Patina Paint: 1977 Lotus Espirit S1 – Sold?

by | Oct 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Malaise Monday

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November 27, 2023, Update – We confirmed the listing for this “ClassiFIND” expired, so with no replacement found, we’re assuming this ride is “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

The air-cooled Porsche 911 often gets cited as a sports car that evolved, rather than be redesigned, over its thirty-three-year span.  However, there is another iconic sports car that evolved nearly as dramatically over its twenty-year production span.  When the mid-engine Lotus Espirit S1 launched in 1976, it featured a longitudinally-mounted two-liter inline four-cylinder powerplant putting out 160 horsepower.  By the time production ended in 2004, the S4 Espirit was a V8-powered supercar featuring a turbocharged 3.5 Liter V8.

While the final iteration of the Lotus Espirit was a supercar powerhouse, the addition of nicely integrated and modern-looking aerodynamic body aids softened the crispness of the car’s Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned original design.  Unfortunately, the sub-par build quality of the early fiberglass-bodied Espirit versions combined with low build quality makes the first-generation S1 versions a rare find. Lotus produced only 580 examples for the 1977 model year.  This red over tartan plaid 1977 Lotus Espirit for sale, last seen on Craigslist in October 2023 in Camden, North Carolina, is number 241 of that production run.

The Lotus Espirit features a unique, lightweight, bonded aluminum backbone chassis.  This design makes it a relatively easy affair to separate the body from the chassis to facilitate major repairs.  Eight years ago, the caretaker took advantage of that fact when they completed a complete, body-off mechanical restoration of the car.  Interestingly, despite having the body off then, they elected to keep the car’s patina and paint flaws intact rather than respray the car.  The result is a mechanically sorted Lotus Espirit S1 for sale that wears its blemishes and original faded paint with pride.  The only other modification noted is a modern stereo.  While the recent caretakers elected to preserve the original paint and upholster, the same cannot be said for the car’s headliner.  Apparently, the original headliner could not be saved as the seller states it has been removed and a replacement will be included as part of the sale.

Last offered for $28,000,, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is right in line with this guide’s five-year results summary for similar Lotus Espirit S1 models produced between 1976 and 1978. By clicking one the green dots below, you can get benchmarks of what similar examples sold for recently:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #3 “Good” estimate of $26,000 and its #2 “Very Good” appraisal of $38,000.

Many significant events around the world marked the fall of 1975, but in the automotive industry, it is remembered for the birth of an iconic supercar – the Lotus Esprit. Hailing from the United Kingdom, Lotus launched its new mid-engine Esprit in 1976. The car captured the essence of British engineering prowess and design elegance.

When the Lotus Esprit first rolled off the production line, it represented a significant departure from the traditional British sports car formula. Unlike its predecessors, the Esprit was not a soft-top roadster but a sleek, mid-engined coupe. This design decision was a bold move by Lotus, but it paid off handsomely.

The Lotus Esprit’s distinct wedge-shaped body was penned by the renowned Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man behind some of the most iconic car designs in history. Its sharp lines, low profile, and pop-up headlights were not only futuristic but also incredibly aerodynamic, making the Esprit stand out in a sea of curvy sports cars.

Under the hood, the 1977 Lotus Esprit was powered by a 2.0-liter, inline-four engine. This twin-cam, 16-valve powerplant, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, produced 160 horsepower, propelling the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.1 seconds. The Lotus Esprit was not just a head-turner; it was a true performer on the road.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Lotus Esprit was its construction method. Instead of traditional welding, the Esprit’s chassis was made using advanced techniques involving bonded and riveted aluminum. This innovation not only reduced weight but also enhanced the car’s rigidity and strength, contributing to its remarkable handling and road-holding capabilities.

The Esprit’s chassis was not only a technological marvel but also an important element of its design. Its low center of gravity and near-perfect weight distribution made it a dream for enthusiasts who appreciated a car that hugged the road like a second skin.

The Lotus Esprit went through several iterations during its production run, each one refining the formula. In 1981, the Esprit Series 3 brought further enhancements to the car, including more creature comforts and a restyled interior. In the mid-1980s, the Esprit Turbo SE pushed the envelope with a charge-cooled turbocharger, producing 264 horsepower.

The Esprit’s popularity and recognition reached new heights in the 1980s when it was featured in the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In the movie, the Esprit famously transformed into a submarine, solidifying its status as an automotive icon.

While production of the Lotus Esprit ceased in the early 2000s, the car’s legacy lives on. Its timeless design and exceptional performance have made it a highly collectible classic. Enthusiasts and collectors continue to seek out and preserve these beautiful machines. The Esprit’s cultural impact remains strong, and it is often featured in automotive exhibitions and classic car shows around the world.

The 1977 Lotus Esprit is a testament to British engineering excellence and design innovation. With its distinctive appearance, mid-engined performance, and unique construction methods, it left an indelible mark on the world of sports cars. The Esprit’s evolution over the years and its recognition in popular culture have cemented its place in automotive history.

Today, the 1977 Lotus Esprit is not just a classic car; it’s a symbol of an era when British automakers pushed the boundaries of design and performance. As enthusiasts continue to cherish and restore these cars, the legacy of the Lotus Esprit remains as vibrant as ever, reminding us of a time when automotive dreams became a reality on the roads of the world.

The seller provides this walk-around video of their 1977 Lotus Espirit S1:

As someone who struggles with whether to repaint or vinyl wrap my 1985 Porsche 928S, this red 1977 Lotus Espirit S1 for sale motivates me to keep the original paint intact as best as possible.  With the car completely mechanically sorted, the next caretaker can thoroughly enjoy doing what this Lotus was meant for: that’s driving the snot out of it.


If you are serious about buying this Espirit S1, you can start the conversation by using the contact information provided by the seller in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please mention that you saw their Lotus featured here on Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1977 Lotus Esprit S-1, Carnival Red with Tartan interior. Matching numbers engine. Body off, mechanical restoration completed about eight years ago. The timing belt was replaced three years ago. Runs strong. Drives excellent. NC title in my name.
Original paint & interior. They’re both faded but intentionally left that way because, as they say, it’s only original once. The previous owners and I thought it was better to keep it as a survivor than to restore it cosmetically. The headliner is out, but a new one comes with the car. Original mileage. Original carburetors come with the car. I do not have the original gas caps. The car has the original Wolfrace wheels and a spare that is not pictured. This is car number 241H. I don’t need to ramble on about how rare this find is. If you know, you know.

Repaint or Patina: What would you do with this 1977 Lotus Espirit S1 for sale? Please comment below and let us know!


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