Home Estate Planning TV star Lotus Esprit with active suspension up for auction

TV star Lotus Esprit with active suspension up for auction

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Being sold by Anglia Car Auctions this weekend, this Lotus Esprit Turbo development car even made an appearance on Top Gear.

Fitted with pioneering active suspension technology, and previously featured on both Tomorrow’s World and Top Gear television shows, this is a chance to own a piece of Lotus engineering history.

The special Esprit is part of this weekend’s sale by Anglia Car Auctions, taking place on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 January in King’s Lynn, Norfolk .

A rarity from the outset

The car was originally built in 1980 as a pre-production version of the special edition Lotus Esprit Essex. Only 45 examples of the Esprit Essex were made, meaning this car is already a collector’s item – even before its storied history is taken into account. 

Curiously, it was initially loaned to the DeLorean Motor Company (Lotus founder Colin Chapman was linked to the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car and subsequent fraud scandal) before it returned to Hethel. 

Once back with Lotus, the Esprit was pressed into service to help the company further develop its computer-controlled active suspension. The brainchild of Chapman himself, the system was originally intended to help improve the performance of Lotus F1 racing cars.

As seen on screen

Instead of traditional springs and dampers, the Lotus active system used hydraulic pistons located by each wheel. These were combined with multiple sensors monitoring the forces acting on the car, with servo motors reacting at up to 250 times per second.

The goal for an F1 racing car would be to keep the ride height as constant as possible, ensuring maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Countering body-roll would also aid cornering speed, with the Esprit prototype reportedly able to generate up to 1.5g on road tyres.

Such was the advanced technology on display, this particular car starred on pre-Clarkson Top Gear in 1983, driven by John Miles.

Saved from the crusher

Once the development work was completed, the Esprit was meant to be crushed, having been deemed surplus to requirements. However, one employee hid the car from Lotus managers, until its significance was eventually recognised.

It then spent several years on static display at Lotus, before being sold to raise money. The current vendor has owned the Esprit for seven years and subjected it to a comprehensive restoration. 

Some £60,000 is reported to have been spent, with the turbocharged 212hp engine and gearbox both rebuilt. Although the components for the active suspension remain, including the computer control panel, it would need further recommissioning to make it work again

The paintwork and interior are said to be mostly original, and the car comes with just two registered keepers noted on the V5C. An important Lotus certificate of provenance will be included in the sale, along with magazine cuttings featuring the important Esprit.

Unique Lotus for sale and more

Given the significance of this particular Lotus Esprit, it comes with a pre-auction estimate of between £90,000 and £120,000. 

The predicted price reflects the important part the car played in Lotus motorsport history, but also the work needed to make the active suspension system operational again (if desired). 

The Lotus will be up for auction alongside numerous classic hot hatchbacks, plus a number of ‘barn find’ cars in need of restoration. Potential buyers can attend the Anglia Car Auctions sale in person, or bid by telephone or online.

John Redfern writes for Motoring Research

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