In 1979 Monaco based oil traders Essex Petrolium joined Martini as sponsors of the Team Lotus Formula One team, something that Martini were not too thrilled with as they decided not to pursue there sponsorship for a second year. For 1980 Essex became the teams primary sponsor which carried over into Lotus production car operations with the launch, at the Royal Albert Hall, of the Lotus Turbo Esprit as a limited edition Lotus Essex Turbo Esprit of which just 100 were built in 1980 and 1981.
Unlike the single carburetor bolt on turbo that Lotus dealers Bell & Colvill had been offering customers since 1978 the official Lotus Turbo Esprit was a substantial upgrade of the normally aspirated Lotus Esprit Type 79, which included a new chassis with a wider engine bay, new front suspension derived from the latest Lotus Elite, new rear suspension and a new 210 hp type 910 development of the 4 cylinder Type 907 motor with twin carburetors and Garrett T3 Turbocharger.
After the production run of 100 Lotus Essex Turbo Esprit’s had been completed a variation of the originals blue red and silver colour scheme was offered with red leather interior like the one seen above in the Paddock at Silverstone which features rare three piece Compomotive wheels as used by James Bond in the 1981 film “For Your Eyes Only“.
Most Turbo Esprit’s were supplied with one piece BBS wheels. The Turbo Esprit body work is differentiated from earlier Giorgetto Giugiaro designed Esprit body by the addition of a front below the bumper spoiler and side “skirts” with NACA air ducts for the engine bay.
The significance of the wider engine bay of the Turbo Esprit’s new chassis would not become clear until the launch of the V8 Esprit which although initially developed alongside it’s turbo sibling did not come to market until 1996 having been delayed by numerous other projects including Colin Chapman’s involvement with De Lorean.
Although well received by the press the Turbo Esprit failed to gain a substantial foot hold anticipated in the USA and the 846 examples built between 1980 and 1984 marked the beginning of a steady decline in the fortunes of Lotus Cars.
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