Fun Stuff

AutoTrader Find of the Week: A Super Rare, Pristine 1998 Lotus Esprit V8

As a car enthusiast, I like to think I go against the grain. I convince myself that I use my keen eye when I’m on the lookout for special and interesting cars for sale. So surely, I thought that all but the most hipstery of car hipsters have forgotten about the Lotus Esprit V8.

But then I found out that Car and Driver featured the same Lotus Esprit V8 I found for sale on AutoTrader. Not a car like it. The exact same one.

Oh well, I guess car brains think alike – especially when it comes to spotting an absolutely flawless example of one the rarest and most interesting supercars from the 1990s.

How rare? If it was a steak, it would be somewhere between “bloody in the middle” and “was alive five minutes ago.” You will never find another Lotus Esprit quite like this one, mainly because there were never that many Esprits made to begin with.

In 1998, the base price of the Lotus Esprit V8 was about US$82,000, the equivalent of about US$155,000 or $210,000 in Canada today. That’s a lot of money to spend on a British supercar – two words which don’t typically signify build quality and reliability. But it also meant that in 1998, you were buying a unique car with a badge that wasn’t Porsche, Ferrari, Viper, or NSX. Buying a Lotus was as niche a choice then as it is now.

Despite an almost 30-year production run, the Esprit never quite captured the sort of mass enthusiasm or appeal as its rivals. And it’s not as if Lotus wasn’t throwing the kitchen sink at the problem.

The fourth-generation Esprit got a mid-cycle refresh in 1996 that provided a significant boost in performance. Lotus introduced a hyper-exotic (especially for the time) 32-valve V8 engine, which had two turbochargers bolted on. While its 350-horsepower output is pedestrian by modern standards, at the time, it was enough to put contemporaries like the 911 Turbo and Viper GTS on notice with its acceleration, braking, and cornering abilities.

Even by modern standards, the Lotus Esprit V8 is an admirable performer, posting acceleration times that would keep pace with many current mid-range sports cars.

Despite the valiant effort from Lotus in the ’90s, most buyers still preferred the 911 and the Viper. As a result, only 155 of these cars were sold in the U.S. But in Canada? Only four. That’s right. There are only four Canadian Lotus Esprit V8s. And this is one of them. And this is the only one from that entire model year that is painted black and optioned with a tan interior.

For the price of a new Corvette, you could buy it right now from Bespoke Auto Gallery in Ontario.

It was originally purchased in Scarborough and spent 21 years with a single owner in southern Ontario, receiving regular care and service, including a recent timing belt service (a pesky and known issue if not properly maintained).

It’s never been in an accident. It’s never had any major mechanical mishaps. It looks as good as the day it was sold. And with only 35,000 km on the odometer, it’s practically new.

But of course, it isn’t new, and that’s really the appeal. That unique wedge shape that began in the ’70s and died shortly after the ’90s doesn’t really exist in cars anymore. I had a poster of the Esprit V8 on my bedroom wall as a kid, and it’s easy to see why. It looks exotic and unique in a way nothing does nowadays. There’s an instant hit of nostalgia when you look at a car from this era of design.

Of course, you may want to actually drive the car, and that’s another area that presents a unique offering over modern options. This was one of the last supercars that really required a lot of effort and skill to drive. You had to feather the throttle, feel out the shift linkage, deal with the drone of a flat-plane V8 engine, and endure the noise, vibration, and harshness of the stiff suspension and lack of sound deadening.

No, it won’t be as reliable as a new Corvette C8 or as nice to drive as a new 911. And many, many people will annoy you in parking lots when they inevitably and wrongfully exclaim, “Nice Ferrari!”

But, you will definitely be the only person on your block with a 1998 Lotus Esprit. At least, we can guarantee you’ll have the only black one with a tan interior.