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1983 LOTUS ESPRIT TURBO

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1983 LOTUS ESPRIT TURBO

Background

When CAR magazine lined up the Turbo Esprit against the Ferrari 308 GTB in 1981, the Lotus lost only in the category of ‘emotional appeal’ (whatever that means). It won on performance, handling and driver appeal. And it deserved to.

The Esprit is a simple car at heart, comprising a glassfibre body on a steel backbone chassis. Inboard rear disc brakes add a touch of racing heritage and its gearbox is shared with the Citroen SM and Maserati Merak. Simple it might have been but it also ended up tipping the scales at under a tonne – and handled as brilliantly as every Lotus should.

As is almost always the case with Hethel-fettled cars, the genius lay in the way the Esprit was tuned and set up. But while it was an absolute delight to drive, the fine handling and more-than-acceptable ride merely underlined just how underpowered the early cars were.

The Series 2, or S2, cars offered tweaked styling and (eventually) a 2.2-litre engine with the same power output but 20lb/ft more torque, which made them usefully, but only marginally, quicker than the early S2 and S1 cars.

The Essex Turbo Esprit, named after the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation rather than the county, was born in 1980. Boasting 210bhp and 200lb/ft of torque underneath blue, red and chrome livery, the Esprit finally went as well as it handled. A top speed of 150mph and a 0-60mph time of just over six seconds added a good 20mph to the top speed and slashed two seconds off the acceleration time.

The S3 and Turbo Esprit arrived in April 1981, offering the same power but fresh styling.

Just over 10,000 Esprits were built over the years. Because they’re made of fibreglass and won’t rust, there’s a surprising number still going strong today.

But there’s only one like this…..

The Vehicle

This is not just any old Lotus Esprit Turbo. This truly bespoke example was built for and owned by David Wickins, the founder of BCA (British Car Auctions) and Chairman of Lotus.

David Wickins was, by any measure, a buccaneering businessman of the old school and quite a character – to put it mildly.

A quick peek at his Wikipedia entry states that having learned to ride a horse at the age of 40 he went on to sponsor Bob Champion and become a successful owner and breeder. He also sponsored Nick Faldo and was a near-scratch golfer himself. He was married either 5 or 6 times, the uncertainty stemming from some confusion over his marital status while he was living in South Africa.

He also served as a Lieutenant on Royal Navy motor torpedo boats during the war, tried to buy the MG brand and the Abingdon factory in 1980, turned BCA into the world’s largest automotive auction business, lived throughout his business career at 99 Park Lane…and bought a pub in Surrey.

He became the Executive Chairman of Lotus after Colin Chapman’s untimely death at the age of 53, and is considered by many to be the ‘saviour of Lotus‘, thanks to his brokering of deals that rescued the company from financial collapse after American Express suddenly withdrew their $1million loan lifeline.

Wickins became Chairman of Lotus partly as a result of being recommended for the job by his friend, Mark Thatcher (yes, that one). Thatcher, who was well acquainted with members of the Lotus Board of Directors, was rewarded with a role as Chairman of Lotus North America.

At the time of his death, Colin Chapman was embroiled in controversy surrounding Lotus’ murky financial dealings with DeLorean. Wickins quickly and controversially sought to distance the brand from Chapman by ditching the famous yellow and green Lotus badge for a British Racing Green shield.

This did little to endear Wickins to Lotus enthusiasts.

This car, though, boasts a gold-on-black Lotus badge, which is as rare as wisdom teeth on a particularly endangered breed of hen, and possibly a result of the car's initial owner.

The last few years of this remarkable car’s extraordinary life were spent languishing in a barn. Un-driven, unloved and pretty much unknown for many years, this car eventually came to the vendor’s attention via a classic car auction site (not this one). Its redemptive journey from barn find to the splendid vehicle you see before you today is annotated and recorded in great detail. We have the photographs to prove it.

The vendor, a man who owns more classic cars than most of us could possibly shake a stick at (and who also owns a car repair/restoration business as a sideline), has spent at least £16,000 restoring this very special piece of automotive history to its former glory.

Aside from one or two minor quibbles, we’re confident that this unique Esprit Turbo is one of the very best available, having been fastidiously restored from top to bottom, inside and out, mechanically and aesthetically.

With just 31,000 miles on the clock, this really is quite a car.

Particularly when you consider that it nearly ended up as a retirement home for chickens.

On the Outside

This is one good-looking vehicle. The car’s largely flawless green paintwork is a one-off colour variation at the behest of David Wickens. We’re told that is a shade of olive green that David Wickins specified for all of his personal cars, not just this one.

