Ownership thoughts

Ownership thoughts after almost a year of owning the car. 11/99

I often get e-mails from people who tell me that they are in the market for an Esprit and have come by my webpage and generally they want to know what I think of owning it. Well, here's the wrap up:

It has been nothing short of blissful. The car is really as much of a head turner in person as it looks in photos. I rarely park it without turning around to look at it. And its much more comfortable to drive than I would have thought. I thought it might feel cramped of uncomfortable, but it isn't. I'm 6'0" and there is enough legroom and headroom, and it is very comfortable. Even on the trip from Florida (1200 miles in 2 days) I never got tired of sitting in it. I take it to Philadelphia (about 3 hours) occasionally and again, it's great. Mileage is good. I haven't ever measured it, but I'd have to say I get about 25mpg. Its way better than my 300ZX. The mileage will also differ depending on how I drive it.

As for maintenance, it's been good. Perhaps I've been rather lucky, but I haven't had many problems. In the 10 months I've had it, I've put 10,000 miles on it. The day I brought it back, I put new rear tires on it (the ones on there had only 7500 miles and were bald) and that was $400 for the pair, installed. When I first started driving the car, I noticed the clutch was slipping a little. I found the adjustment screw in the back and loosened it a little. After I had it about a month, the parking brake catch went on me. I opened it up, and it turned out a bolt fell out. I found the bolt and put it back in. At 12,000 miles I took it in for the B service, which meant changing all the fluids and spark plugs and checking the car over. That was $700. Then at about 13,000 miles, the clutch hose went (a very common problem) and I replaced it with a better one which was made of braided stainless steel. This is quite a common upgrade, and something I'd recommend for anyone who buys an Esprit without this steel braided hose. The hose was $69, and most Esprit owners put it in themselves. It requires drilling the frame a little. I opted to have someone do it for me, and labor time was 3 hours. I didn't want to get half way through and not be able to complete it. I've never worked with a clutch before and figured it was worth my money to have a professional do it.

Which brings me to servicing. Finding someone to service the car (that you trust) is tricky. Most dealers are rip-off artists, although some are ok. What I did was join Lotus Limited, the national lotus club. They then send you a list of all the members. They send you the same list twice, once listed alphabetically, and once listed by zipcode. Use the zipcode list to find who has Esprits like yours in your area and ask them where they get them serviced. You'll find many owners do it themselves, or at least that's what I found. I got one lead from doing that, which turned out the shop was pretty far from me. So I just put the feelers out everywhere. You'll find that driving this thing around, many car enthusiasts will approach you, and start conversations. Finally, one of them knew somewhere that would service it. A place called AutoThority who does mostly performance mods on Porsches and BMWs. They had a mechanic there that owned an Esprit and loved them. He was happy to do the work on it. The labor rate is pretty high, but that's ok. I'm willing to pay it for a shop that I'm comfortable with. There's nothing worse than leaving your car with a shop you don't trust.

So in a year, I guess you could say that I've put about $1500 in to it in tires, oil changes, servicings, and a clutch hose. Not bad, considering the average I've seen from e-listers seems to be about $3000 a year. And this is something to consider when buying one. Its not uncommon to have repair/maintenance costs be around $5000 per year on one of these. So if you buy one for about $23,000 thinking that you can handle the $400 a month payment, be prepared to add another $416 a month on to that. Hopefully you'll buy a car that has been well maintained, and through your proper maintenance it will treat you well, but just prepare yourself for the possibilities.

Also, I've seen much less problems being reported with the S4 model than I have with the SE. The S4 will run you on average an extra $5000 to $8000 to purchase over the SE. Check out the EspritFactFile to see the differences in the two models, but I'd have to say that I would recommend an S4 to anyone in the market. A guy who lives near me bought an S4 brand new and when I talked to him in February of 99 he had no major problems with it in 5 years and 77,000 miles.

Other minor things about owning the car... *You cant drive with shoes on. I have large feet (size 13), so some people might be able to do this, but I cant, and most people I know drive barefoot. *The roof panel comes out easily. I'd say you could get it out and in the trunk in 2 minutes, tops. And about 3 minutes for the reverse. It can be done by one person. *Storage space isn't as bad as you might think. If you have soft luggage, you can fit a good amount of stuff in the back.

Update 3/00

The car is still wonderful, and still loving it. In the past 3 months, I've had a few repairs needed, and I'll list them here.

The clutch master and slave cylinders both had seals go bad, which from what I understand isn't unusual. And the cost to replace both of them was only $450 for both parts and labor to install them. It might have been only one of the master OR slave, and I could have been getting taken at the dealership, who I don't trust too much. All the same, the car runs and shifts just fine now. I also did the A service which cost me about $600 or so, which was a little more than the shop I normally go to would have charged. The shop I like to go to is called Autothority, but they don't have the TECH1 tool to diagnose engine codes, so I went to the dealership, just to make sure the engine codes were fine. I will likely take the car to Autothority for the C service, because I have much more trust in them.

Another slight problem that I had, was that after I took the car to the dealer, I started having an erratic idle, which culminated in the car reaching the point of being undrivable. It turns out they didn't secure a valve called the IAC valve. I took some photos of the thing, and with the help of the TurboEsprit list, I was able to determine what it was and order a new one. I got the part for $83 and put it on myself, and again the car runs fine.