The origin of the Lotus Esprit dates back to 1970, when engineer Tony Rudd proposed a project to develop a successor to the Lotus Europa.  Five years later, the Esprit was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show (October 1975), with production starting in June 1976.

Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit

The unmistakable thin wedge shape of the Esprit was conceived by Italian automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.  Giugiaro had met Colin Chapman in 1971 and proposed that they used his Maserati Boomerang concept car design as the basis for the new Esprit.

The Esprit S1 was powered by a 1,973 cc Lotus 907 4-cylinder rear-mounted engine producing 160 bhp.  The 5-speed manual transmission was supplied by French car giant Citroen.  Again, Chapman’s focus on lightweight performance through meant keeping the car below 1,000 kg.  Although the handling of the S1 Esprit is widely regarded as one of the best, many critics considered the car to be under-powered, especially in the United States where there were strict emission controls.  Road tests reported 0-60 mph in 8 seconds and a top speed of 133 mph, compared with Lotus claims of 6.8 seconds and 138 mph.

Lotus Esprit SMITHS Instrumentation

As in previous Lotus sports cars, the gauges were designed and built by SMITHS at their facility in South Wales.  Six gauges were supplied in all, with the Speedometer and Tachometer mounted centrally and two smaller gauges (measuring the fuel, oil temperature & pressure, and amps) either side.  SMITHS still have the original drawings and tooling and regularly supply classic gauges to Lotus enthusiasts around the world.

Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit interior

Lotus Esprit Movie Stardom

The popularity and interest in the Esprit S1 hit new highs when it had a starring appearance in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.  Indeed, the Lotus Esprit has since retained the same classic Bond-car status as the Aston Martin DB5.  In 1977, the James Bond franchise was under pressure after the lukewarm reception of The Man With The Golden Gun.  The style and look of the new Lotus Esprit was perfect for the dynamic and exciting image of the new movie.  In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the amphibious Esprit is driven out of the sea onto a beach, much to the amazement of onlookers.  In fact, six different cars were used to achieve the land to sea transformation and one of those original six cars is owned by The Ian Fleming Foundation and makes appearances at various Bond-related events around the world.

Between 1975 and 1978, Lotus built 718 Esprit S1 sports cars.  The S1 was replaced by the S2 in 1978 with further models extended the life of the iconic Esprit until 2004.

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Further information on SMITHS instrumentation for classic Lotus cars and other classics is available on our website, or to discuss a specific requirement please contact us on:

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