1988 Lotus Esprit Commemorative (40th Anniversary)


Colin Chapman built his first car in 1948. Built on an Austin 7 chassis and with its running gear the car was known as a Lotus Mark I. Chapman built further ‘specials’, however, it wasn’t until 1952 that Lotus Engineering was formed by Chapman and colleague Colin Dare. It was at this time that Lotus built its first production car the Lotus MkVI. The legend was born and Lotus grew to become one of the world’s most respected and successful manufacturers of sports and racing cars. Over the years Lotus race cars claimed many victories and world championships. Their road cars used much of the technology and experience from the race cars and were equally as successful.

Lotus’ flagship from the mid 1970s was the Esprit. The original Esprit ‘concept car’ was first shown at the 1972 Turin Motor Show. The car was then developed further and a ‘prototype’ Esprit was then shown at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. Development was slow and Lotus finally introduced the production Esprit at the 1975 Paris Motor Show. The car proved to be worth the wait as it was launched to critical acclaim and it soon went into production with the first cars delivered by mid 1976.

The Esprit was made famous through its starring role in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond’s Esprit was like no other and at the push of a button, it converted into a submarine!

The first series cars, otherwise known as the S1, were powered by Lotus’ proven 2 litre 4 cylinder engine. The S2 was introduced in 1978 with lots of subtle cosmetic changes both externally and internally. In 1980 Lotus increased the engine size to 2.2 litres and the new model was aptly designated the S2.2. In 1980 Lotus joined the turbo revolution and the Lotus Esprit Turbo was launched in true Lotus style at a party hosted by then F1 team major sponsor Essex Petroleum in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The first cars were known as Lotus Esprit Essex Turbos and all were finished in the blue, red and chrome livery of Essex Petroleum. The S3 Esprit was introduced in late 1980 and built as both a ‘standard’ Esprit and also Esprit Turbo.

In 1987 Lotus unveiled the new Esprit designed by Peter Stevens. Designated the X180 the ‘new’ Esprit’s pedigree was obvious but the softened wedge design and new interior was very well received. This series Esprit was perhaps Lotus’ most successful with over 2,000 cars built in the 6 years of production from 1987 to 1993. Within the production run Lotus produced the Esprit Commemorative (40th Anniversary) to celebrate 40 years of Lotus cars. Only 40 cars were built and they were all factory right hand and sold in the UK.

Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1988 Lotus Esprit Commemorative (40th Anniversary). 

This particular car is number 21 of 40 and quite possibly the finest surviving example in the world. It was sold new by Lotus dealer Spink of Bournemouth in the UK on the 9th December 1988. The car has its original books which confirm that this Commemorative Esprit was delivered in January 1989 to a Mr Alan Jenkins from Trealaw, Tonypandy CF40 2PB, UK. Jenkins owned the car for 20 years and it changed hands in August 2009. Interestingly the car’s second owner was a senior executive at McLaren. He only had the car a short time and it was acquired by its third and current Brisbane based owner in August 2010. The current owner of this fabulous Esprit recalls fondly his trip to the UK to inspect the car prior to committing to its purchase. He was given a tour of the McLaren facilities which he thought was probably worth the trip alone!

There is an import approval on file dated 21st September 2010.  The car was complianced in Queensland on the 18th November 2010 and it passed a roadworthy on the 24th November 2010. The mileage is noted at 14,063 miles.

Today this car presents and drives magnificently.  It is incredibly original and the odometer today reads only 18,120 miles. The pearl white paint is in fabulous condition and it still has a great depth of colour and a high gloss finish. There are a few minor blemishes evident but you have to look pretty hard! All of the exterior trim, badges and the glass are also in excellent condition. The contrasting off white wheels are in very good condition and shod with Firestone Firehawk tyres. Inside the car the cabin is also beautifully kept with only slight wear evident in places. The condition is more akin to a five year old luxury car than a 30 year old Lotus! Under the front clip everything is essentially like new. The spare wheel, jack and tool kit look as though they have never been used. Similarly pop the rear hatch and the carpeted compartment is also in excellent condition. You remove the engine cover which reveals a very tidy engine bay. 

The engine starts easily and sounds ‘just great’. On our recent test drive the more miles the car covered the better it got. This Esprit was happy cruising through traffic but given its head on the open road it brought a real smile to ones face. With the Turbo on boost the car ‘just flies’ and begs to be driven at a speed way beyond anything legal. The engine pulls strongly through the rev range, with the car’s only weakness being its gearbox which like pretty much all Lotus’ it tends to be somewhat notchy.  As one would expect the car handles as though it’s on rails and it stops on a dime when asked to do so. 

This is the last Esprit to have carburettors which we like being slightly ‘old school’ in that regard! The car has recently been serviced and had other miscellaneous works done by Brisbane based Lotus specialists Automotion. The A/C blows ice cold air, everything looks to be working and the car is sold with a current Queensland roadworthy certificate.

There is a Lotus Certificate of Vehicle Provenance on file which confirms this is the 30th UK delivered Turbo for the new ‘89MY and it is the 21st of 40 (40th Anniversary) cars. It also confirms this is a matching numbers car (chassis and engine), the body colour as pearl white (P02) and the trim material as full limited edition leather. Note: all 40 of the Commemorative Edition (40th Anniversary) cars featured white pearlescent paint with matching wheels, a distinctive rear spoiler and a blue leather interior. They were the last carburettor equipped Esprits.

Of the early Esprits the S1, JPS Limited Edition S2 and the Essex Turbo are now hard to find and sought after by collectors and enthusiasts all over the world. The price of these cars has skyrocketed and of these, the Essex Turbo is the rarest and probably most valuable with only 45 cars built in total, of which only 34 were actual production cars. The first 11 cars were development or pre-production cars.

So with only 40 examples built and period Ferraris (328’s & 348’s) between double and more likely triple the price of this car, the Lotus Esprit Commemorative (40th Anniversary) has to be one to get your hands on! This car presents a very unique opportunity anywhere in the world. Find another one, let alone an example that is an incredible time capsule with a documented 18,120 miles from new and it is in Australia!

The car will be accompanied by an extensive history file, original books, tools, jack, the original radio/cassette, a car cover and two sets of keys.




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  • Lotus Esprit Commemorative (40th Anniversary)
  • 1988
  • Coupe
  • Manual
  • 18120 Miles
  • 2174cc


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