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Surface & Design • Unit B, Wakefield Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY2 0DL • Tel: 01253 595 800 • Email: info@surfaceanddesign.com

Respraying an Esprit
Painting an Esprit isn't a walk in the Park,
here's how the GRP body is given a new coat

By LEW and Surface&Design

Making the decision to respray a vehicle isn't one to take lightly. Add in it's a supercar, it's made of plastic, what colour to do it in and whether it's worth it financially and you're not likely to come to an easy answer. When you add in who'll do it and will they do a good job, the chances are you'll put it to the back of your mind. This had been going on with LEW's Esprit for a few years now. Stonechips, scratches and knocks had taken it's toll on our Esprit. We'd thought about getting it done every year, and every year we've said to ourselves 'It'll only get chipped again'.

Well a poor excuse for a human decided to make the decision for us, when they whacked the rear bumper and drove off while the car was parked. Lifting off the paint and cracking the bumper, it was the final eye sore. Looking closely over the rest of the paintwork, it wasn't worth just getting the bumper fixed, we had something on every panel. Time for a complete respray. Our biggest nightmare!!!!!

We knew plenty of Lotus specialist who could fix our car and supply us new parts, but none of them did actual bodywork themselves. Even Lotus at Hethel have their work on older cars done outside the factory. We starting contacting a few people to see who would be interested in taking on the respray and the repair to the bumper. In the meantime the owner of Surface & Design in Blackpool and Esprit V8 owner to boot emailed us after seeing our bumper on the LEW news page. Emails went back and fourth and they seem to be the most enthusiastic about working with Lotus Esprit World and getting the car into shape. That enthusiasm was enough to convince us to take a trip to the seaside and visit Blackpool. So the story begins.

We had no trouble getting up to Blackpool and we don't often spend 3hrs+ in the Esprit in one go. Sat-Nav took us down the right road to Surface & Designs premises. Most of the guys are ex-TVR people as the old factory is just across the way. So working with plastic cars shouldn't be a problem. But the Esprit isn't a TVR! We left S&D with instructions for a full respray and to include fixing or replacing the rear bumper and spraying the carbon fibre roof and spoiler to body colour. Then it was off to the seaside for the rest of the day to have some fun on the piers.



The re-spray will comprise of the following:
The whole body will be disassembled to ensure a top quality job including rear light, rear hatch, bonnet…..


….Headlight pods, vents, filler caps all removed and ready for refinishing


Rear bumper removed ready for trial fit of replacement bumper.


Front and rear valance analysed to begin the repair of stone chips, stress cracks etc. The damaged areas are ground out and re-matted with glass reinforced resin and then covered with glass fibre tissue before a gel coat is applied.


The whole car get flatted back with wet and dry papers and an orbital sander to provide a good keyed surface for fresh paint. At this stage “The Works” can be undertaken. Along these lines we provide a full straightening service which is "The Works" and briefly comprises the blocking of all panels to remove the ripples (and adjust shut gaps etc.) that are inherent in GRP bodies. The car is then fully primed and fully flatted to get a perfect glass like finish. The difference you can see in a show standard car stood next to a production car is incredible. (look down the side of the car at an acute angle in good light and the small ripples are quite obvious!) This is something of a specialist service which few bodyshops are capable of to a good standard and is very labour intensive (and expensive!) but can be offered if you are looking for the best quality finish available


Intricate areas are keyed using wet and dry and scotch bright


Areas to be primed are masked off and prepared with pre paint degreaser.


A thick coat of primer is applied


Stopper is used in any small imperfections and pin holes before the primer is flatted with wet and dry papers, providing a good smooth surface ready for paint


The body and panels are masked up ready for final degreasing and preparation ensuring that no overspray can occur


Application of paint and lacquer to body and panels and baked in a low bake oven, allowing the paint to harden fully.


Final assembly is done with large areas protected and any corroded or damaged bolts/fixings replaced, using grease where appropriate. Grilles are wire brushed and etch primed before final painting.


All panels are then lightly polished with very fine wet and dry paper to remove any final imperfections and then a 2 stage polish with medium and fine rubbing compounds using an electric buffer.


Final polishing of the entire vehicle with a wax based polish to produce the ultimate finish.


LEW's Verdict

It's quite a big job, having your Esprit resprayed. There's lots to thinking about and to decide, then there's finding someone who you trust to do a good job. You also have to remember that the Esprit isn't like 99% of other cars, as it's basically plastic, not metal, which throws up a few more issues with lots of body specialist not having the experience with GPR.

When Surface & Design contacted us about repairing our bumper, we asked them about doing the whole car. Over quite a few emails, they gave us a good impression and were enthusiastic about working on the car. They also have a lot of TVR experience, so painting GPR wasn't an issue. Being in Blackpool was an issue, as it's quite a trip, but then the Esprit is made for driving, so why not drive it.

The work didn't go off without incident, mainly due to a new bumper being needed, which was sourced eventually. S&D kept us informed of any delays and any issues, so we knew what was happening. We also got sent a few pictures, so we could see what was going on. Other than that, it wasn't too bad our end, although I'm sure the guys working on the car had some fun stripping it down. We chose to stay with black for the respray, but as ever, there was many types of black. We went with Sport 350 black, with the factory kindly supplying the code. We also instructed S&D to paint the carbon-fibre roof and wing body colour, which we feel makes the car look so much better.

Now we are no experts on paint and didn't have any particular expectations, as we'd never had a car fully resprayed before. We thought we get our Esprit back without all the scratches, chips and damage. What we got was a black smooth mirror, that we had trouble photographing as everything was reflecting. The car looked wonderful and checking over all the bad marks and scratches we'd been living with for years, we couldn't find a trace of them and close up our car paint wasn't in good position. Especially on the door where the strap had broken and it had been touching the body for a few years. It didn't feel like our car anymore. So to say we were pleased was an understatement.

Time will tell how well the paint lasts and how well the nose stands up to the stones that'll be coming it's way. But at present we have a paint finish that betters a brand new car. S&D have done a great job and every penny was well spent. We thought this the biggest and most difficult job to be done, but it's turned out fairly painless and the results better than we ever expected.

So in short, S&D can spray Esprits to a very high level. We can easily recommend them on the job they've done for us.

If you have any comments, feel free to e-mail us at admin@lotusespritworld.com

Customer Reviews

Robert Crooks 1989 Esprit SE
April 2009
I purchased my SE from Paul Chandler on LEF. Mechanically it was in great condition, but there was some gel cracking in a few places, and the paint was flaking off on a few edges from a PO's respray. Decided the car deserved a full respray, and based on Kato's experience with Surface & Design, I asked them to do it. Went with the original Monaco White because it is such an iconic colour on an Esprit.


I delivered the car to them on Friday 27 February and they had it for more or less 6 weeks. They gave me regular progress updates throughout this time and sent photos every couple of days (attached). They found that the bumpers were so badly cracked that they needed replacing. They got a local firm to make up moulds and produce the new bumpers and only charged me the price of bumpers from alternative suppliers, so they now have the moulds for future use. They really did provide a top quality service.


The car looks amazing in its new white paint. I took it to my service guy the week after collection. He has worked on Esprits for nearly 30 years, and he described it as the best respray he has seen on an Esprit in terms of the quality of finish. He is a stickler for quality and originality. See more images and information on Roberts owners page here.


Surface & Design • Unit B, Wakefield Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY2 0DL • Tel: 01253 595 800 • Email: info@surfaceanddesign.com
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