1999 Lotus Esprit V8 Is a Cheap Exotic With Toyota AE86 Taillights

The Lotus Esprit is, in fact, a very old exotic car. You’ve probably seen an early Esprit used as a submarine by James Bond (1977’s Th Sky Who Loved Me), and by the time this particular generation came out, old Top Gear was still new and there wasn’t a Stig. Yet here we are looking at a review of an Esprit V8, not the usual four-cylinder, and it’s a 1999 model.

1999 doesn’t sound like a long time ago, but back then, Lamborghini was making the Diablo Specifically, the desirable VT Roadster had come out. The Diablo is known for having the same headlights as a 300ZX, which were purchased under license from Nissan. There’s a lot of that going on with the Esprit as well, although Doug DeMuro doesn’t seem to know about some of it.

For example, one quirk of the Lotus Esprit V8 is that the taillights are borrowed from the Toyota AE86. You can look up photos of the two or just check out the small Toyota logos in Doug’s video. I think the Lotus Esprit was actually more famous back in the 90s because Initial D was released in 1998, while the Lotus was this affordable exotic for half the price of a Ferrari.

Unless I’m mistaken, the Esprit was also one of the last cars available with pop-up headlights, which were deemed unsafe. But my god is this a pretty-looking thing. The other car with pop-ups at the time was the Ferrari 456, also largely forgotten, a front-engined V12 grand tourer offered until 2003.

Thanks to YouTubers like Hoovies Garage, you probably think that modern Ferraris and Lamborghinis are hugely unreliable. “How bad can this Lotus Esprit be? I should buy one.” It’s for sale right now on Doug’s auction website with bidding at $45,000, which is cheap for something that looks this good.

However, there’s a joke that says LOTUS is short for Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious. Actually, that’s a bit unfair, because while the Esprit came with below-average reliability, it was usually pretty simple to fix, and because parts were taken from other manufacturers, they might be easy to find… some of them. The door mirrors are from a Citroen and the handles are from a Vauxhall Cavalier. I think the steering wheel is from a Pontiac.

The Esprit was built around a steel backbone chassis with most of the bodywork fabricated in fiberglass. These aren’t known to rust, so I guess the only scary part is the engine

The Esprit V8 was only built from 1996 until 1998, and it has a hand-assembled V8 with twin turbochargers built by a specialist British carmaker that competed in F1. It’s a 3.5-liter, like the Toyota V6 they use nowadays, but with two extra cylinders and a couple of turbos. So why does it only make 350 horsepower? Well, apparently, the V8 could make 500 hp, but they had to tune it down a bit because the only gearbox they had couldn’t handle it.



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