The respray and any repairs to the bodywork came in at around £12K and look as if they were worth every penny of it. The finish is very good indeed and the paintwork and decals have a shine and lustre that make this car look almost showroom-fresh.

All panels and shut lines are at least as crisp and even as anything Good King Wenceslas ever looked out upon. There are no creases, dents, ripples, folds, buckles, nicks or scratches anywhere that we could see – aside from a small scuff on the rubber strip above the black section on the driver’s door panel just behind the front o/s wheels.

The refurbished wheels look excellent and have no nicks or scuffs that we can see. They are shod in matching Falken rubber that’s less than 2 years old.

Unsurprisingly, there is no rust visible anywhere.

On the Inside

If you’re a fan of the colour green, in all its manifold shades, textures and tints, then you’re really going to like this. Opening the door and climbing inside is like leaping headfirst into a patch of particularly lush undergrowth. My word, there’s a lot of green.

There is more leather on show here than you’d find at a Village People convention. And plush velour. Lots of plush velour. Loads of it.

It’s a veritable smorgasbord of textures and materials, and it’s all green. It’s also all original and authentic and most of it is in decent condition. Here and there you’ll find the odd scuff, scratch and hole, but nothing major and no more than you’d expect in any 1983 car, let alone one that’s been kept in a barn for years.

The interior is delightfully dated (in other words, it’s authentic). The digital clock is very early ‘80s, as is the Panasonic radio/cassette unit. The temperature/AC panel looks like something you might have found on an Amstrad music-centre in the ‘70s. But it’s all part of this car’s charm.

The gear lever gaiter is frayed at the top and the original leather on the steering wheel, while undamaged, looks a little tired.

The rubber seal along the inside edge of engine cover/rear window surround lid is coming loose on the o/s. The rubber seals on the bonnet (home to the spare wheel) cover and bonnet air-intake grille are also loose in places.

The carpets are in fine fettle, as are the door cards and headlining.

The instrument binnacle is in good nick and, the vendor assures us, everything works just fine.

The only real issue with the interior is a crack in the top of the dashboard just behind the windscreen on the driver’s side. You could easily choose to ignore this (literally, as it’s hard to see from the driver’s position) or seek out a replacement part somewhere on the World Wide Interweb.

Underneath

We have been reliable informed, by a freelance auctioneer who worked with Mr Wickins at BCA, that David Wickins’ name and/or initials are stencilled on a plate on the gearbox cover underneath the car.

The undersides of this vehicle look as if they belong to a brand new car. Much of what’s visible - suspension, braking and exhaust systems - is, in fact, either new or refurbished.

Again, there is no rust that we can see and the floor trays and pans are straight, clean and even.

The engine bay is as clean and tidy (and authentic) as the rest of this remarkable car.

The engine has been completely rebuilt at a cost of around £4k.

History Highlights

This car has covered just 31,000 miles in its 37 years of life.

It has had full bodywork repair and what appears to be a high-quality respray. It has also had a full engine rebuild, and new braking, suspension and exhaust systems.

Take a look at the photographs and documents. The photographs show the extent of the work done. The documents include old MoTs, a service book full of (mainly) Bell & Colvill Lotus stamps up to 20,000 miles, assorted bills and invoices and the original owner’s manual. The seller has provided some drone footage here: https://youtu.be/QCXWso8P8hg. UPDATE: The seller informs us that the car will be MoT'd before the buyer collects.

What We Think

Even if you live for 100 years and dedicate the rest of your life to exploring the furthest flung outposts of the planet, you won’t see another Lotus Esprit Turbo like this. There isn’t one. It is a unique car with a unique provenance and a fascinating ownership story.

All the hard yards have been done for you. This is a thoroughly sorted, prepared and fettled example of a seminal car that still drives and handles like every good Lotus should.

We think it’s more than a bit special.

We have the confidence to offer this exceptional car for auction with an estimate of £37,000 - £43,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the seller near Faringdon, Oxfordshire; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

This vehicle is not with us at The Market’s HQ near Abingdon, which means we have had to rely on the owner’s description of it, in conjunction with the photographs you see here, to compile the listing. However the writer did view the car as part of the auction preparation.

With this in mind, we would encourage potential bidders to contact the owner themselves and arrange to view the car in person, or to arrange a dedicated video call in which they can view the car virtually and ask questions.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and an array of regional providers for transporting it.

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.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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1st choice

  • Location: Faringdon, Oxfordshire
  • Odometer Reading: 31000
  • Gearbox: MANUAL
  • Color: Green/Black
  • Interior: Green Leather

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