Very well-presented, fully restored early-S3 Esprit in Lotus’ iconic JPS colours, reportedly painted by the factory in-period.
The Esprit S3 was officially unveiled at the British International Motor Show at the NEC Birmingham in October 1981 and, like its predecessors, it was designed by the legendary automotive engineer Giorgetto Giugiaro as an early example of his polygonal 'folded paper' designs. The Esprit S3 gained popularity for its distinctive wedge-shaped body and advanced engineering, captivating enthusiasts worldwide. As an evolution of its predecessors, the Esprit S3 solidified Lotus' position as a pioneer in the realm of lightweight, high-performance sports cars.
Despite the styling remaining relatively similar to the previous generation S2 Esprit, the S3 saw a host of upgrades and benefits. Mechanically, it featured a more powerful (Type 912) 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder engine offering 160bhp mated to a 5-speed gearbox and, weighing just 1,000kg, the performance was spritely, with 0-60mph taking just 6.7 seconds. Cosmetically the S3 received redesigned front and rear bumpers, side-skirts and front spoiler, with the interior revised to provide more headroom and additional space in the footwells.
This handsome early S3 was purchased by our vendor in August 2021 on 91,000 miles, and came with a quintessentially 'Lotus' story on how it was painted in JPS colours. Having managed to trace back the car's lineage, our vendor found himself speaking with the son of the original owner of the car, who told the story of how his father took delivery of XRE 383X, a brand-new Jupiter Red S3. Within six months of ownership, he became so fed up with the car breaking down that it was sent back to Lotus to fully disassemble and re-assemble to iron out any issues, and reportedly, as a goodwill gesture, the factory also resprayed it in the JPS colours the car wears today at the owner’s request. However, upon taking delivery of their freshly rebuilt and repainted car, it continued to break down in the following three months to the extent that the AA recovered the car back to Lotus who provided a full refund.
Shortly after our vendors purchase, a restoration was undertaken to return the car to its former glory having been believed to be lost/stored in a garage for 18-years. The restoration process was extensive with a full respray including the engine bay, door shuts and wheels by AD Panelcraft in Milton Keynes. The interior was stripped, with the leather either retrimmed or restored, and a new carpet set in the correct Blenheim Champagne colour was added, as well as a new gear knob and headlining. The gauges were taken out and restored in addition to a new heater surround and matrix due to corrosion spots.
Mechanically, the car is in lovely condition with the main components having been addressed. A new clutch and cambelt were installed ensuring improved performance and reliability. The engine received a thorough service and freshen-up, bringing it back to its optimal condition including a new SU fuel pump. The car sits on AVO front and rear adjustable dampers with standard front callipers and a VW rear calliper conversion with new cables by PNM Motorsport as the handbrake mechanism wasn’t working. Bushes and ball joints have been replaced as required to ensure the whole driving experience is as flawless as its overall appearance.
Presented to market in the wonderfully iconic JPS black and gold colours, complemented by the refreshed champagne leather interior and very attractively-guided, this Esprit is surely a worthy addition to any collection or perhaps just drive and enjoy it.