared at the pictures and marvelled at the video walk-around, you’ll be as in awe of this car as we are. It looks as though it’s just rolled out of the Lotus factory. The current owner had the pop up headlight covers repainted by a specialist bodyshop, who went over the car with a fine toothed comb and confirmed that in their view, theirs was possibly the only repair paint the car has ever seen.
The pin-sharp bodywork is absolutely beautiful and the gold finished Speedline alloy wheels look as though they’ve just been minted. The only slight clue to the car’s age is in the gold windscreen surround and roof rails, which has been polished so often that it’s starting to lose its gold colour. However, some new body work gold trim parts (off the shelf, next to hen's teeth) come with the car, so the new owner could decide to fit them, although we’d be inclined to leave the originals with their authentic patina.
The 1973cc Lotus 907 engine starts immediately and settles to a smooth, if somewhat impatient idle. This is a powerplant that wants to be used in anger and taken to it's redline, yet in all these years it’s only just manged to get properly run in and loosened up. This car also comes with a Carcoon trickle charger.
In the interests of absolute transparency the current owner would like it mentioned that this car suffered a small engine fire during its very early life. However, the car was comprehensively and properly repaired at this time and there is no evidence of this incident visible today.
On the Inside
The showroom theme continues in this stunning cabin with its Colin Chapman commemorative plate on the dash, and Mario Andretti signed Momo steering wheel. As you’d expect with this super-low mileage, the trim shows very little sign of wear and is almost as fresh as the day it was fitted.
Lotus cars of this era are not known for the solidity and robustness of their interiors, so this example has obviously led an exceedingly charmed and cared-for life, presumably garage-stored and lightly used as per its mileage. Everything is as it should be.
In amongst the spares are even a pair of the JPS gear knobs that we believe were unique to this model.
This car has genuinely been maintained regardless of cost and the underside is very good but no doubt some perfectionists will require it to match the body work condition, hardly use it and detail the underside, but it requires no work and is ready to go.
The car drives very well and as tight as you would expect with that mileage. In fact the Lotus specialist that did the aforementioned headlight-painting declared that it was the best driving example he had experienced for a very long time.
All the JPS engine covers and boot bags come with the car. All the original books, and workshop manuals are present. There’s also a box of spare parts –switches, trim items included. There were quite a few bespoke trim parts made for the JPS Edition, to have had careful previous owners who squirrelled away some of these parts through the ages could be priceless if repairs are ever needed in the future. For example there's brand new gold windscreen trims in a tube (see the picture in the gallery), so you can choose to keep the original (tarnished with years of loving cleaning) or go shiny and new gold.
There’s a great history file which goes right back to the original owner to help give credibility to our claim that this might possibly be the best original JPS Esprit still in existence.
What We Think
We think this is one of the very best surviving S2 Lotus Esprit JPS in existence. We strongly recommend that any serious enthusiast views this car as we believe this is genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a stunningly original, unmolested example with only 13,000 recorded miles. How many of us (of a certain age!) remember those black/gold Lotus F1 cars roaring round the old autodromes of Zandvoort, Brands Hatch, Kyalami etc with very fond affection. Those Ford-DFV and Renault powered cars may be out of reach and practicality for us now, but how about this to join the collection?
Our estimate is £60,000 - £90,000.
Viewing is always encouraged and as stated this car is located at THE MARKET headquarters near Abingdon; we are open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm and to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing to make an appointment. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
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BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
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